It turns out that TinEye, the image search engine, is good for more than simply finding carbon-copy matches of pictures. You can also use it to go from a screenshot of a desktop to the source image.
While reviewing the TinEye Firefox extension last week, we noted that results were rather precise in nature and that variations on an image were often excluded. While that is true to an extent, reader TheLostVikings pointed out a way he uses the database and that it wasn't quite as narrow in scope as we initially believed:
Note on the "surgically precise" comment. I routinely use TinEye to find the actual background image when people post pictures o their desktops (complete with open windows, taskbars, docks, etc) and tineye will usually be able to locate the original picture.
To test this approach out we fired up Firefox with the TinEye extension and headed over the Lifehacker Desktop Show and Tell Pool. Chalk it up to luck or the popularity of the images people were using for their desktop background, but we were able to find eight out of 10 of the source background images using TinEye.
The next time you see a capture of someone's desktop and you're dying to know where they got the cool background, give TinEye a shot at finding it for you. Thanks TheLostVikings!