Chaos Wallpaper is a free program that has the dual function of shuffling your wallpaper as well as embedding RSS/ATOM feeds into your active desktop background. You can optionally use any one of the two functions or both together.
There are a number of desktop wallpaper shuffling programs around; this one, however, has the distinction of functioning as an RSS news aggregator that can interactively embed your feeds straight into your desktop.
This means that your feeds will refresh periodically but also be clickable as well as scrollable using an on-screen slider on the right hand side. Here are more notes on this program.
- Image Shuffling: the program requires that you point it to a folder that contains images to shuffle, and it will go through all of these. It will also allow you to set the time in seconds to wait between images. You can set the images to be centered, stretched, or (when the RSS option is disabled) tiled.
- Usage: you can use the wallpaper shuffling function alone, the RSS embedding function alone, or both together.
- Interactivity: click on the heading of a news item to open it in your browser. You can also use the side scrollable bar to scroll down your list of feeds, but this one tends to be frustratingly sluggish and/or unresponsive at times.
- Support: can display JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIF images as wallpaper and RSS 0.9x, 1.0, 2.0, and Atom 0.x feeds
- Configurability: the program is in fact highly configurable, but you will need to go in and edit CSS style sheets that it uses so you’ll need to know a little bit of HTM. By default the bottom RSS portion of the screen (around 25% or the screen area) contains the RSS feeds displayed on a white background. You can edit the rss.css stylesheet however and customize this (for example I was easily able to go in and make the background and the header bar transparent). Go here for more info.
- Adding/removing RSS feeds: edit the rss.inc text file (inside the ChaosWallpaper2.1.003’wallpaper’rss directory). You can simply add RSS feeds to the list or remoe ones you do not want
- No install program: just unzip and run.
Wish list (or how this program can be even better):
- Currently, the shuffling of the wallpaper and refreshing of the RSS feeds happens in tandem, with no apparent way to separate the two. Instead it would great if you could tell it to, say, shuffle the wallpaper every hour and refresh the RSS every 15 minutes.
- It would also be great to be able to display more RSS feeds in the visible feeds area, say by using multiple columns or resizing the text to make it smaller.
- Bug: I noticed that if you’re offline and make a change to the settings the program becomes unresponsive, and requires a restart. No biggie though.
The verdict: overall a unique and interesting program. The jury is still out on the practicality of having RSS feeds displayed in your desktop/wallpaper, at least as far as I am concerned, but if you think that this is a great idea then Chaos Wallpaper might be the program for you.
[Thanks go to reader Simon for letting me know about this program]
Version Tested: 2.1.003
Compatibility: Windows 98, 2000, NT, XP; no info on Vista.
Go to program page to download the latest version (approx 3.12 megs).