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For Software Addicts: Yes!MaybeNah!
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QuartzClocks: The Clock That Launched A Thousand Faces

Published January 5th, 2007

QuartzClocks: Scalable clocks drawn with Quartz 2D

QuartzClocks Desktop Clock FreewareOriginally downloaded 12/20/07. Many and Sundry Variations on a Theme by QuartzClocksI’ve had more fun with this nifty little application lately… too much fun, truth be told! QuartzClocks is the kind of software diversion that addictive personalities should definitely avoid. However, if you think you can drag yourself away from it long enough to get some other work done, by all means download and enjoy it! It’s free, but the developer definitely deserves a few pennies in his PayPal jar for spreading this much joy around.

Using the magic of Apple’s Quartz graphics engine, QuartzClocks can literally be whatever kind of clock you can imagine. Want a simple digital clock in a certain typeface and color? How about one with a simple translucent background behind it? You want the letters and numbers to be really big? Or maybe huge? Sometimes you might prefer a teensy weensy digital clock. No problem… QuartzClock can be whatever digital clock you can imagine.

Or maybe you find digital clocks boring? You want something simple that doesn’t detract from your beautiful desktop picture, yet makes it easy to tell the time at a glance? I don’t think you’ll have any trouble finding such a look with QuartzClocks.

Besides being a desktop clock, the QuartzClocks download also gives you a screensaver, which you can configure separately. But honestly, the most interesting part is the desktop clock. I had fun making the attached graphic, which shows just a tiny number of the possible clock configurations. Once you realize that you can mix and match any of the following attributes for each clock design, you’ll begin to realize that this is literally a clock for all seasons, all moods, all desktops:

  • The clock can reside in a normal OS X window, or not.
  • If you choose a window, it can be either a metallic window or an Aqua one.
  • The window can be resized to any possible rectangular size. This is true even if you select the option to make the window transparent.
  • Nearly all the clocks can have their clockface removed, and you can also elect to do without the second hand.
  • The clock can be as transparent as you like, and it can be rendered with or without a shadow.
  • If you suppress the clock face, you can usually substitute any image or photo at your disposal to host the clock’s hands (or numbers). The image takes the usual placement options that will be familiar to anyone who’s fiddled with Apple’s Desktop Pictures preference pane: Stretch, Fill, Center, or Tile.
  • A couple of the clocks offer the option to use a “smooth” second hand—meaning one that travels continuously around the face rather than jerking from second to second. However, I found that this option tended to make QuartzClocks show up a little higher in my Activity Monitor’s list of CPU hogs than I really wanted, so I usually make do with a herky-jerky second hand.
  • If you choose the digital clock design, you get some additional options. Not only can you use any typeface and style your Mac can supply, but you can have the clock display the date as well as the time. Or not. You can also choose to have the clock’s glyphs rendered with outlines. Or not. And finally, both the outline and the font can be independently set to whatever color your sense of design finds appealing.

Believe it or not, there are actually a few other options I could mention, but I know you will want to get a QuartzClock of your own as soon as possible and start fiddling with it. By the way, when you visit the developer’s page, take a minute to watch the simple Flash animation he’s posted showing a variety of the possible clock configurations.

Before I shut up, I want to briefly mention that as a user and advocate of Single Application Mode (SAM) (as briefly discussed in my article on virtual desktops last month), I had no trouble fitting QuartzClocks into the SAM desktop style. However, I had to utilize a separate, but very simple technique, because QuartzClocks doesn’t offer the option of turning off its menubar and dock icon. If you use SAM, this is kind of essential, because otherwise QuartzClocks will hide each time you switch applications, just like any ordinary app.

I still plan to write more about SAM, including the details of this technique. But briefly, you need to use a freeware app called Dockless, which lets you easily, quickly, and safely turn off (and on) the menubar/dock status of any app on your system. If you do this, it’s also quite handy to deploy an open-source preference pane called StepMenus, which works only with Cocoa apps (it’s derived from the similar functionality that was available on NeXTSTEP, Mac OS X’s ancestor). StepMenus ensures that the application’s menu is still accessible even if the menubar isn’t. With these two tools, QuartzClocks remains persistent on my desktop, and its menu shows up as a small floating pallette whenever I click on it. (StepMenus isn’t strictly necessary, but I find it very convenient in a number of situations while using SAM.)

One last tip, which again I plan to write more about in a separate post one of these days… I’ve started using a freeware “window enhancer” called WindowDragon, which requires Unsanity’s free Application Enhancer framework. With WindowDragon, I can resize a QuartzClock even when there’s no “resize corner” available—which is a common occurrence since I usually run QuartzClocks with its background window invisible. In my case, I just assigned a “resize” shortcut to “Shift-RightClick”, and I can then drag the clock into any size I want.

*sigh* All this excitement over a clock! Pretty ridiculous, I know. But if you think you’re a software addict, all I can say is, QuartzClocks will satisfy. :-)

Version as tested: 1.3.6.

P.S. I was reminded of QuartzClocks again this week when a new “desktop clock” application showed up in my MacUpdate RSS feed. It was listed as shareware, but I think surely it’s freeware. Regardless of what kind of ware it is, don’t waste your time trying out HonniClock. It’s so embarrassingly puny next to the gorgeous and elegant QuartzClocks that I do hope I’m not giving it too much blog space by even mentioning it here. I do so, however, merely to draw a contrast between Mac software that exemplifies the Mac experience through its purely beautiful sense of fun—while also being practical—and one that will bore you before you’ve even turned it on. In a brief MacUpdate or VersionTracker description, the two clock apps may look nearly equivalent. However, I assure you they are not!

Update 7/23/07. The developer has closed his .Mac account, where he was hosting QuartzClocks previously. You can try to contact him through the new website (linked to Home above), or you may be able to find a copy of QuartzClocks through MacUpdate or VersionTracker. The developer is working on a 2.0 version of the software, but my impression from his website is that it’s not his top priority at the moment. :-)

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