One of the best ways to set your computer apart from the pack is to customize your desktop. There are numerous ways to do this that range in difficulty from as easy as changing your wallpaper to as involved as a full-blown shell replacement. Somewhere in between, there’s Samurize.
Samurize is a program that lets you create and run custom desktop widgets, most commonly used for system monitoring. Because Samurize is extremely customizable, it’s a favorite tool of desktop modders who use it in conjunction with tailor-made wallpapers to create truly awesome personal desktops. Learning Samurize can be a fun project, because although there’s a lot of depth to the program and it takes practice and an artistic eye to make top-notch widgets, you can get started right away building simple meters and displays. Here we explain the basics of Samurize, including what you need to know to build your first simple custom widget.
To get started on your first custom desktop, you’re going to need to download the latest Serious Samurize release, which you can find here. Grab the most recent client installer.
Once you’ve installed the program, you have the option of running Samurize or the Config tool. Samurize is what you’ll eventually use to display your custom desktops, but for now, start the Config tool. Configs define the widgets that Samurize places on your desktop, and can include meters (which represent any of a number of system parameters) and graphics. By combining informative meters, sharp graphics, and a matching wallpaper, you can create a desktop that’s both useful and impressive.
That’s the goal, at least. But you’ve got to learn to walk before you can run, so this article will explain how to use Samurize to create a basic Config with CPU and RAM usage monitors as well as a gauge for either your laptop battery or hard disk space. It might not be the sexiest feature set in the world, but by learning how to make this simple Config, you’ll familiarize yourself with the basics of Samurize, allowing you to design more complicated and impressive desktops in the future.
CPU AND RAM MONITORS
We’ll add meters to our Config that graph out our CPU and RAM usage over time. Of the two, the RAM monitor is slightly more straightforward, so we’ll add that first.
In the right-hand side of the Samurize Config Editor, make sure the Edit Meters tab is selected. Since you should be staring at a blank Config, the only thing visible in the Edit Meters column should be a box that says Standard Tasks with a button labeled Add Meter. As you might expect, this button presents you with a list of customizable meters that you can add to your Config.
A little less than halfway down the Add Meter list is the Add Memory button. Press this to add a memory monitor to your Config. At first, the meter will appear as a simple textual display of free memory. You should note that meters in the Config editor use example values and do not actually represent your system’s status; you have to actually load the Config with Samurize in order for the meters to synch with your system.
Now, plain text isn’t quite what we want for our memory meter, so click it and look at the right side of the Config editor, where you can customize your meters. First, give the meter a more memorable name than “Meter 0.” This will make it easier to identify which meter we want to edit when we’ve got several meters in the Config. Once you’ve changed the name, click the drop-down list under Draw Type and select Graph. Doing this will transform the memory meter into a line graph.
Next, we’ll make sure the graph is displaying exactly the information we want it to display, so click the Source tab. Since we want the graph to show how much memory we’re using rather than how much we have available, click the drop-down list under Select Return Value and choose Used Mem. Also, change the unit to %, which will save us the trouble of assigning a minimum or maximum value for the chart.
You can fine-tune the appearance of the meter in the Display tab, which contains fields for customizing the look of the graph, including the scale, color, alpha, mirroring, and more. If you select a different type of meter in the Draw Type field of the first tab, the fields in the Display tab will be different. You can make yours look however you like—we chose a nice Matrix-green look for ours. Resize it into a square by entering a value of 100 into the Width and Height fields under the General tab.
Now, we’ll add the CPU graph. Click Add Meter again, but this time select Add Perfmon… from the drop-down menu.
The Perfmon object is a much more flexible meter, which allows you to monitor nearly every aspect of every piece of hardware in your PC. By default, Perfmon is set up to act as a CPU monitor, but you can adjust it to monitor other hardware by changing the Performance Object and Counters fields.
Don’t feel bad if you can’t figure out the purpose for each individual counter (DPCs Queued/sec, for instance); you can always click the Explain button to see a brief and (generally) helpful description of what the counter does.
Once you’ve specified what you want Perfmon to monitor, it behaves pretty much the same as the memory monitor. Change its draw type to graph, give it a unique name, make it look the same as your memory meter, and you’ll be ready to move on.
NOTEBOOK BATTERY-LIFE METER
Next, we’ll show you how to create an analog needle-style meter, like the type you’d find in a car dashboard. Since we happen to be on a laptop, we made ours a battery-life meter, by selecting Add Laptop Battery from the Add Meter drop-down, but if you’re on a desktop, you can make it a hard-disk-space meter by selecting Add Drive Space from the drop-down menu, then selecting the drive you want to monitor.
To make the monitor into an analog meter, simply select Analog from the Draw Type drop-down list. In the Display tab, you can make sure the meter looks the way you want it to by adjusting the type of pointer, how wide the sweep is, and more. To make it look more like a car speedometer, set the Offset % to around -20, which moves the pivot point a little toward the center. In the Display tab you can also choose a start and end color; the pointer will shift between these values as it moves. This allows you to, for instance, set it so the pin will shift from yellow to red as your battery gets closer to being empty.
Finally, to make your widget something more than just a bunch of floating meters, you’ll need to add some graphics. This is material for an entire how-to of its own, though, so for now we’re only going to cover the simplest graphical elements.
Let’s add a black background for our two line graphs. To do that, click the Edit Graphics tab and click Add Background Object. From the drop-down list, select Add Rectangle. Unlike meters, graphics have only one panel, which determines their appearance. Set your rectangle’s color to black, and make it as tall as your line graphs, and as wide as both graphs combined. Click and drag the meter so that it sits behind the two graphs. Now click Add Background Object again and make another rectangle. Make this one large enough to sit behind all three meters. To choose which graphical elements are in front, click them and press the up or down arrows at the top of the window. This will move the selected graphic to the front or the back, respectively. You can use a simple text meter to label your graphs.
And that’s how you make a very simple system monitor panel for your desktop. To load up your widget, save your Config to the default directory, then run the Samurize program. Right-click the Samurize icon in the taskbar and mouse over Select Config, and find your Config file. You can also refresh your Config quickly if you make changes to it by saving and selecting Reload Config.
This how-to guide has only scratched the surface of Samurize, though, so look out for future articles on MaximumPC.com explaining how to make more sophisticated kinds of widgets, and how to use graphics and a custom wallpaper to make your widgets look awesome.