Add an Embedded Calendar to Your Desktop

by Scott ChitwoodFriday December 31st, 2010
Posted in Snow Leopard UI Mods

I recently started using Spaces on my iMac at the day job to create a dedicated environment for accessing my Windows systems via Microsoft Remote Desktop.  The plus side of this arrangement allowed me retire an ancient, bulky monitor and keyboard from my workspace; less clutter makes Scott a Happy Boy™.  The trade-off was my embedded desktop calendar served up by Yahoo!® Widgets didn’t move from one space to another.  Not a huge bother in the overall scheme of things and perhaps not an insurmountable problem, but I went with the thought of trying some alternative ideas since that was the one and only widget I had in place.

Here’s a screenshot showcasing the results of my efforts: a combination of elements assembled from GeekTool 3.0, Nerdtool 0.8, and CalendarView 1.2.  While there are other methods of attaining a similar arrangement, these items, in tandem, provided the best features for my needs and sense of style.

desktop calendar 01

Let’s break this down by section by section…

Date and Time Stamp

Everything in this part is powered by GeekTool.  ‘Day’, ‘Date’, ‘Time’, ‘am/pm’, and the transparent background are individual code snippets arranged as a cohesive unit.  All, with the exception of the background, are terminal based commands set to refresh at regular intervals.  The font is Archer Bold, colors were borrowed from the iCal Dashboard Widget.


This was, by far, the most challenging section to nail down.  I started with a GeekTool calendar but was discouraged with having to use a fixed width font.  Not very stylish and colorizing the various parts proved to be too much of a challenge for my abilities.

The next idea was to run the iCal Dashboard Widget on the desktop using a well known developer’s workflow and some making some alterations to its CSS code to make it fit my style of choice.

desktop calendar 02

One big problem with this method: the Widget hovers over the top of all other application windows, not really conducive for prolonged use.  There are however, third party apps, Amensty Singles and Amnesty Widget Browser, that can do the heavy lifting and display Widgets at the desktop level in exchange for a little of your folding money.  Both of the above are solid, high-quality apps and are definitely recommended if you have the need to run several Widgets on your desktop.

What next?  I almost gave up on this one and used the GeekTool method, but then I stumbled across Nerdtool — and found something attractive in its feature set: it can display web content.  Now it was just a matter of locating a configurable web based calendar that had the the right feature set for my needs.  CalendarView seemed like the perfect candidate for attaining my goal, so I set my skills to reworking the CSS and removing some of its dynamic functions from the Javascript file.  Once that was complete it was just a matter of serving the files locally, linking to the HTML file with Nerdtool, setting the refresh rate, and adjusting the window transparency to match that of the date/time stamp.

Calendar Events

The static title on this was more troublesome that expected but with a little toying around I found that linking to a plain text file from Nerdtool was the most effective method.  Just had to code in the typeface, font color, and font size after discovering that.  Tried the same thing in GeekTool but with every change to the font another instance of the text would display, a bit odd but that could be an undiscovered bug I ran into.

GeekTool was used for displaying my iCal events.  To get lists of events and tasks/to-do’s from the OS X calendar database (the same one iCal uses) you’ll need to download and install icalBuddy prior to setting up your geeklet.


I’ve packaged up my geeklets, nerds, and other items for download — take ’em if you’d like ’em.

Mod Your Dock Skin & Icons

by Scott ChitwoodMonday October 4th, 2010
Posted in Dock Skins & Mods, Snow Leopard UI Mods

Here’s another installment in our little series that explores the idea of modding our Mac OS X UI in small steps; replacing the Dock skin and default icons.

Mod Your Dock Skin & Icons

All of our target images are located within the Dock resources…


Images specific to the Dock skin are listed below.  Replacing all of the images is not required.

  • frontline.png
  • indicator_large.png
  • indicator_medium_simple.png
  • indicator_medium.png
  • indicator_small_simple.png
  • indicator_small.png
  • scurve-l.png
  • scurve-m.png
  • scurve-sm.png
  • scurve-xl.png
  • separator.png
  • separatorstraight-horizontal.png
  • separatorstraight.png
  • shadow.png

Icon images are…

  • dashboard.png
  • finder.png
  • trashempty.png
  • trashfull.png

Replacing the Dock skin images is as easy as drag and drop to overwrite the existing files — don’t forget to back up those up before you dig in.  Icon images are another method…

  • Icon images should be opened in an image editor.
  • Select All, then Clear/Delete the original image.
  • Copy and Paste a new image into the existing document.
  • Close/Save.

Easy cake my happy little UI Chefs!  One final step, launch the Terminal and use the ‘killall -KILL Dock’ command to restart the Dock to see your nifty mod work.

At the present, there happens to be a great selection of Dock skins available for download at deviantART.  LeopardDocks also has nice gallery but, as of this article date, the domain and contents are for sale so it may not be around much longer.

My screenshot features LedMetal by elpinchoDesigns.  As a personal mod I desaturated the indicators in Photoshop to change them from blue to grey.

Disclaimer: Apply this UI mod at your own risk, Rampant Mac not responsible for damage/loss.

Inset Dark Dockling Skin by ~theBassment

by Scott ChitwoodThursday August 26th, 2010
Posted in Dock Skins & Mods, Snow Leopard UI Mods

Here’s a nice little UI mod that you’ll find easy on the eyes.  Install is simple and offers up a good learning experience for getting familiar with system files.  Let’s download our working components and dig into the little beastie.

inset dark dockling skin

One more thing along the way — let’s back up our destination files.  For the Dock we’ll want to save a copy of it’s ‘Resources’ folder located with the ‘Contents’ directory.  The ‘sArtFile.bin’ is located in the ‘Resoures’ directory within the ‘CoreUI.framework’.  Use the ‘Go to Folder…’ command in the Finder for navigating to both locations.


  1. Run the Inset 1.02 installer.  Essentially you could finish up here, but (from my personal perspective) the docklings are a little too transparent.  This can make list items difficult to read when they appear over open windows/documents or overlay some desktop wallpaper images.
  2. The image files included with Inset: Dark remedy the transparency issue noted above.  Files for the ‘Dock’ can be copied directly into the ‘Resources’ folder.  We’ll need to fire up Theme Park to replace image files located within the ‘sArtFile.bin’.
  3. When Themepark is launches hit the ‘Edit sArtFile’ button, then locate specific image numbers as they are listed within the ‘Inset: Dark’ files.  Select an image with Themepark and it loads into an image well.  Now drag the corresponding image file from ‘Inset: Dark’ into the image well.  Easy cake amigo.
  4. When you’re done switching images do a ‘Command-S’ to save the updated file, hit the ‘Apply Theme’ button, and Quit out.
  5. Reboot your Mac.  Enjoy your new docklings and do the Happy Dance™ in celebration of newly acquired knowledge.  :^)

Disclaimer: Apply this UI mod at your own risk, Rampant Mac not responsible for damage/loss.

Lights by PrekeshC

by Scott ChitwoodMonday August 23rd, 2010
Posted in Appearance Themes, Snow Leopard UI Mods

I’ve been a UI (user interface) enthusiast for darn near the entirety of my Mac user experience; for those playing along at home we can pinpoint that all the way back to a revision b Bondi Blue iMac running MacOS 8.5 acquired in November 1998.  Custom icons, appearance themes, UI mods, and all sorts of related, unsupported hacks were fun, exciting, and sometimes disastrous avenues of learning how to dig around the nuts and bolts of the operating system.

Over the course of years my enthusiasm waned somewhat, and with the continued advancement and refinement of Mac OS X there was little reason and little opportunity to mess with big immersive UI mods.  Though there were, and still are, a good handful artists to follow, the UI community fragmented into niche groups that had the appearance of being hype-driven exclusive clubs leading the way to a new “Glossy, Grey” UI world order with visions of dollar signs spinning in their heads.

Thankfully, this phase seems to have nearly fizzled out; UI artists are creating/releasing some neat stuff these days.  A good amount of these are little UI mods that make a big impact on the user experience, combing several together can really make your workspace feel special.

So, in appreciation of this resurgence I’d like to share some of my favorite current UI mods and make a commitment to share more of these more often here at the Rampant Ranch™.

First up is a nifty Traffic Light UI mod that is easy to install and apply; Lights by PrekeshC.  This is a fantastic creation that puts the big smack-down on Snow Leopard defaults; rich colors, highlights, and bevels to whet your UI palate — just gorgeous!

Lights by PrekeshC

Installation is real easy, grab the files and let’s go.

  1. Using the ‘Go to Folder…’ command in the Finder copy and paste the following:
  2. There are two items we need to replace in here: ‘ArfFile.bin’ and ‘SArtFile.bin’.  Hang tight on that thought, we’ll get back to it.
  3. Go up one level in the directory, highlight the ‘Resources’ folder and use the ‘Get Info’ command in the Finder to make changes to ‘Sharing & Permissions’ settings.  You’ll need an admin password to unlock the settings.
  4. After unlocking, add yourself to the ‘Sharing & Permissions’ settings, give yourself ‘Read & Write’ priveleges, then finish off by selecting the ‘Apply to enclosed items…’ command, and exit the dialog.
    Get Info
  5. Go back into the ‘Resources’ folder.
  6. For back up purposes and easy replacement, rename ‘ArfFile.bin’ and ‘SArtFile.bin’, then copy the new files from download into ‘Resources’ folder.
  7. That’s it.  Restart your Mac to make the install complete.

Disclaimer: Apply this UI mod at your own risk, Rampant Mac not responsible for damage/loss.