Desktop Earth is an interactive wallpaper generator that presents an accurate, constantly changing representation of the earth as it would be seen from space at that precise moment on your desktop wallpaper.
Not all Wallpaper images are created equal, but this one has to be one of the coolest. Desktop Earth presents a changing image of the globe and displays shadows on lights based on the current time.
It also retrieves a semi-realtime cloud image from the Internet in order to generate an accurate depiction of what the earth would look like at the very moment you are looking at it (more or less) if you were looking at it from space. More notes on this:
- Imagery: the globe used in Desktop Earth uses imagery based on NASA’s Blue Marble: Next Generation and Earth’s City Lights. Images are created from high-resolution textures (2560×1280) and should work well on any display.
- Time zone: the time zone (and therefore the progression of shadows and lights) can be set to update every 1, 5, 15 or 60 minutes.
- Clouds: Desktop Earth can update its cloud representations from the internet every 3, 6, 12, or 24 hours, depending on what you choose in the settings. These clouds are generated for the Xplanet project and are actually image mosaics generated from weather satellite images (therefore not 100% accurate, but close). You can control the degree of desired cloud cover thickness in the settings.
- Night view: can be generated in 5 different ways (city lights, abundant city lights, moonlit surface, simple shadows, or no night imager). All of these look fantastic, but my favorite is abundant city lights (with moonlit surface coming at a very close second).
- Different months: the program uses a different image of the globe for each different month, in order to accurately simulate snow and foliage changes. (This is the kind of attention to detail that just blows me away).
- Display options: the program will stretch the image across your screen, but you might need to select “crop if needed” from the settings to get that to work optimally. It can alternately fit the image to your screen and overlay black bars on top and bottom to create a “widescreen” visual style. Desktop Earth should work well in multi monitor environments, and should adapt to changing your desktop’s size or shape.
- Active desktop: you can use Desktop Earth in active desktop mode, which allows you to resize the picture in the background at will, and might be useful in a multi monitor system. I’m not a big fan of this, personally.
- Just the wallpaper, please: if you prefer to simply have a static, non changing JPEG image to use as wallpaper without installing this software, there is a Desktop Earth Online wallpaper generator that will simply generate an image for you to use based on user-defined settings.
- One thing: I wish it were possible to hide the system tray icon so that its now always showing.
The verdict: simply wonderful. Your co-workers or remark on what a lovely wallpaper you have and ask where you got it. Spread the word.
Version Tested: 2.1
Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 6 megs).