capsule review

WeatherMin elegantly displays the weather

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At a Glance
  • Downtown Software House WeatherMin 1.2

As someone who works from a home office, up-to-the-minute weather data isn’t something I’m usually obsessed with. Yet I’m frequently reminded of the weather by reader emails asking for a good Mac app for keeping an eye on conditions. (These are healthy reality checks for me.)

There’s no shortage of Mac weather apps—a Mac App Store search for “weather” returns 76 results at the time of this writing, including the excellent Swackett, which we reviewed last summer. But many of these are either front-and-center apps like Swackett, which use a standard window and require your full attention; “take over the desktop” apps, like the standout Weather HD, that replace your desktop with a detailed weather report; or menu-bar apps that either clutter your menu bar or require you to click to view the weather. (There’s always Dashboard, but let’s see a show of hands: How many of you have used Dashboard in the past six months?) Quite a few readers have asked for a recommendation for a more-subtle option for checking the weather at a glance.

I’ve been testing WeatherMin (Mac App Store link), and while it doesn’t have as many features as some other Mac weather apps, it provides the basics—the current weather conditions, and (optionally) a basic forecast—in an elegant display that’s always available without dominating your screen. (At this time, WeatherMin works only in the U.S., as it uses weather data from the National Weather Service. The developer is considering support for other locations in future versions.)

Launch WeatherMin, and it asks to use your location; you can approve this request, or you can open the app’s preferences window and manually provide your location. The program then provides a semi-transparent display, hovering over your desktop, that shows the current weather in your location. You can move this display anywhere on your screen, and WeatherMin’s preferences window lets you choose the display’s size, text color, and transparency, as well as whether to use Fahrenheit or Celsius for temperatures.

Three of WeatherMin's themes (Click for a larger version.)

WeatherMin offers five themes for its display, each of which shows a different collection of information:

  • Your current location, the temperature, and any precipitation.
  • The current temperature and, if it’s raining, an umbrella icon.
  • A textual description of the current weather: “Overcast in Cupertino, CA. Fifty-six degrees, thirty-one percent chance of rain.”
  • The current temperature and—in smaller, dimmed numerals—the day’s high and low.
  • The current temperature, the current conditions (for example, Overcast or Light Rain), and hourly forecasts for the next four hours.

Each theme takes up a different amount of screen space; the second and fourth themes are very compact and fit nicely in a corner of your screen, whereas the third and fifth are fairly wide—I use these either on a second display or, in combination with the Show Desktop feature of Exposé/Mission Control, under my main work area. The developer notes that additional themes will be available in future updates.

By default, WeatherMin’s appears both in the Dock and in the menu bar, with the latter showing the current temperature, but you can opt to disable either or both of these icons. With both disabled, you access WeatherMin’s settings and themes by right-clicking (Control-clicking) anywhere in the weather display.

One of my favorite features is that WeatherMin can use the excellent Growl notification system to alert you whenever the conditions, the forecast, or your location change.

Because WeatherMin’s display is semi-transparent, you’re better off with a relatively uniform desktop image—it can be tough to read if your background is too cluttered. The program’s settings include an option to adjust the display’s transparency, but you can’t make the display opaque, which would be useful when floating over cluttered or busy desktops.

There are a few other options I’d like to see, as well. For example, while I don’t live in San Francisco anymore, I go there frequently enough—for both work and fun—that I often check the city’s weather; I’d like to be able to configure multiple locations in WeatherMin and easily switch between them. I’d also like to be able to change the display font, and it would be nice to be able to force WeatherMin’s display to float on top of other windows. Finally, while WeatherMin’s menu-bar icon displays the current temperature, the program’s Dock icon always shows 67°; it would be great if the Dock icon replicated the convenience of the menu-bar icon for those people who’d rather not waste menu-bar space with yet another icon.

Still, WeatherMin is a nifty app that’s very “Apple”: It’s elegant and minimalist, but it’s quite useful for those who just want to keep an eye on the weather. And in my testing, it used very little memory and processor resources—something that can’t be said about many of the other weather apps I’ve used.

(WeatherMin can be purchased either from the Mac App Store or directly from the vendor. A downloadable demo version is also available.)

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At a Glance
  • Downtown Software House WeatherMin 1.2

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