Windows' built-in wallpaper switcher is OK, but not spectacular. If you'd like to beef up your rotating wallpaper, John's Background Switcher gives you tons of options for doing so, and at no cost.
- Periodically changes the background image on your computer over a specified interval
- Can choose from a folder on your computer, Flickr users or tags, Facebook, Vladstudio wallpapers, any RSS feeds (including sites like DeviantArt, Photobucket, LOLCats and more), Smugmug, Picasa, Google Image Search and lots more places
- View wallpapers individually or as a set of "snapshot scrapbooks"
- Draw a calendar on the desktop
- Change the Windows Logon Screen Background
- Tweak tons of settings that determine how your backgrounds rotate, including stopping the rotator when you're on battery power, only switching when idle, and more
- Turn off wallpaper drawing for certain zones on the screen
- Customisable keyboard shortcuts
- Import and export settings for easy backup
See the above feature list. Its length tells you all you need to know. John's background switcher has more features than you ever thought you'd want from a wallpaper manager, including some you probably won't even use. Still, once you set it up, it stays out of your way, and it allows you to adjust settings to keep it from slowing down old or low power computers. Plus you can grab images from any combination of web sources. If you're at all unsatisfied with Windows' handling of wallpapers, this is the app you'll want to use.
You might notice some stuttering as your wallpaper changes, though you can turn off certain settings that should mitigate this (at the cost of some nice fading transitions). My only real gripe, though, is its multiple monitor support. You can use John's Background Switcher with multiple monitors, but you can't give it different picture sources for each monitor, which is kind of a bummer. It also doesn't let you choose an image for your Windows logon screen; it just uses whatever image is up next in the rotation. Obviously these are pretty nitpicky, but they're things I noticed right off the bat, and with a few tiny fixes, the program would probably be perfect.
Most other programs, in my opinion, aren't really worth looking at. If you use multiple monitors, DisplayFusion will give you a bit more control over each monitor, though it doesn't give you nearly as many online sources or super-advanced wallpaper options (plus it costs $US25). That said, if you use multiple monitors, it brings a lots of other non-wallpaper features to your setup, including dual taskbars, keyboard shortcuts, window snapping and more. But for just switching the wallpapers, it's a bit overkill (not to mention overpriced).
Also among the pay apps is Wallpaper Cycler, which for $US20 adds a few more things you can tack onto your desktop. You can create layouts with calendars, quotes, notes, webcams, other wallpapers, RSS headlines and more to your desktop -- though why you'd use this instead of the stunningly beautiful Rainmeter is beyond me. Still, it's there if you want something different.
Lastly, there are a few other managers worth mentioning just because of the wallpaper sources they support. If you're a huge InterfaceLIFT or WallpaperStock fan, you'll want to check out Wallpaper Juggler, which is simpler than the others but can download wallpapers from our favourite wallpaper site (though John's Background Switcher can do it by way of RSS, too). Color Desker uses its own cache of pretty wallpapers, too, if you aren't very picky.
There may be other wallpaper managers out there, but these are our favourites. Got one you're particularly in love with that we didn't mention? Share it with us in the comments.
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