Deskpops is an application that integrates RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds into your desktop wallpaper. Working in conjunction with an always-on Internet connection, it effectively provides information that's self-updating and always present. Deskpops is currently only available for Windows systems, but a Mac version is reportedly on the way. Best of all, it's free.
Your first step is to download Deskpops, choosing a version of the software based around a wallpaper that you like. There are about 100 wallpapers on offer, grouped into fairly predictable categories -- babes, cars, hunks, sports, for example. You can’t use Deskpops with a custom wallpaper, and the first clue that this is a whole-heartedly American product is the Patriotic category, which offers the US Flag, Gettysburg and the Memphis Belle among others.
You choose a screen resolution before making your download. Not all resolutions are supported, but there's a good range to choose from -- some of the newer wide-screen resolutions are even included (1,280 by 854 and 1,440 by 900, for example). If your preferred resolution isn't supported, you'll need to make an adjustment -- the software won’t stretch or squeeze to fit.
Installation is straightforward and fast. The new wallpaper that appears after installation is preconfigured with feeds in five boxes, broadly categorised by subject. Three of these boxes cover news, sports and entertainment, while the other two have more varied content: one mostly covers business and finance matters, but also includes computer gaming and technology; the other concentrates on health and lifestyle matters. When you choose a subject, feeds from that source populate the box, and clicking on any one opens the full story in your browser. There is a separate box offering a Web search tool, plus two boxes dedicated to advertising.
As mentioned above, Deskpops is free to the user, being supported by advertising. The FAQ at the Deskpops Web site suggests that if enough users request it, a paid-for, ad-free version will be offered. Were we to use Deskpops regularly, we’d go for that, because the ads are rather large and intrusive.
As it stands, though, we probably won’t keep using Deskpops. It works well enough as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough for us.
A key problem is that its range of feeds is fixed, and largely US-orientated. There simply isn’t enough non-US content to really grab our attention -- the news box offers the BBC, for example, along with Guardian Unlimited, but that’s it as far as UK interest is concerned.
A second problem is that you can’t rearrange the feeds into different boxes or change the number of boxes on-screen. This means that only five information sources are visible at any one time. Nor can you change the size or positioning of boxes on-screen. If you have shortcuts peppered around your desktop, they are likely to obscure feeds unless they are kept to the left-hand side of the screen.
And most crucially of all, when you're working, the desktop is almost always covered with applications in use and others sitting underneath or minimised. So you can’t actually see when Deskpop updates itself with new information. The answer here is to use a second monitor -- but if you're lucky enough to have a second monitor, a more configurable system of RSS feeds might be a better bet.
Deskpops sounds like a fabulous idea, and indeed it is very clever. However, there are some hurdles it needs to overcome before it can be unreservedly recommended.