Desktop Earth 2.1


Desktop Earth is a wallpaper generator for Windows. It runs whenever you're logged on and updates your wallpaper with an accurate representation of the Earth as it would be seen from space at that precise moment.

Images are created from high-resolution textures (2560x1280) so it's perfect for that QSXGA display - but they work on anything, even on SVGA.

There is an image for every month to accurately depict snow and foliage changes, and the night view is simply stunning.

The imagery is based on NASA's Blue Marble Next and Earth's City Lights.



6 Megabytes to download, ~40 Megabytes after installation
Tested on Windows XP 32 and 64 bit versions. Should work on older Windows variants as well.

Legal & Disclaimer: This is free software. You may use it in any way you like, but redistribution is not permitted. There are no warranties of any kind. If the software does not work: too bad. If you lose data: too bad. If your computer blows up: again, too bad. I am in no way responsible.


After installation DesktopEarth will start automatically and display the following configuration dialog:

This should be pretty self-explanatory, but here are some pointers:
  • Image Options control basic image parameters such as what the wallpaper is centered on and how to deal with an image that does not match the aspect ratio of the source: add black bars or crop. You can also choose to add clouds to the image - more on this topic a bit later.

  • Display Options allows you to select between wallpaper styles. The Regular Wallpaper setting should work well for everyone, even in multi-monitor environments. When your destkop's size or shape changes the Earth wallpaper will change with it in a few moments.
Desktop Earth will start automatically every time you log in to Windows. There's a system tray icon that you can use to bring up the configuration dialog again:

This brings us to the final point: clouds. The cloud image bundled with Deskop Earth is (obviously) static, but selecting "Cloud Updates" from the systray menu and enabling automatic updates will retrieve a semi-realtime cloud image from the Internet. Since cloud formations big enough to show up on these images move very slowly, it does not really matter that the images are a few hours out of date.


v2.1.1 (2006-May-27)
  • Fixed a few minor bugs and a memory leak
v2.1 (2006-May-10)
  • Follow desktop resolution changes
  • Adjustable cloud thickness
  • Center on arbitrary timezones
  • A bunch of minor bugs fixed
v2.0.1 (2006-Mar-10)
  • Auto-updating clouds
  • WinXP 64-bit support
  • Support for non-Active Desktop wallpapers
  • Support for resultions spanning more than one monitor
  • Cropping & black bars optional
  • Lossy compression (download size 6 megs instead of 34)
  • Different night images
  • Faster & better-looking day/night algorithm
  • Initial release

Known Bugs

  • The cloud update process uses the Microsoft WinInet library and should make use of proxy servers configured in Internet Explorer automatically. However, there can be problems with proxies that require authentication.


  • Q: ...was wondering if you had ever considered mapping an overlay of a realtime cloud image over the earth. I noticed that when I turned on the could layer it tends to stay static.
  • A: You need to explicitly enable cloud updates by right-clicking the systray icon, selecting "Cloud Updates", then checking the appropriate box in the dialog that appears.

  • Q: Do the updates that move the "sun" across my screen eventually take Canada out of the ice age as well?
  • A: Yes, eventually. There is a different satellite image for every month, so you will see a drastically different Canada in the summer.

  • Q: This does not seem to work on <insert Windows version here>.
  • A: Testing and fixing bugs on a multitude of Windows OSs is just not something I have time to do. XP (both 32-bit and 64-bit versions) are supported, and the software may or may not work on others.


  • Screensaver mode A (slideshow of images generated with different parameters)
  • Screensaver mode B (OpenGL sphere textured with the current image)
  • Mac OS X port (for the Mrs)
  • Faster image generation