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GeekTool is an awesome application for your Mac desktop that lets you configure and style widgets with various information to display directly on your desktop. It’s a bit like Dashboard only far more versatile.

Despite its name, you don’t actually have to be a geek to use geektool, although if you already know or are willing to research some console commands, it can become a very powerful productivity tool. Unlike Dashboard widgets, which are configured mainly by drag-and-drop, GeekTool’s “Geeklets” often require some coding or manual configuration to perform more advanced tasks.

Fortunately, if you just want to play around to get a taste of what’s possible, there are many, many pre-configured geeklets out there that can simply be activated by downloading them and putting them in the position you desire. This is a great way to start, because you can see how they are configured and with a little reverse engineering, you can customize them to your liking.

As you can see from the main configuration window, there are 4 types of Geeklets that you can create.

  • Shell geeklets let you display the output of just about any UNIX shell command directly on your desktop. You can create a time and date widget by dragging the shell icon to your desktop and configuring it with the terminal command “date” which will output the current time and date, depending on the flags you provide it. For example “date ‘+%A, %b %d’” will display something like “Monday, May 01”. From there, you can configure the font, color and position of the text and its background. More advanced users can use applescript to retrieve Reminders and display a handy “To-do” list or to fetch unread mail and display it directly on your desktop. The possibilities are merely limited by how savvy you are.
  • Image geeklets will display a local image or an image URL anywhere and in whatever size you specify. This is handy for displaying a daily cartoon or perhaps your local weather map. You can set the image to refresh at whatever interval you like, so if you simply want a cute photo of your dog in the corner of the screen, it’s as easy as entering the location of the file and setting the refresh to 0 and dragging it to where you want it. Conversely, if you want to see your security camera feed in the corner of your screen, figure out the URL of the image feed from the camera and set it to update every 5 seconds. You’ll have a slick little window always on your screen so you know who’s at the door.

  • Web geeklets will display just about any web content from the URL that you enter. You are able to scale an entire website to fit in a smaller window so you can monitor the news or perhaps a game you’re following in a discreet out of the way thumbnail. Like the image geeklet, you are able to set the refresh interval, but keep in mind that you will not be able to interact with the website once the geeklet is created so if it requires a login or any links to be clicked, you’ll have to do that interaction first and get your URL from there.
  • Log geeklets lets you display system logs such as “/var/log/system.log”. This will show live log files with the latest content at the bottom. Using regular expressions, you can tailor the log output to only the information you want.

If you want to simply get started with some pre-made geeklets, there is a huge repository as well as a huge community to help you start learning and creating your own and to allow you to showcase your desktop creations. With a little artistic ability and some strategic Geeklets, your desktop can be anything you want it to be.

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