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Desktop designer

Customization enthusiasts will enjoy this versatile program.

Although some people are completely satisfied with the default Windows desktop interface, for others, customization is a must. Rainmeter (32-bit) is an attractive way to view system performance and a variety of other useful information--e-mail, weather, RSS feeds, and much more--right on the desktop. Casual users should beware, however; although it's not difficult to get started with Rainmeter, learning to fully utilize its features will take some time and geekery.

The program comes with two different themes, Enigma and Gnometer. Both of these are modular, transparent, and highly customizable. There is a wide variety of other themes around the Internet--an enthusiastic community of Rainmeter fans keeps them coming--so users who aren't crazy about Enigma and Gnometer can easily find other options. Features vary from theme to theme, but some common ones we came across include shortcuts to frequently used programs, clocks, calendars, notes, and news stories. Each theme can be reconfigured in a wide variety of ways, as each individual module can be dragged and dropped anywhere on the screen. All this flexibility is great for the hard-core Rainmeter user, but new users should expect a lot of trial and error, as the program definitely isn't as intuitive as it could be. The program comes with quite a bit of documentation, but even that doesn't really begin to describe what Rainmeter is capable of or how to use it. Overall, we think that Rainmeter is a great choice for users who like to geek out over customizing their desktops, but users who are looking for something that's easy and low maintenance will be frustrated and disappointed.

Rainmeter (32-bit) is free. It installs and uninstalls without issues, and we recommend this program to serious desktop customizers.

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