A good online buddy of mine and frequent visitor and commenter on AnotherWindowsBlog, Ankur, has written a blog post at TechEveryTime where I first took notice of Microsoft’s new Bing Desktop utility. This utility has been long in the making. Finally, users will have a chance to dynamically set their desktop wallpaper to match that of Bing’s website. Users have been looking for a way to dynamically do this for quite some time now but there really wasn’t a easy way. In recent versions of Windows, you are allowed to use RSS feeds for desktop wallpapers but again, this was either too confusing for the average user to set up or it didn’t quite work as expected. Microsoft finally released their own RSS wallpaper pack where it would download past Bing wallpapers but for many users, they just wanted to be able to use the current photo/wallpaper of whatever is on Bing’s Search website at that time. Microsoft changes this wallpaper on a daily basis and so it would have been nice for users to have a fresh new wallpaper every day. Well, finally Microsoft has released a utility that allows any users to accomplish this feat but with a caveat. I’ll show you how to get around this and yet still be able to get a new wallpaper a day from Bing!
This new utility from Microsoft is called Bing Desktop and it’s suppose to bring Bing Search to your desktop. Well, that wasn’t hard to figure out did it?! How is suppose to do this? Simple. By plastering a Bing search bar directly on your desktop. Users can now search directly from their desktop by using this Bing search bar. Hardly what I would call innovative. The problem with this search bar is that there is hardly any incentive for users to use it at all! Search queries entered here will immediately open your default web browser. This is the same as if you opened a web browser, went to Bing’s website and entered the same query. I’ve been using Bing as my default search provider for quite some time now and I really like it but this search bar on my desktop is completely useless to me. Worst of all, the search bar is hardly customizable! This simple fact will most likely drive many users insane, especially if all that user wanted was to be able to download a fresh new wallpaper a day using this utility.You can download the Bing Desktop utility from here.
There are two positions you can set for the search bar: either smack dead in the center of your desktop or hidden at the top of your screen. With the latter, its not only hidden until you move your mouse cursor over it but you can also slide the search bar left and right. You may initially think that setting it at the top position is the more likely choice until you realize that doing so will cause you to accidentally hover your mouse cursor over the search bar instead of switching to different browser tabs since it sits at the top of your screen. So now you may think OK fine, I’ll just set it in the center position. I won’t get to see it unless I’m on my desktop. Well, that’s true but now you have to be reminded that the Bing Desktop utility is constantly in use because the darn application taskbar icon won’t hide itself! When you set it to the top position, the taskbar icon disappears but for some odd reason, setting it in the center position will not cause the same behavior. The only way to get rid of it is to completely exit the application.
Luckily, there is a very simple way to get our daily Bing wallpaper yet without having to deal with the nasty Bing search bar. Technically, you can stop reading this article right now if you don’t mind manually exiting the Bing Desktop utility each and every time after you have downloaded the wallpaper (Bing sets the wallpaper for you automatically). The good news here is that there is only one new wallpaper a day and so once you’ve downloaded the newest one, you can exit the utility without having to deal with it again until the next day and so on and so on. If this is not to your ideal, then read along!
Simple Batch Job
A batch job is simply a file with command instructions telling the computer what you would like it to do. Each line can be a separate command and the computer will do its best to follow it. For example, activating a batch file can simply have the computer automatically open up a certain program, wait a few seconds and then closing that program. In fact, that is exactly what we will be doing here. Although the instructions seem fairly long, I can assure you that it is in no way complicated at all. If you know how to work with folder directories, you should be good to go.In order for the below to work, you need to configure the Bing Desktop utility so that it does not automatically open upon Windows start up. You can do this by heading into the utility’s setting menu and un-checking the appropriate option as seen here:
For those interested, I’m noting the folder location where Bing Desktop stores the actual wallpaper of the day. This way, you can manually save the wallpaper for other uses.
First you want to open Notepad and copy in the text I’ve written below:
cd “C:Program FilesMicrosoftBingDesktop”
ping 188.8.131.52 -n 1 -w 3000 >NUL
taskkill /IM BingDesktop.exe /f
You’ll want to obviously substitute the drive letter and path location if it deviates from your configuration. We are giving four instructions for the computer to perform. The first line specifies the working directory. The second line specifies to start the actual Bing Desktop utility (which is located inside the working directory). The third line instructs the batch job to simply wait 3 seconds. This should be enough time for the utility to download and set the newest wallpaper on your desktop. The last line instructs the batch job to end the Bing Desktop process.
Next, we need to save it as a batch file. Hit File –> Save. In the Save As dialog box, it’s very important that in the “Save as type” drop down box, you select All Files. Give the batch file a meaningful name and more importantly, append the .bat extension after the file name.
To automatically have our computer invoke this awesome batch file for us, there are a ton of different options to choose from. I find it best to use one of Windows most underrated feature, the Task Scheduler, to help us accomplish this feat for us. With Task Scheduler, we can instruct our computer to execute the batch file upon every log on or unlock of the workstation. Start Task Scheduler by searching for it in the Start menu. Once opened, click on the Action file menu and select the “Create Task” option. In the General tab, give your task a meaningful name and a optional description if you wish.
On the Triggers tab, hit the New button. Under the “Begin the task” drop down menu, select “At Log on”. Right below this, make sure Specific User is set to your own user account. Hit OK. You can optionally add another trigger so that the batch file will be executed whenever you unlock your computer (after standby or hibernation as this is not really considered a re-logon).
On the Actions tab, hit the New button. Under Action, make sure it is selected to “Start a program”. In the Program/Script box, click Browse to specify the batch file we have created earlier. In the Start In field, you must absolutely make sure to type in the relative path location of that batch file. I know it says the field is optional but trust me, its not. For example, if my batch file is on my desktop, I would use the relative path of C:UsersSimonDesktop. Hit the OK button twice to create the task.
At this point, you’re pretty much finished. From now on, every time you log in to your computer whether after turning your computer on or after you unlock it after a hibernate/standby, the batch file will be automatically executed. Testing the task to see if it properly runs simply involves logging on to your computer or when you unlock it.It’s frustrating but sometimes, the schedule task just doesn’t work! For example, the command window would appear but then it would immediately disappear without ever launching Bing Desktop. Other times, it would work perfectly and the most frustrating part is that I didn’t configure or change any setting after it has worked. In fact, there is a big thread on this issue alone dealing with batch files and the Task Scheduler. After scouring it, I came away that you need to definitely add in the folder path to the batch file in the “Start in” field. The other thing is to give yourself Full Control both to the folder and to the individual batch file itself. If this whole ordeal is just too much for you, then just stick with manually executing the batch file yourself, which should give you a higher rate of success.
Minimizing Command Prompt Window
To minimize the prompt window (or not, if you’re geeky enough), there is a really simply way to do this. First you’ll want to create a shortcut of your original batch file by right-clicking and choosing the appropriate option in the menu. Preferably, you’ll want to place both icons in a folder location that you won’t visit often since you really don’t have to touch them once everything is configured. Next, right-click on the shortcut icon and select Properties. In the Shortcut tab, select the “Minimized” setting under Run.
Inside Task Scheduler, you’ll have to make sure your task points to the newly created shortcut batch file rather than to the original one. From then on, the command window should be minimized when the batch job executes. While it is possible to completely hide the command window itself, it is a more complicated process.
In the End…
I know this seems like an overkill for some users but I just wanted to create a very simple method of automatically opening a program and then immediately closing it. While having the batch file execute upon every log on and unlock of the workstation seems absurd, you can easily just have chosen to manually execute the batch file yourself whenever you feel like it. Of course, this is assuming that you do not like using the Bing search bar on your desktop but would rather just use the utility to get a new wallpaper on a daily basis. Task Scheduler is a very powerful feature of Windows and if you haven’t used it before, this is a good exercise to get your feet wet. You should definitely play around with it to see how else you can configure it to your liking. I’m just disappointed that it doesn’t work as expected sometimes.