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John’s Background Switcher 3.4 Released!

55 comments

Following quite a lot of late nights and a fair bit of work I’m ready to unleash a new version of John’s Background Switcher on the world! This latest version contains a host of bug fixes along with some cool new features. My favourites include:

  • Facebook mode – your friends photos on your desktop!
  • Customisable montage options like ‘Postcard’ mode.
  • User-settable picture sizes in montage modes.
  • Auto border colour selection based on the colour of the picture.
  • Portrait-only picture selection in addition to landscape-only.
  • The settings are shown if you re-launch JBS from a shortcut.
  • The calendar can be shown on all screens, not just the primary one.
  • Choose photos from all photo sources instead of just one.
  • The fixing of the mysterious GDI+ error once and for all!

Since a picture paints a thousand words I’ve put together some screenshots that show what’s new in John’s Background Switcher 3.4. Click a picture to see the description and click on it again to go to the next one. When you’ve done, go and download the latest version:

The download page is here. Enjoy!

Posted by

Scotsman, footballer, software developer, bounty hunter, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

55 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Loving the Tiny Polaroids! Just changed my background switcher to those settings :o)
    Great work as always!

    Reply

  2. how do i get the newest version every time i click on download it doesnt do anything?

    Reply

  3. If you click the ‘Download the Installer’ link from the download page, that should trigger a download of the installer. Once you’ve saved that you just need to run it.

    If that doesn’t work, then are you noticing any error message popping up or something appearing on the status bar of your browser? A popup blocker wouldn’t stop the download since there aren’t any popups and there’s nothing wrong on my end so far as I can see (in that I can see people downloading the software)…

    Reply

  4. Sometimes security programmes like Norton can block it, mine used to although it doesn’t anymore :)

    Reply

  5. why there are two black stripes on the upper and lower part of my desktop? (path from picasa) are the photos all of that dimension?
    suggestion is to enable saving photos from any sites, instead of only flickr.
    thank you for your effort.

    Reply

  6. If you look at the bottom of the settings dialog you’ll see a drop list that’s most likely got ‘Scale picture to fit the screen’ selected. Change that to ‘Scale pictures to FULL screen’ and the bands will go away. If you click the ‘?’ button next to the drop list it’ll show you the help page explaining all the sizing options.

    And I’ll add the option to save for all modes to the list!

    Reply

  7. yeah i just noticed that was explained already in your forum. :-P
    another problem. photo dimension cannot be set. i want desktop size photos only, so that it will not seem ugly when it is scaled up. but nowhere seem to set this.

    Reply

  8. Ah, if you look in the ‘More Settings’ dialog then there’s an option called ‘Only show pictures larger than’ and you can set the minimum pixel size you want – so any pictures smaller than that will be ignored!

    Reply

  9. Well in that case you’d enter ’480′ which is the smallest dimension you want to accept. I think accepting the minimum area would be a bit confusing since all software I’ve come across that does that sort of thing wants you to specify the smallest dimension.

    Reply

  10. Love the new version, it keeps getting better and better.

    I have one question/suggestion: is there a way to specify the size and number of images when in snapshot mode?

    ie, right now when I increase the size of my images, it decreases the number. There is always a border on my screens. I would love to have more images the extend past the border. I browsed the config file, but didn’t see anything right away.

    Reply

  11. Do you mean there’s a coloured border around the screen where nothing’s drawn? That shouldn’t be the case, it should draw the picture right to the edge. Alternatively, if you mean that the snapshots never overlap the edge of the screen that’s deliberate – I thought it looked a bit tacky when I did that and I’m afraid there’s no option currently to make it do that. However I’ve just added it to the list for a future version!

    Reply

  12. I meant that nothing is drawn right to the edge. Hmm, I just refreshed my background, and I see one pic the is right to the edge, but not off. My mistake.

    Still, I would like to be able to force it to choose a few more pictures. There is still a lot of empty space on my desktop.

    Reply

  13. I did spend a bit of time tweaking the algorithm that lays out the pictures when I wrote it and found that if I made it drop too many pictures it ended up looking too cluttered and with any less not cluttered enough. I should have put a slider in to tweak the ‘how close should things be to each other’ value yourself – my bad!

    The postcard mode actually lays pictures closer to each other than the polaroid one does, but I guess not enough. That’ll be one of the first things I put in the next version!

    Reply

  14. I love this app despite my request. Even if you had said you weren’t going to change it, JBS is the best desktop wallpaper app I have ever come across. Thank you for your work.

    Reply

  15. Hi John,
    I was thrilled to see the new version, and I just love all the new features!
    Thank you very much!
    Nir

    Reply

  16. A very nice update of a great program. This is the best desktop wallpaper software available, and perhaps the best desktop enhancement.

    If you haven’t shown John some love by sending him a donation, do it now!

    Reply

  17. How do I get it so that I can move pictures around between screens by putting on special gloves and flicking my hands about really fast? Also it’d be nice if it showed me any upcoming murders like that app in Minority Report.

    Reply

  18. Once again, John, you have outdone yourself. And in your spare time! Another $20 donated. You deserve it and keep up the great work, my friend.

    Reply

  19. Mark, Steve: Thanks guys – I really appreciate it! :)

    Joel: Ah yes, been a long time Mr Python! I’ll certainly add those ideas to the list, but I suspect the technology won’t be available until 2050 by which time I’ll be so old I’ll just about be getting to grips with Ruby on Rails! ;)

    Reply

  20. the only thing I dont’ like is that I can’t stretch the picture out to fit the screen

    Reply

  21. Oh but you can! Have a look in the help file under ‘Everything Else’ > ‘Sizes Explained’ for a full explanation (along with pictures) of all the sizing options including scaling and stretching to fit the whole screen (‘Scale pictures to FULL screen’ and ‘Stretch pictures to FULL screen’ respectively).

    Reply

  22. This is an absolutely unbeatable app….maybe I’ve missed it, but I’ve got a widescreen monitor and as such generally only put widescreen photos in the folder to use as my backgrounds…but if I have some non-landscape photos, is there a setting I can use to have them shown twice, side by side? essentially i’d like tile mode but only tile from left->right, stretching the picture top to bottom if necessary (but maintaining scale). Does this make sense?

    Reply

  23. Hi Mike,

    Unfortunately the current version can’t do it but something like that is on the plan for the next version. I noticed iPhoto on my Mac can lay photos out like this when creating a photobook which I liked:

    Is that the sort of thing you mean?

    Reply

  24. Yep, that’s exactly it….either simply replicate your picture of the construction crane twice to fill the screen, or if you want to get really crazy have a ‘lanscape’ folder and a ‘non-landscape’ folder from which you could doo cool montages like you have above…but as i said before, you rock and your app rocks, so whatever you decide to do is cool by me!

    Reply

  25. Right, I see, shouldn’t be a problem. Another item is for JBS to intelligently figure out what orientation of picture best matches the monitor(s) so if you have a portait-orientated monitor it’ll stick to portraits there.

    And thanks! :)

    Reply

  26. Great application. Nice to see it so well supported and up to date. Keep up the good work John! I love all these features on my MAC and you not only brought them to PCs, but have made it even better. Great job!

    Reply

  27. AMAZING application! Just what the doctor ordered. I noticed little things that make it so, so good! For example, I’ve set it so that the program fits the entire picture in the screen (sometimes leaving little bars at the edges). What’s amazing though is that the bars seem to try and match the color of the picture and blend with it! Even when it doesn’t mesh perfectly it just… fits! Am I imagining this feature?

    In any case, I did have a question. How did you make this program? Can you say? The reason I ask is because I would like to tinker around with making programs that improve the functionality/prettiness/coolness of my computer. Specifically, my goal once I get good enough would be to create something that extends the taskbar over multiple monitors. I realize there are free programs out there – well, Multimon anyway – but I just think it’d be a useful exercise for me, you know?

    Or perhaps you’d like to put your genius mind to work on it? haha I know you’re a busy man, but hey, I can dream right?

    In any case… THANK YOU!

    Reply

  28. ddurig: Thanks, I will do! :)

    Benny: I’m really glad you like JBS! :)

    You’re not imagining the auto colour selection, it has a look at a few points on the photo, ranks the colours in order of brightness and picks the middle one. More often than not it gets it right which I’m rather pleased with!

    I’ve been writing software since I was a kid and do it for a living, although most of the stuff I get paid to do isn’t as fun as JBS (not surprisingly). I think the thing I like about writing software is that it’s all a series of problem solving exercises. I think “how do I get something to do that?” and go and work it out. Google’s a great tool for finding that sort of thing out (and I well remember the days before I could look things up on it!).

    JBS is written in C# and to be honest you could do the whole thing using the free Express edition Microsoft provides:

    http://www.microsoft.com/express/windowsdevelopment/

    If you want to get into writing software then that page is a great place to start – and I wish they had resources like that when I started out!

    And you’re most welcome! :)

    Reply

  29. Hey this is the greatest program I have ever found!! I love having it create Polaroid collage on my desktop of random pictures from my flickr account, it will help me from getting hoem sick while at college.

    Anywho I just wanted to suggest an easier flickr integration. When adding flickr sets of mine, why do we have to pick the top number of photos in any given set? I would rather it just make the Polaroid collage out of any of my sets pictures i choose randomly….does that make any sense? I feel like right now its more geared to show recent pictures in sets, so I had to set all of them to take most recent 9000 images, which is a pain to enter when picking lots of sets…

    Hopefully that makes sense, if you want clarification feel free to email me, and keep up the great work.

    Reply

  30. Hi Mike, thanks! :)

    The reason there’s a total number of pictures there is that to interact with Flickr I have to get a specific number of pictures from it. Now if I say I want ALL of your photos and you have 250,000 pictures in your photo stream then I’d have to make 500 calls to Flickr one after the other just to get the list! (It only returns a maximum of 5 at a time). They’d then be cached for a period of time but it’s still a heavy amount of traffic. So instead I’ve set the limit of 5000 as it gives a pretty good balance.

    Admittedly I could just leave the total off and always pick the 5000 newest photos or make that the default…

    Reply

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  32. yea i think it would be best to just make it default to 5000, and then make an option if we want to change it.

    Reply

  33. I have noticed a couple of times my pictures in the Polaroid option come up on the screen and seemed to be half rendered with a green line half way down the picture where the picture stops….

    Reply

  34. Can you send me a screenshot when it happens next? That’s not something I’ve seen before.

    Oh by the way, I can better track bugs and suggestions in my Support Forum as it’s all tied into my defect tracking system so can anyone else report problems there rather than here? A blog entry makes a terrible support system – thanks! :)

    Reply

  35. Thanks very much for making this software free! It is absolutely stunning for the visual effect and I really like it. When I use our wedding photos in the Scrapbook mode even my wife is very impressed. Well done John!

    Here are a few suggestions from me

    1) Could you please add an option to allow user to specify a bounding box to limit where the photos can go in the scrapbook mode? At the moment, photos can fall almost any where on the desktop and I would love to keep the photos to the right 3/4 proportion of the screen only so that my application icons reside on the left 1/4 screen do not collide with my beautiful photos.

    2) I find it not straightforward to find out how to use the scrapbook mode to display my photos in the first place and I just wondering if you could make it more obvious to use?

    xiaoqiang

    Reply

  36. I’m really glad you like it! :)

    Your first item is on the list for v4 and will get done. Your second is an interesting point. The montage modes just happened organically and I hadn’t really thought about how hard it is to find for the first time (once you know where it is or hit the ‘?’ button it’s easy). I’ll see what I can do!

    Reply

  37. Oh if only I had enough free time! A Mac version is next on my list and then who knows – maybe I’ll win the lottery and have a lot more free time! I’ll keep my fingers crossed. :)

    Reply

  38. I have to admit that it does take me long to find out how to make a scrapbook on my screen. Below is my steps (recall from my memory and the steps might not be very accurate)

    1) Launch the application
    2) The mode was the “pictures”
    3) I clicked “add folder containing pictures” button to add photos
    4) I saw one of my pictures shown on the desk. Great!
    5) I then wanted to display a scrapbook of those photos on my screen to impress my wife
    6) I spent a minute or two trying to find out where the “setting” option is (the first time I was lost). The problem was the “more settings” button has a flat style of border and it does not catch my eyes in the first glance. So are the other buttons under “current mode”. I didn’t realise the left column is full of option buttons at all until step 10)(see below). Those buttons with background pictures look more like advert banners for me at the first (I’m afraid I have to say so)
    7) I clicked “more setting” button and saw “montages” and I clicked “montages”. I finally saw the word “scrapbook”. Great, feeling excited. I felt I have arrived the right place to make a scrapbook.
    8) I took a close look of the options, there is no “enable scrapbook” button or option. This is the second time I got lost and feeling a bit frustrated especially my wife was also watching over my shoulder
    9) I then turned to the help and find many sentences relevant to “scrapbook” but not the information I needed.
    10) Somehow, I realised that I can click the buttons on the left column and there is a “folder” mode.
    11) I clicked and changed to the folder mode. Suddenly, there is a big change of the UI and a few minutes later I created my first scrapbook. Even then, I still didn’t know how I have created it.
    12) Spent a few more minutes studying the UI and finally I realised what have happened and know how to use the software properly.
    13) I still don’t quit understand why the scrapbook is not available in the pictures mode?

    I hope you would not take my explanations as a moaning. I just thought my experience of using the software might be of some use to you. I’m still very impressed by the software and I really love it and looking forward to see new updates. cheers

    Reply

  39. And to think, you didn’t once click the help button (the one next to the sizing option) where all is explained! Also, I do explain how to use JBS on the download page… I can only do so much! ;)

    Pictures mode is all about choosing your pictures one-at-a-time and selecting exactly how each one is displayed in terms of the scaling options. If you want a random bunch of photos on your machine chosen then that’s what Folders mode is all about. I won’t bore you with the details but let’s just say that if there was a snapshot scrapbook option on Pictures mode then people would find that even more confusing!

    Reply

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