Customizing the desktop is one of the most rewarding computer-related experiences and I do not just mean changing the wallpaper to something new. What I mean is spending hours and hours finding the perfect icons, the perfect background, the best way to handle items like the taskbar and other related activities. If you are even slightly interested at all that, Rainmeter is what you have been looking for your entire life. Today I am going to explain the basics of Rainmeter, show you how to use the application, where to find skins for it and how to troubleshoot some basic problems to avoid further frustration.
What is Rainmeter?
Basically, Rainmeter is a foundation app that allows you to completely change the way your desktop looks like. The app’s developers simply provide a mainframe with a completely basic default skin and then independent users from the community create skins that add new icons, images and a huge amount of utilities that range from CPU meters to complete audio-visual media players that can even connect to your music streaming services. Customizing your computer with Rainmeter means you can approach everything you do in a new way. For instance, this is the first time many of you will learn how to live without icons on the desktop and that life can be absolutely glorious if you let it.
Set up Rainmeter
You can download Rainmeter from its official website or its GitHub page. It does not really matter where you get it from as both versions will receive the same updates at approximately the same time though GitHub will always be faster. During the installation, make sure to choose a standard installation as the portable one is not recommended for new users. Furthermore, it is a good idea to allow Rainmeter to run on Startup otherwise it instantly becomes less useful.
Get a skin
Once Rainmeter is installed, what you will see on your desktop is the default skin. This will merely give you a glimpse on what dedicated themes can do as the default one will show you panels with information like your PC’s usage and your hard drive’s capacity.
To find additional skins you will need to navigate the various pages that cater to this purpose such as Customize.org, the brilliant Rainmeter subreddit and the curated gallery at deviantArt. Choose whichever skin you want and double-click on the downloaded file in order to install it. In the window that opens, all you have to do is click on “Install” and everything included with the skin will be automatically added to your desktop. In case you want to do that manually, make sure to uncheck the “Load included skins” box before clicking on Install.
Installed skins can be found by going to your Documents > Rainmeter > Skins folder and it is vital that you remember this. A lot of skin creators add “Read Me” or “Tips” files that will help you customize their skins with ease though we will talk about that further on.
When you install your first skin, you will instantly notice a lot of things that do not sit well with you. For instance, the skin may have a panel with shortcuts that you never use so they are completely useless for your own configuration. This is where you should understand that Rainmeter thrives on customization as most skins can be edited down to their most basic parts.
To start with, open the Manage Rainmeter window. This can be done by right-clicking on a skin and choosing the “Manage Skin” option or by clicking on the Rainmeter icon in your system tray (bottom right side of your PC). The Skins tab is where you want to be as this is where all of your installed skins are located regardless of whether they are active or not. This is also where it starts to get a bit more complicated. Most of the more advanced skins that add multiple items to your desktop handle those items individually. In the Skins tab, expand your current skin and you will see a list of folders, each of which has its very own .ini file. Loading and unloading the .ini files enables and disables their corresponding items. For instance, double-clicking on the “Clock” .ini while it is disabled will instantly load it up and run it.
For skins with multiple items, this is the easiest way to get exactly what you want. For example, some skins will feature multiple clocks so you can choose the one you want by loading it on the Manage interface. However, this is still quite basic and it will leave you with the default settings of the skin’s creator and it is very doubtful that you will want the exact same things.
To amend that we will have to delve into an even more complicated area: the editing of .ini files. The good news is that the Rainmeter community really is quite friendly, especially to newcomers, so a lot of these files include comments for each section so that you know exactly what you are editing. The bad news is that opening such a file for the first time will be incredibly intimidating to the average user so try not to panic.
In order to edit a skin’s item, right-click on it and select the “Edit skin” option or go via the Manage Rainmeter panel, select the item you want to edit and click on the “Edit settings” button at the bottom left. The files will be opened with your default text editor and will simply feature a series of lines that handle each part of the item. Anything that has “#” before it is a comment and does not affect the code so you can also make notes there in case you want to remember something about a particular setting.
Generally, it is a good idea to start from the skin’s folder as it there is a pretty good chance you will find a helpful text file with instructions on how the major items should be handled. After that, you are pretty much on your own as each and every skin features different things. It is true that setting up Rainmeter takes a fair amount of time, especially when you really get into it, but being able to customize every single part of the desktop is surely worth it.