Having joined the millions of others who have downloaded and installed the Windows 7 beta recently, I noticed that one of the new features is the ability to have the desktop wallpaper change automatically at selectable intervals. This is functionality that I implemented in a little app that I wrote a few years ago as a bit of a C#.NET learning exercise and put up on my website. I called it the Openfeature WallpaperChanger and it is available here.
It allows you to pick a set of images to use as desktop wallpapers and set the interval after which the app will select the next one and make it the Windows wallpaper; it also allows you to randomise the order and set the tile/stretch options for filling the screen. I had always intended to rework it as a Vista gadget, but I guess there won’t be a need to if Microsoft are going to make the functionality a feature of the OS.
This is not the first time this has happened either – I had a hunt around but couldn’t find a copy of an app I wrote some time in the early 1990s which consisted of a 2-3 pixel wide UI bar that docked to one side of the Windows desktop and slide out to a larger surface when the mouse was moved over it to reveal a notepad icon, a printer icon and a wastepaper basket icon. Dragging files from the File Manager to the bar and dropping them on one of the icons would allow viewing, printing or deleting them. This was Windows 3/3.11 Workgroups and predated Windows 95 and the auto-hide taskbar by a year or two.
Now I’m not for a moment suggesting that Microsoft spies were snooping on my hobby developer activities on each of these occasions - the phrase “don’t flatter yourself, dear” comes to mind - but I do think certain ideas have their time and emerge spontaneously, meme-like, in more than one place at the same time.
And I guess anyway that there will be plenty of people who will claim that these sorts of features were already in the Apple Mac OS for others to steal long before they appeared in Windows and there will be others still who don’t reckon much to UX features like auto-hide, or cycling wallpapers anyway so maybe “fools seldom differ”.