A good wallpaper provides a pleasant backdrop to productivity. A great wallpaper changes your whole computer experience. See some of the best image sources, software and usability tweaks we've come across and rolled up for your downloading pleasure.
10. Wallpaper that looks like a desktop
Computer engineers spent all that research time making PCs resemble real-life workspaces, so why not indulge them a little while cleaning up your work space? Desktop wallpapers, in the strictest sense of the term, use visual representations of a wooden desk, a document stack, sticky notes and other tools you'd use to organize a real desk to give you a place to put program icons and loose documents. Gabriel's layered desktop on Flickr is a prime example of such a spatial hack, and it's a good starting point for creating your own divided desktop.
9. Relive your time-wasting past (or present)
Nothing particularly tricky about this item, just a pointer to some pretty amazingly detailed, stylish, and joy-evoking wallpapers. DeviantArt member Orioto paints wallpapers so fresh and eye-catching, we've highlighted them twice. They're note quite as stylised, but DesktopGaming has a wide-reaching collection of wallpaper sized just right for your system.
8. Match it with a custom theme
What good is having a slick, minimalist black background if all your program windows have to be cartoon-y, Windows XP blue? Break out of the blue/gray/Windows 98 lockdown by using Jason's guide to custom themes, which cracks open XP and Vista's theming restrictions and allows you to change your entire desktop's look and feel and integrate your wallpaper into a smooth, stylish whole.
7. Embed a calendar
There are a lot of apps that can overlay a calendar on your desktop—Raindlendar comes to mind—but BigHugeLabs' Wallpaper tool does the job nicely, with no added software and a pretty clean look. Load up images from your system, or point to images elsewhere on the web, and you've got quite a lot of resolution, placement, and font options to pick from.
6. Find a great source
You can spend all day hoping to find a green-ish, abstract image through Google, Flickr or other means that fits your 1440x900 and 1680x1050 monitors. Alternatively, you can try that search on one of our readers' favourite multi-monitor wallpaper spots. Need more? We've also pointed out a great 70-wallpaper roundup that could play the perfect matchmaker between you and the wallpaper of your dreams.
5. Make your iPhone wallpaper productive
Your desktop's not the only place where a background image can do more than just be covered up. gCalWall and Wallpaper Labeler, two free App Store finds for the iPhone or iPod touch, add calendar events, customised notifications and almost any other text you'd like to see on your device's "Slide to Unlock" screen. Check out our screenshot tour to see if you'd benefit from having a very expensive reminder note in your pocket.
4. Use multi-monitor images with UltraMon or DisplayFusion
We have a hard time choosing between these two little Windows software bundles, both of which offer a lot of functionality in their free versions, yet enough of an upgrade to make paying a small bit worth it. Whichever way you go, these Windows apps make it easy to manage separate images, or stretched giganto-images, across two, three, or however many monitors you're rocking. If you like to rotate, images, pull from Flickr, or otherwise mix up your images, well, they've got you covered there, too.
3. Rotate your wallpaper
Save your right-click finger some stress and keep your desktop fresh by rotating your background images automatically. We like how freeware apps Wallpaper Clocks and Desktopia shift wallpapers to match clock faces or the current amount of sunlight. For Windows users, Wallpaper Juggler is free, open-source, and can automatically grab and download wallpaper from great sources. Linux users have quite a few rotation options. The key to a great, time-sensitive wallpaper is having a good set of images. When I'm rocking Ubuntu Linux, for example, I sometimes keep the Dawn of Ubuntu set loaded to provide a background awareness of just how long I've been working (or having a great day).
2. Add killer customisations
They go way beyond wallpaper, but some of the best total desktop packages we've seen 'round these geeky parts—the Enigma, Lightning at Sunset, All About the Icons, and many more—are fully explained by their authors. That means links to the wallpaper sources, yes, but it also means the customisable clocks, text displays, and other features that look so perfect paired up with their chosen wallpaper can be easily added to your own desktop. You only have to go as far as you want, and there's lots of room for customisation.
1. Roll Your Own
Want killer wallpaper that's really hard to find? Make it yourself. We're not suggesting you bust out Microsoft's Paint and paint your own landscapes (though feel free, really), but try some of the more intriguing wallpaper generators out there. Repper flips any image into striking wallpaper suitable for tiling. Collagr makes classy, well, collages from Flickr sets, and Top Draw generates abstract graphics on the fly. Want more fine-grained control? We like how Mike Matas used iPhoto and a plug-in to make a "Life Poster,", but the look can just as easily be accomplished in Picasa, and sized for the desktop instead of the office wall.
Let's hear—and, more importantly, see!—your own wallpaper modifications, your favourite image sources, and other tips in the comments.