Views of Earth from space are as close as the nearest weather site, but in the great scheme of things, we've only had the privilege a short while. We were reminded of just how awesome the view of everyone's home from space can be when we tried Desktop Earth, a free screensaver that rotates high-resolution satellite images of Earth on Windows desktops. But Desktop Earth does more than most other screensavers do. For instance, it changes with the time of day, displaying daylight and night images centered on your location. You can set it to center on any time zone, customize the cloud cover thickness, and choose from several day and night image options such as city lights. Desktop Earth can also download and update cloud simulations from the Xplanet project. Clearly (or cloudily) this is no ordinary screensaver!
Like most screensaver programs do, Desktop Earth set itself as our default screensaver as soon as we installed it. The first image we saw was quite impressive, with city lights showing in the dark areas. If you've ever seen a global daylight clock, Desktop Earth's display will be familiar. Desktop Earth works like other screensavers, too. We opened the Appearance and Personalization tool in Windows and clicked on the screensaver to open its file. Checking thumbnails selects images to display. We set the change interval and fit the images to our screen. Desktop Earth also places a system tray icon that accesses the screensaver's Options as well as the Cloud Update tool. Under the Options, we could set the daylight view's topographic image automatically by season or by individual months to vary the ground cover displayed. The Cloud Updates options include an impressive list of Xplanet servers, mostly in academia. We could even set Desktop Earth as regular wallpaper or as an Active Desktop object, which can have performance advantages in some systems.
Few sights remain as profound as the view of Earth from space, where your home and everything for miles around it seem impossibly small. Desktop Earth is the sort of screensaver treatment that just about everyone can appreciate and enjoy.