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Put Instagram Photos On Your Desktop Wallpaper With John’s Background Switcher


I promised myself when I released John’s Background Switcher 4.5 a couple of months ago that I’d take a break and go build some iPhone applications I’ve been thinking about. I’m primarily a Mac user now so JBS (currently Windows only) isn’t something I really use and after 8 years working on it in my spare time I figured I’d taken it as far as I could. In short, it was time to work on something else.

Then, while taking a photo with Instagram (you know, that iPhone / Android photo app that Facebook bought for $1 billion), it struck me how cool it would be to add Instagram as a photo source to JBS. Instagram forces you to take square photos and JBS has a few options that make square photos look awesome. With JBS you can make it set your desktop background to a single picture (with a different one on each monitor if you have more than one) and that’s fine, but it can also create cool montages like a mosaic, postcard pile or a polaroid pile like these below:

Since Instagram was cool enough for Facebook to acquire I figured it might be cool enough that people would want to see Instagram photos on their desktop. So following a weekend’s work I’m rather pleased to release a new version of John’s Background Switcher that supports Instagram! (Those montages above were in fact created by JBS using Instagram photos).

Once you’ve installed JBS and brought up the settings window you can click ‘Add’ then ‘Instagram photos’ where you’ll be prompted to authenticate with Instagram:

You’ll need to have an Instagram account to use the JBS integration, so log in and you’ll be able to let JBS (on your computer only) read your feed. You can revoke access at any time from the Authorized Applications page on Instagram. Once you’ve authenticated you can create ‘sets’ from any of these options:

  • Your own photos
  • Your photo feed (the one you see when you fire up the Instagram mobile app)
  • Popular photos (the same photos from the mobile app)
  • Photos you’ve liked
  • Tags (add a tag and JBS will choose photos with that tag)

You can add all of the above and create as many sets as you like (so if you like photos of sunsets, sunrises, cats, lhasa apsos and hamsters, create a set for each tag).

Since Instagram photos are pretty small it won’t work very well if you use a single picture for your desktop, instead choose either a mosaic, postcard pile or polaroid pile for best results. You can select the picture mode here from the settings window:

Anyway, go to the download page, get yourself a copy of JBS (which is completely free) and enjoy! If you want to help me keep staying up late by drinking coffee and making JBS better, there’s a donate button right on the download page.

Update (2016): Note that as of June 2016 Instagram disabled API access to your own photo feed. This means JBS and apps like it can only show you your own Instagram photos.

Update (2021): Unfortunately Facebook decided that to access the Instagram API you need to be a verified business so the party is over – JBS no longer supports Instagram. It was fun in the early (pre-Facebook) days but all good things inevitably come to an end (post acquisition).

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

32 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. 8 years! Wow! I’m still using it and I think I got on the bandwagon from the beginning! Thank you for still developing for JBS and hope you have much success with your your other projects. 🙂

    Is adding photos/art form a possibility?


    • Haha, yeah, can’t believe it’s been so long! And glad you’re still a fan after all this time! 🙂

      I’m happy to add any site that has an API which means they’re happy for 3rd party apps like JBS to consume their data but I don’t see any info about one there. Let me know if I’m missing it (quite possible).


      • Thank you for the quick response! I put an email out to the site owners regarding the API. I also copied you. We’ll see and I really hope they can help us! 🙂


  2. Any chance of adding Zenfolio support?

    Been using the background switcher for years with SmugMug, but changed to Zenfolie a year ago and have really missed integration with the background switcher – as have the rest of the familly missing my photos.



  3. How about matching the login screen with the desktop wallpaper? I know there’s an option for it, but I liked my wallpaper stretched rather than cropped, and the login screen was cropped. That caused a slight difference in the two most of the time which was quite annoying!


    • Yeah, as you’ve noticed you can’t change the scaling of the login background – it “overscales”. It’s on my list to improve the login screen options (including supporting Windows 8) though so stay tuned!


  4. Hi, Can I just add my thanks for JBS. I’ve been using it for years to scrape family photos from Facebook without me ever having to log into my completely dormant Facebook account. It still amazes me!


  5. I just want to say how much I love JBS! I tell everyone about it, and I am so glad you are continuing your development of it, even if you don’t really use it yourself 🙂 Thanks for such a great program!


  6. This program is positively amazing, but here’s what would turn it into a killer app for me: the ability to run it as a screensaver and have it pull random photographs from all over the world and display it in a never-ending loop of awesome 😀 Is it possible, or easy to add? 🙂 Thanks and keep up the good work!


    • You know, I’ve been promising to implement a screensaver for JBS for YEARS. It’s about time I got it done as yes, it would be pretty straightforward to do! Anyway, glad you like it and will do! 🙂


  7. I’ve been using this program for years now, and also introducing it to members of my family; my parents and in-laws especially love it. I really only have one suggestion; I’d love to be able to see the montage size greater than 500px, and also the ability to make the picture post on the left, right or middle of the screen (but still in a random, off the horizontal way). I really appreciate your work.


    • Yeah, back when I first implemented the various montage modes it made sense to use the ‘medium’ sized pictures from sites like Flickr. But in these high resolution days it definitely makes sense to use larger sizes. Will see what I can do!


    • +++ on the Mac version, John! I switched from Windows this past summer, and am now using a program called Wally that the author has modeled on JBS. It is nice, but very limited, compared to your amazing app.


      • Have you been able to make any progress on a Mac version or have any idea when you might get it done? I switched to Mac more than 3 years ago and have missed JBS ever since. I use Phanfare to share all my family photos so JBS was awesome to access my own photos on my multiple computers. If you get a Mac version up and running and need beta testers I’d be happy to help!


        • Sadly the last 3 years have been filled with so much work that I’ve been unable to make any progress on a Mac version. That said I have spent the past 3 years as a Mac user myself so I share your pain! I do genuinely intend building a Mac version at some point in the not too distant future but I note that there are a few desktop switchers on the Mac app store along with Wally which has similar functionality. I will get there eventually, honest!

  8. Have been spreading the word about your great software, especially to the users on the dying webshots site. Great that you can use the webshot photos as is. Now the only thing I would add, as you noted recently, is to be able to use your photo set as a screensaver. Boom! fantastic app.


  9. I have to say that while somewhat new to your wonderful app it is by far the coolest aspect i have been able to put onto my computer. Was a long-time Webshots user until they rather mucked that up and had been wondering what i would be able to use to fill the void on my computers!

    Past few months using this app have been very satisfying, so much so that i find myself recommending it to everyone i know.

    Congrats on the amazing software! Keep up the great work! (PS: I would second andvaranaut on a screensaver being killer and just put this over the top)


    • Thanks Matt, glad you like it! 🙂

      And after adding 500px support (the photo website 500px that is) I’ll get to work on screensaver functionality, I promise!


  10. Hi there! I have been using your background switcher for years now, and I am so thankful that you have made it available for the public like you have!
    I have noticed something the past several months since I made a switch to making postcard tile backgrounds. I have several sources set up, including photos of my friends on Facebook, and I have noticed that when pulling pictures of my friends, the software places an exceedingly high priority on photos of one particular friend of mine, even though I have no particular relationship with her. After a month or so of seeing her on my monitors more than anyone else, I “unfriended” her, and now it does the same thing with another friend.

    I wanted to email you to alert you to my observations, and open the opportunity for discussion, if you would like more information. It has occurred to me that it would be handy if I could add “exclusions” in some broad way to the sources, instead of just “inclusions”, but I don’t imagine that would solve this specific problem, since unfriending the first person simply shifted the focus instead of eliminating it.

    What are your thoughts about this?


    • So JBS can’t choose from ALL photos on Facebook that you have access to – else it would need to query for a huge amount of data. Instead it queries for the most recent 1000 photos with the given query (eg. all your friends photos). So if one of your contacts has a lot of photos they’re tagged in, like a teenager for example, you’ll see a lot of their photos showing up.

      I’ll look to improve it in a future version though as it can be annoying, but by the same token I can’t get JBS to query from all the Facebook photos as I suspect Facebook would shut JBS’s access out! I’ll figure something out, however.


  11. I’ve been using this on my laptop for years, its a great program. I just recently started using it on my dual monitor desktop, and i was wondering if there was a way to make each monitor have a different set of images (ie: photos on the left one, and artsy graphics on the right). If not, this would be a great feature. Either way, I love it, and keep up the great work!


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