GeekTool – A Rainmeter Alternative.
The plain Windows desktops by default don’t match the pretty displays that RainMeter can create, but Mac users find themselves on the sidelines. RainMeter doesn’t support Mac, and if you don’t want to run Windows through Bootcamp, you can’t change your desktop to the extent that RainMeter does, or can you?
GeekTool is a MacOS alternative to RainMeter. It provides the same level of customization as RainMeter with a little extra work. There are several scenarios involved, but don’t let that scare you – GeekTool is really easier to use than it sounds. Here’s how to get started.
The first step is to make sure you have the correct GeekTool version. Official release from Tynsoe Projects. While we can vouch for this download, we cannot guarantee that others will be safe.
After downloading and launching the program, move it to the Applications folder. This not only protects your downloads folder from being erased, but also allows GeekTool to automatically update when new versions are released.
After you have launched GeekTool, you will be greeted by its main window. Be sure to click on “Automatically start at login” and “Show in menu bar”. Launching the application at startup ensures that your Geeklets work as you expect, and placing the tool on the menu bar makes it easy to access all of the GeekTool options.
When you first open GeekTool, you will see a screen that looks something like this.
GeekTool doesn’t come with clear instructions, but it’s as easy as dragging and dropping what you want. Select the Shell option and drag it next to the screen. This will create an empty “shell” on your desktop.
When you select a skin, you will see a properties screen similar to the one shown on the right. This is where it can get tricky. Based on personal experience, we recommend that you do not mess with the position settings. Just drag the shell to the desired location, and don’t try to guess the coordinates on the screen.
The next is the most interesting.
Next to the command: and the empty white line are three small dots. Touch them. Click on the dots. This will open a blank white screen titled Edit Script. Enter whatever you want into the window. When you click the red circle in the upper left corner to exit, it asks if you want to save the script. Click Yes.
Once you do this, any command you enter will appear in the shell. Of course, you need to enter text that the script can understand. Here are some examples:
- Day: Date +% A
- Date: Date +% d
- Month: Date +% B
- Time: date + ”% l:% M”
- Displayed text: echo + text
These are just a few basic examples of commands you can enter into GeekTool. A more complete list can be found in the official Geeklets repository (although no more have been added for a long time) or on the GeekTool subreddit.
If you want to display the text as it appears, simply click the “Click here to set font color%” button. A toolbar similar to Microsoft Word will open for changing the font, size, color, and more.
The other three options are very similar.
The image places an empty envelope that you can fill with an image of your choice. It also has an easy one-click way to display a random image from a catalog. You can change the refresh rate to any length you want so the images cycle through at a specific interval.
The Internet allows you to link to a website or include HTML script on your desktop. In theory, you could display an entire web page on your desktop, but that’s not entirely true. This shell is handy for scripts that rely on input from the Internet, such as weather or stock prices.
The log allows you to keep track of what is happening inside your computer. This is for the really tech-savvy folks who want to monitor their system’s core temperature, cpu usage, and more.
If you’ve tried out several of the GeekTool features and found you like them, the next step is to implement more complex commands. GeekTool is a powerful tool, and if you learn the basic amount of code to help you navigate the various commands, there is almost nothing you can do. Just take a look at some of these desktops from subreddit users.
This desktop is just beautiful. It displays the song that is currently playing, the temperature and weather conditions outside, as well as the date and time.
This desktop is more complex. It uses pie charts to show CPU and RAM usage, has a reminder at the bottom of the screen, and a few other features.
This is how you can create your desktop. These background images are just photos that users have found and set as their desktop image, and then overlaid GeekTool settings on their screen.
One of the strengths of GeekTool is that you can place folders and files on the desktop without any interference with its functionality, even if the folder is directly on top of one of the shells. When you close GeekTool, you can click any icon on the screen as usual.
What comes after GeekTool?
While GeekTool still has a strong niche community, some people feel the app is moving downhill. Recent macOS updates have made some scripts and commands invalid. We tested GeekTool on the latest macOS update and it worked fine, but Mojave seems to be interfering with some scripts.
There are other programs that perform similar functions with GeekTool (like Nerdtool), but they have not yet reached the same level of community support popularity.
Until GeekTool is officially no longer supported, we recommend exploring a few basic scenarios and experimenting with how to customize your desktop.
Note. Although unlikely, GeekTool can provide access to system-level commands. Be careful when using log wrappers and other commands that access system files.