Windows product recommendation: Chronowall

I don't think I've seen many people who didn't put up some kind of desktop wallpaper on their computer, whether it be desktop or laptop or tablet.  Windows 7 itself even has a timer thing that will cycle through a bunch of selected wallpapers at intervals…but it's not very smart.

For one thing, it doesn't handle multiple monitors very gracefully, and decidedly less so if you have two or more screens with different resolutions or aspect ratios.  For example, I have one monitor that's 16:10 (1920×1200), and another slightly larger one that's 16×9 (1920×1080).  Stretching, tiling, fill-to-fit — I can't ever seem to get consistent results.  This is complicated by the fact I like to take one large wallpaper image and span it across both monitors, without distortion.

Enter Chronowall, created by Joshua Pilkington.  His story is he was fooling around one night with pictures and wallpapers and wondered why Windows couldn't display certain pictures at specified times, and apply color effects based on the current time and date.  Originally, his effort was just a script that changed a picture based on the sun's current position; eventually it became a fully-featured C++ program that accumulated more and more features, many of them based on beta tester suggestions.

Chronowall is a powerful and versatile desktop wallpaper manager with features I haven't even begun to explore fully.  What it does is allow you to control what wallpapers appear on your Windows desktop based upon time of day, date, month, season or year.  Moreover, it isn't limited to just displaying a single static image or a couple images across monitors.  Chronowall can display photo collages, online images, and even allow you to apply brightness, contrast, saturation, bloom, color and hue effects over time.  For instance, a view of a sunny beach can be made to look dark and reddish in the morning, slowly brightening over the course of the day and then to darken again as evening falls.  Then it can switch to a night-time sky shot, also varying over time.  Static images need not be static any longer.

Given how much time I spend in front of the computer, I can't quite describe how nice it is to have my desktop background change periodically.  Some part of my brain finds the effect relaxing.  Another nice effect is Chronowall can slowly fade one wallpaper into another, so it isn't visually jarring.

If Chronowall sounds complicated, well, it can be — but fortunately one of the features Joshua implemented during development is the ability to import gallery effects.  I'm also glad that some of the Chronowall effects were designed specifically for wallpapers from my absolute favorite computer art site, DigitalBlasphemy (fair disclosure, I'm a lifetime member of Ryan Bliss's site there, and my computer rarely displays any wallpapers but his; I'm a total sucker for his deep-space art, although some of his landscapes and fractals are equally stunning).

Even if the only thing you use Chronowall for is to change wallpapers on a schedule and to fit them properly to multiple screens, it's still superior to anything else I've tried.

At present, Chronowall is still in final development, but I've been involved with the beta since early July and I think this is a fantastic software product.  I wish Joshua the best of success when it's released.  As of 6 Oct 2011, Chronowall RC3 (Release Candidate 3) is available as a free 30 day trial.  (License price is TBD.)

System requirements:

  • Microsoft Windows 7/Vista/XP (SP2)
  • Memory: 1 GB recommended
  • Hard Drive: At least 5GB for the resample cache, several GB more if using online sources
  • CPU: At least a dual-core CPU is recommended
  • Screen resolution: Minimum of 1024×768. Neither the width nor the height can be smaller than these dimensions.
  • Video Card: For desktop transitions, you must have a hardware GPU that supports Direct3D 9.0c at a minimum

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