It's crazy to think that an operating system can fit every user's needs out of the box, even if we are just talking about looks. Luckily, if you're not keen on the cookie-cutter appearance of your OS, we've covered a handful of great tools for tweaking every last pixel of your desktop so it looks and acts just how you want. Keep reading for a closer look at the best of the best to transform your desktop in your image.
Samurize is a free system monitor and "desktop enhancement engine" for Windows. With Samurize, you can incorporate text files on your desktop and create custom desktop configurations and HUDs containing virtually any piece of information you'd like to see on your desktop. Samurize configurations can be as simple or as complex as you want, and though it has a little bit of a learning curve, a little time with Samurize can go a long way toward a killer desktop.
RocketDock brings a Mac OS X Dock-style application launcher to Windows for free. With RocketDock, you can minimize apps to your dock to thumbnails, tweak any of your icons, view real-time window previews from the dock (in Vista), and quickly launch any app. Like many of the other apps mentioned here, RocketDock doesn't exactly blow you away out of the box, but the app is fully customisable, so you can make it look however you want. RocketDock also made our list of five best application launchers.
Rainmeter is another free system monitor and desktop enhancement tool for creating a fully customised desktop HUD on Windows. Like Samurize, you're only limited by your imagination with Rainmeter. The default Rainmeter skins may seem underwhelming, but with a little elbow grease and a creativity, Rainmeter is capable of incredible customisations.
Emerge Desktop is a free Windows shell replacement that swaps out the default Windows taskbar, start-menu, and right-click menu with its own alternatives. As we said when we first covered it, Emerge creates a clean, minimalist desktop that's great on its own or a perfect starting point for more customisations. For example, many of you who voted for Emerge touted it as the ideal companion for either Rainmeter or Samurize. br clear="all">
AutoHotkey is an open-source scripting language for Windows. While the language itself is capable of a lot, customisation lovers enjoy AutoHotkey's ability to easily transform window transparency, add keyboard shortcuts to anything, and more. There's a bit of a learning curve to tackle if you want to make your own AHK scripts, but it's a great starter language if you want to try your hand at a little coding.