Though it doesn’t make a fantastic first impression, SquidMelon’s Live Wallpaper ($1) is nonetheless a cool demonstration of how your Mac’s desktop background can evolve into something more interesting. Once it’s painlessly installed from the Mac App Store, Live Wallpaper offers you a single, decidedly Windows-like “Modern” backdrop complete with an ever-visible clock and weather forecast at the top of the screen—nice photography and idea, minus great graphic design and layout. But once you open the Preferences menu and manually download 11 other currently-available themes, a process that really should be automated for the user and displayed on first launch, you’ll see this app’s potential: some of the apps feature persistent animation, while others subtly integrate huge clocks or small special effects into beautiful images.
Live Wallpaper’s potential and issues are simultaneously demonstrated in a theme called Typo, which adds gently rotating stars to a cosmic Apple backdrop, along with a somewhat amateurishly implemented combination of calendar, clock, and weather information in different fonts. Theme components are static—you can turn off the time or weather elements, but can’t manually reposition them—and generally designed around the assumption that you’ll have a dock at the bottom of the screen, sometimes also assuming you won’t have icons off to the right. But while the elements aren’t always ideally arranged, the backdrops are generally great: a theme called Nebula includes a full-screen, animated nebula, while Polar Clock, Color Stripes, and Horizontal Bar offer different spins on minimalist art with clean presentations of calendar and clock information. MacBook users may find the constant CPU demands (and resulting battery drain) off-putting, but desktop Mac owners mightn’t mind as much. With a little extra theme polish, Live Wallpaper could be a truly great app; for the time being, it offers enough cool content to be worth the low asking price.