Rainmeter 3.0 Beta gives Windows better skin

There are plenty of ways you can spruce up your Windows desktop, but if you’d like to inject some useful functionality into it with the help of customisable information panes and interactive widgets, then you shouldn’t look much further than Rainmeter 2.5. The open-source skinning tool isn’t for novices, but spend a bit of time with it and you’ll soon find your desktop is as functional as it’s attractive to look at.

One of Rainmeter’s weaknesses is the quality of the text displayed, particularly at smaller sizes. That’s about to be rectified however, and you can see how they’re getting on by installing the latest pre-release in the form of Rainmeter 3.0 Beta.

For the release of version 3.0, the main focus so far has been to ditch the ageing GDI+ rendering system for both text and graphics in favour of a more powerful Direct2D system used in Windows 7 and 8. So far, development has focussed on implementing improved text rendering on string-based meters, particularly where the text is smaller than normal.

Initial results look promising -- we immediately noticed a vast improvement in the legibility and quality of small text on display, but there are a number of issues requiring attention, including slight differences in wrapping and relative positioning behaviour.

As a result, the feature is currently disabled by default -- users must add UseD2D=1 to the [Rainmeter] section of the Rainmeter.ini configuration file to enable it. The quickest way to do this is from within Rainmeter’s own Manage section: click Edit settings to open the file in Notepad, insert the line, save your changes and then restart Rainmeter to see the effect.

The nature of the beta means other features may come and go before final release: an early 3.0 beta introduced icons for the Unload Skin and Exit options in the Rainmeter context menus, but these were removed just a week later after style issues with XP were discovered, for example.

Other minor changes implemented so far, and still present, include a new OnDismissAction command for the InputText plugin, reduced resource usage when using the OnChangeAction command and a new OnWakeAction command that takes effect when Windows resumes from sleep or hibernation. With beta updates appearing on a weekly basis, expect further refinement of these features.

Rainmeter 3.0 Beta Build 1906 is available now as a free, open-source download for Windows XP or later. Also available is the latest stable build, Rainmeter 2.5.

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