Okozo desktop: display animated, flash-based interactive wallpapers on your desktop


Okozo desktop installs flash-based animated desktop wallpaper on Windows Vista and Windows 7, utilizing DirectX 9.0c and Adobe flash.

Because they are flash-based, Okozo desktop animations differ from the “dreamscene” WMV-based desktop animations in that they can provide a wide range of interactive functionality, such as being able to respond to cursor movements, to display live information such as desktop calendars or desktop clocks or even content that is pulled from the internet.

Another difference is the resource requirements: Okozo’s interactive wallpapers are low on resources (both memory and CPU use) compared to other animated wallpapers such as dreamscenes.

Okozo Desktop Screenshot3

Freewaregenius 5-Star Pick

Note that Okozo Desktop will display its own “.okozo” format animations and not any SWF files, which limits its usefulness and range of possibilities. However, you can easily submit your flash SWF creations for conversion into Okozo files via the website.

My only previous experiments with animated desktop wallpaper took place about 6 months ago when I ran a number of Dreamscene animations on my Win 7 64bit machine to check them out. My conclusion at the time was that while they were a nice experiment, they were practically out of the question to run in the background: they uses up too much memory (~ 100 megs) and too much CPU cycles (at around a constant 5%).

I am happy to say that the Okozo wallpapers are a different animal altogether. Not only are they low on resources (24 megs or so in memory, negligible CPU use), but the downloadable selection on offer is very fortunate: elegant, subtle animations that were seem to have been actually designed to work as desktop backgrounds.

I’d like to publish a small email interchange I had with Toby, the developer behind Okozo desktop, where he expands on this software from a technical point of view, as follows:

Samer: one question [about Okozo] why did you create a new app vs using dreamscenes. Also, how this resource usage compare?

Toby: what Okozo does vs. Dreamscene is quite different. To start dreamscenes are not interactive, they are in effect optimized videos although I believe there are methods for producing dynamic content (that is content produced at random based on code). Okozo utilizes flash (.swf) which brings countless advantages. I should also state that there is no easy way to render flash to the desktop; in fact Okozo is the first product that enables it for Vista & 7. I’ve seen it frequently mentioned online that such a task is not possible, but several months of coding later I found a suitable solution :-).

To start flash can provide interactive and dynamic animations, so not only are wallpapers more entertaining but they can also read other files types including XML and some of the lower level architecture of the computer. This means that they can read time (as you will see in the wallpaper clocks video on youtube) and even access documents (something that we have in the pipeline). As a result actually utilities can be created (clocks, file explorers etc.) as opposed to just those wallpapers that are creative and entertaining.

Another huge benefit is the extent to which Actionscript, 2 & 3, in-particular is documented. There are thousands of tools and countless flash programmers around the world that benefit from the impressive range of products that Adobe release. This means that as flash improves (which is one of Adobe’s main products as opposed to dreamscene which most people at Microsoft probably aren’t aware of), so do the features of Okozo Desktop.

From a programming perspective Actionscript cannot be compared with whatever language the rendered content in .dream is programmed in. There are 1,000s of books written on actionscript and I can only find 2 on .dream. In comparison to HD videos the majority of flash content is dynamic and files can be as low as 1kb, where-as GPU heavy HD movies can be 30-50mb+ and are usually just 20 second loops.

In terms of CPU usage it will of-course depend on the computer and GPU that Okozo runs on. I’ve tested it on a variety of what I would consider ’normal’ computer (i,e 2-3 year old Dell laptops) and typically animations (particularly clocks & interactive animations) are 0-1% CPU, some may approach 3%. As it converts the code Okozo actually optimizes the rendering of flash as well so animations should take up less CPU than a web browser.

I hope this sheds light on why I chose to create a completely unique application. And also, Okozo is completely free (which I guess is what will appeal to most users).

The verdict: this is a Freewaregenius pick for 2 reasons; firstly, because this is the first software I have seen that makes running animated desktop wallpaper a viable option, as opposed to something you do for 5 minutes, show your friends, and then switch off promptly. The second reason is the mere technical innovation that underlies this product.

If there was one thing I would have wished for, however, it would be for some sort of “converter” program that can take SWFs and create Okozo wallpapers out of them, rather than having to submit these on the Okozo site and wait for them to do it for you.

All in all a great program; highly recommended!

A video of this program in action:

Version Tested: 1.1.6

Compatibility: Windows Vista, Windows 7, 32bit and 64bit. Requires DirectX 9.0c, and Adobe flash (note that the installer will download these or provide a download link if you don’t have them).

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 1.2 megs).