Windows’ bland default desktops don’t hold the candle for the gorgeous displays that RainMeter can create, but Mac users find themselves left out in the cold. RainMeter doesn’t support Mac, and unless you want to run Windows via Bootcamp, you can’t modify your monitor to the extent that RainMeter allows it — or can you?
GeekTool is a MacOS alternative to RainMeter. It offers the same level of customization as RainMeter does with just a little extra tweaking. There are a few scenarios involved, but don’t let that scare you off — GeekTool is actually easier to use than it looks. Here’s how to get started.
The first step is to make sure you have the right version of GeekTool. The official version is by Tynsoe Projects. While we can guarantee that download, we cannot guarantee the safety of any other person.
Once you’ve downloaded and run the program, move it to your Applications folder. This not only protects against deleting your download folder, but also allows GeekTool to update automatically when a new version is released.
After launching GeekTool, you will be greeted by its main window. Make sure to click Auto-launch on login and Show in menu bar. Launching the app at startup will ensure your Geeklets work as you intended, and placing the tool in the menu bar gives you easy access to all of GeekTool’s options.
When you first open GeekTool, you will see a screen that looks like this.
GeekTool doesn’t have clear instructions, but it’s as simple as drag and drop what you want. Choose Cover and drag it to the side of the screen. It will create an empty “shell” on your desktop.
When you choose the shell, you will receive Characteristic as the screen is seen on the right. This is where it can get tricky. From personal experience, we recommend not messing with the location settings. Just drag the shell to where you want it instead of trying to guess what the coordinates on the screen might be.
Next comes the fun part.
Next to Request: and the blank white line are three small dots. Click them. Click the dots. It will open a blank white screen with the title Edit script. Type whatever you want into the window. When you tap the red circle in the top left corner to exit, it will ask if you want to save the script. Click yes.
Once you’ve done this, any commands you entered will appear in the shell. Of course, you need to enter text that the script can understand. Here are a few examples:
- Date: date “+% A”
- Date: date +% d
- Month: date “+% B”
- Time: date + ”%l:%M”
- Display text: echo + text
These are just a few basic examples of the types of commands you can enter into GeekTool. A more comprehensive list can be found at the official Geeklets repository [note: link no longer working] or on the GeekTool subreddit.
If you want to show the look and feel of the text, just click the button that says Click here to set font %color. It will open a Microsoft Word-like toolbar to change the font, size, color, and more.
The other three options are very similar.
Picture Place an empty shell that you can fill with an image of your choice. It also has an easy, one-click option to display a random image from the folder. You can change the refresh rate to whatever length you want so it cycles through the images in a specific amount of time.
Web allows you to link to a web page or include an HTML script on your screen. In theory, although you could have the entire web page visible on your screen, it doesn’t work correctly. This shell is useful for scripts that rely on input from the web, such as weather or stock information.
Diary allows you to monitor what is happening inside your computer. This is for the really tech-savvy people who want to monitor their system’s core temperature, CPU usage, and more.
If you’ve tried a few of the features on GeekTool and found it to be to your liking, the next step is to implement more complex commands. GeekTool is a powerful tool, and if you learn a basic amount of coding to help you navigate the various commands, there’s almost nothing you can’t do. Just saw some of these desktops from users on the subreddit.
This desktop is nothing short of beautiful. It shows the currently playing song, the temperature and weather conditions outside, and the date and time.
This desktop is more complicated. It uses pie charts to show CPU and RAM usage, has reminders at the bottom of the screen, and a few other functions.
You can create a desktop that looks like this. Those wallpapers are just pictures that users find and set as images on their desktop, which then overlay the GeekTool installation on their desktop.
One of the strengths of GeekTool is that you can put folders and files on the desktop without any interference with functionality, even if the folder is right on top of one of the shells. After closing GeekTool, you can click any icon on the desktop as usual.
What comes after GeekTool?
While GeekTool still has a strong, niche community, some say the app is on the way downhill. Recent MacOS updates have made some scripts and commands invalid. We tested GeekTool on the most recent MacOS update and it worked fine, but Mojave seems to interfere with certain scripts.
There are other programs that serve a similar function to GeekTool (like Nerdtool), but they have not yet caught on to the same popularity of community support.
Until GeekTool is officially deprecated, we suggest you learn your way around some basic scripts and experiment with how you can customize your display.
Note: although unlikely, GeekTool can grant access to system-level commands. Be careful when using the Log shell and other commands that access system files.