Chameleon is an open source program that can change your desktop wallpaper automatically based on the time, weather

Dec 14, 2020
Updated • Dec 15, 2020
Software, Windows software

Do you keep switching your desktop wallpaper? I do, just to keep things interesting especially if I really like a game, book, movie, etc. There are a few programs which can do the task for you like WinDynamicDesktop. Want some additional options? Chameleon delivers those.

Chameleon is an open source program that can change your desktop wallpaper automatically based on the time, weather

A chameleon changes its color to match its environment, and the aptly-named desktop program kind of works like that.  Chameleon is quite easy to get started with. It has a bunch of "Change by" options, which are sort of the trigger conditions for switching the wallpaper.

The first option is "None", which is only useful when you want to pause the program. The next setting is battery, and obviously this one is only useful for laptop users. The program will change the wallpaper when the battery level changes in increments of 10% (or decreases) starting from 0 (not that your computer will stay on at zero). So that is 0-9%, 10-19%, and so on until 90 to 99%, and finally 100%. So, if your laptop is on full charge the program will change the wallpaper that you've assigned to the 100% mark, when it drops even by 1% it will switch to the next wallpaper.

Chameleon set different wallpapers

Chameleon supports the following image formats: PNG, BMP, JPG, JPEG and GIF. Click on the Change Image button in the Battery tab, to set the wallpaper of your choice. When you are happy with the settings, click on the run button to send Chameleon to the system tray where it will run in the background, and change the background automatically.

Chameleon time settings 2

The Time option changes the desktop background once every hour. You can use different pictures, or use it to work like macOS' Dynamic Desktop, which changes the wallpaper based on the time. So, if you have a set of pictures of the same landscape taken at different hours of the day, you can use Chameleon to have your Dynamic Desktop background. The images I have used here are stock photos taken from Pexels. Set a background to be swapped at different times in Chameleon', click on the run button and you're good to go.

Chameleon time setting 2

Note: Chameleon doesn't retain the wallpaper if you leave some images blank. Say for example, you set a background for the first image (e.g. 12 PM), then skipped the second one, but set a wallpaper for a different time (3rd or 4th, etc), the program will not use the 1st image as the wallpaper when it reaches the condition for the 2nd background (e.g. 1PM). Instead, it switches the wallpaper to a solid color (black) background.

So, if I have two dynamic wallpapers, I have to set the program to use the same background for every hour between the actual change. That is pretty annoying. A simple setting for "don't change image until a specific time" would've been convenient.

Chameleon time settings

Chameleon can also switch wallpapers based on the current Weather Condition, Wind Speed, Temperature, Humidity and Heat Index. The program uses NOAA's National Weather Service to pull the data. The problem is this only works for users in North America, so if you're from a different region there is no way to use the weather settings.

Chameleon weather settings

Click on the Settings button at the top of the application's window, and then select the first drop-down menu to set a State. Chameleon will list all available stations in the second menu, from which you can pick your city. Hit the Go button to fetch the weather data.

Chameleon weather settings 2

Once it gets the weather info, you can set up the different wallpapers for the conditions, it's the same as the Time setting except instead of changing the image by the hour, you have to set a different picture for a change in the temperature, wind speed, or other parameter that you specify. Mouse over the program's tray icon to view a tooltip that displays the weather data.

I couldn't find a way to use metric units, even though NOAA supports Celsius. The other thing that I was slightly disappointed with is that the program doesn't come with its own wallpapers, but having control over the customization options is more important. I would've liked an option to select a folder and randomize wallpapers, but maybe I'm nitpicking here.

Chameleon is an open source program, it is not portable. The program is written in Pascal.


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  1. Henk said on December 15, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Actually the whole concept of having images for desktop background is something I associate with the gaudy times of Windows 95, Netscape, AOL. Since many years, my desktop is just a solid dark grey color — so as not to distract from what actually matters. Same for my phone home screen, btw.

  2. Steve said on December 15, 2020 at 8:38 am

    The guy that made this must have been bored. Not hating or anything. I always use the same wallpaper because I never look at it. So, for me, it could be changing all day long and I won’t notice. I know, I know, this is for people not-like-me.

  3. pd said on December 15, 2020 at 2:42 am

    Whilst I’ve theoretically been waiting for a timing-based wallpaper changer, OTOH, I pretty much rarely see my desktop.

    That said, from a very cursory glance at the screenshots in this review, looks like a well written program that will hopefully be helpful for many.

  4. shawn said on December 14, 2020 at 11:35 pm

    By Date would of been a nice touch… for when you have celebrations or people b-day’s

  5. naveed said on December 14, 2020 at 11:17 pm

    The download link on github throws a 404.

  6. Peterc said on December 14, 2020 at 8:18 pm

    I use John’s Background Switcher. It’s closed-source freeware for Windows 7 and up. It does timed, random slideshows only, and you can do a mix of your own wallpapers and online wallpapers from a variety of sites. You can set the switch timing in pre-set increments ranging between every 10 seconds and every 7 days.

    What I like about is that it provides you the option of displaying captions. For your own wallpapers, these are pulled from the wallpapers’ filenames (without the extension). For online wallpapers, they seem to be pulled from Media RSS text (if any) provided by the relevant site. I’ve identified most of my own wallpapers, and the captions are a good way refresh my recollection of what I’ve learned about each one — geography, animal species and range, etc. As for the online wallpapers, some of them have captions that are helpful; some have captions that are less nicely done; and some don’t have any captions at all. They’re still a nice way to inject a little variety and surprise into your (How would Microsoft put it?) “Desktop experience.”

    When you choose “Slideshow” in your Windows “Lock screen” settings, JBS runs a really nice fast-paced slideshow at the lock screen, alternating single, full-sized wallpapers with collages/montages. All of the wallpapers used for the lock-screen slideshow appear to be from your local collection, with none from online. I’m not sure how much control you have over this slideshow as opposed to the one on the Desktop, but I like the out-of-the-box settings.

    My only real complaint about the program is that it displays captions in a white-colored font (of your choosing) with a shadow effect. With standard fonts, at least, this can make the captions hard to read against certain backgrounds, like clouds or chalk cliffs. This obviously isn’t a problem for users who don’t display captions, and I’m guessing that most users wouldn’t.

    Anyway, John’s Background Switcher doesn’t have the elaborate picture-switching triggers that Chameleon does, just straightforward time countdowns, but it’s been actively developed (i.e., bug-fixed and improved) for a *long* time, it comes with lots of user-selectable features, and the end result can be pretty nice.

    PS: Most of my wallpapers are of the usual beautiful landscapes and towns or of the usual *unusual* animals, but (like Ashwin) I also have a decent number of still, poster, and fan-art wallpapers from movies and TV shows I like. My regular wallpapers are a vacation from reality, and my movie/TV wallpapers are a vacation from the vacation…

    1. Peterc said on December 14, 2020 at 8:20 pm

      Oops. I believe John’s Background Switch is available for MacOS, too.

  7. aristofeles green said on December 14, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    What a cool ide…… “As of now, this only works with the US and Canada.”
    OK. Almost.
    Please post it again if one day they support overseas, will keep my eye on the rss…

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