GeekTool is a great application for customizing the look and feel of your desktop. It lets you transform a mundane wallpaper into a dynamic scene where everything and anything you choose can be animated. Generally used for putting some sort of clock on your desktop, or a simple overview of processes running on your Mac, GeekTool can really help spice up your desktop. However, many Mac users can find it particularly difficult to understand how to use it and get it running properly. This short and information packed guide will hopefully help you understand how to get what you want from GeekTool and set you well on the way to transforming your desktop.

What Can You Create With GeekTool ?

The chances are you would like to make a snazzy background for you Mac, whether its a relaxing wallpaper with a few simple time and date icons here and there: Create relaxing themes using just the time and date Or a more complicated one which focuses more on the performance of your system and displays everything from the processes that are running on your Mac to the speed your cooling fans are spinning at: Or create more complex themes using several plugins monitoring system processes Either way, the process is the same, and this guide will walk you thorough the steps you need to take to achieve the look you want.

Download and Installing

The first step is to download and install GeekTool. This can now be done through the Mac App Store which takes a lot of the fuss out of installing it as it will download and install itself at the click of a button. If you haven't already downloaded it you can Download GeekTool For Free Here. Right, the next thing to do is boot GeekTool up. This can be done by either opening up your applications screen, or going through system preferences. Launch GeekTool through your application folder or system preferences When loaded you will be greeted with a screen similar to the one below with three different icons, file, image  and shell:

  • File plugin to monitor MacOS X activity with /var/log/system.log, or any file that you want to follow.
  • Shell mode to launch custom scripts or commands like "df" to check space left on filesystems or "uptime" to monitor load on your machine.
  • Finally, image mode helps you monitor bandwith usage, CPU load, memory availability on your server with tools like MRTG or RRD.

Loading the application will present you with this window Do not worry if the bullet points above make little or no sense, you will not have to write any of these "scripts" or understand how to even use the different modes. Once loaded up we can move on to the next step, deciding what you would like to put on your desktop.

Finding The Right Plugin for GeekTool

It is entirely up to you what you want to do with your desktop, there are hundreds of files to choose from ranging from simple date and time files to whole themes which incorporate several different plugins and wallpapers. For this tutorial we will create something simple, then you should be able to easily follow the same steps to produce your desired effect using a combination of several plugins. To browse for the plugins you want you will want to go to this great Geeklet Plugin Directory. Choose from a wide range of Geeklets The design that I will be producing will be using this Simple Date and Time Plugin and the Time In Words Plugin. To download the plugin, click on the file name which ends with ".glet" this will download the current Geeklet file which is ready to use. After downloading these two plugins if you are following this guide through as we go along, you will want to create folder called GeekTool (or any other relevant name) and place this in your Documents folder. Then, drag and drop the downloaded files into the folder that you just created.

Loading a Plugin with GeekTool

To load the plugin with GeekTool, simply make sure GeekTool is running (which we mentioned earlier) then double click on the downloaded file which is now in the folder you created. Opening the file will normally cause a pop-up window to open, just click ok, then the file will load with GeekTool. You should see the plugin on your screen now and you can simply click on it and move it around to the position where you want it. If you want to have more then one Geeklet running, simply follow the process through again and move it to the position you would like it. Position the different Geeklets where you would like them to appear on your desktop When a Geeklet is selected there are several options that you can learn to play around with, but I would suggest to start by just using the font colour and size changer, as altering the other settings may cause the Geeklet Plugin to stop functioning correctly. Once all the mini-windows containing the individual windows are in place, simple exit the application and your desktop should look similar to this, depending on what desktop wallpaper you have chosen. Your finished theme should look similar to this As you can see I have put the long time along the top of the screen, with the day of the week and month on the back of the truck, and todays date on the door of the truck. The more you can make the text blend into the wallpaper and feel natural, the more success you will have when creating a theme. I have included another theme below which was created by the makers of GeekTool. Its totally up to you what you do with GeekTool, its not about copying other people's designs, its about doing with your Mac what you want to do, and have it look the way you want it to look. I hope this guide has been helpful and has answered any questions you may have had regarding GeekTool, and if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask away in the comments section. Another theme using GeekTool, using date and time information as well as system processes

Conclusion

This post has been a guide more than a review, but when all is said and done, GeekTool really deserves accrediting for what it has done. It has created an amazing application around which application designers and developers who know a little code can make great looking themes for their own and other people's desktops. On top of this, GeekTool and all the themes and Geeklets that have been produced are all absolutely free of charge. GeekTool can really make you feel at home when using your Mac as well as providing useful information, something that is rarely seen done well.