Retro Future Electrics

A page about retro electronics, from the introduction of electricity until 1970-something. We refit old gadgets with new tech, and wonder at the makers who came before us.

Decorating your Mac Desktop for Christmas in Sonoma

A festive look at a Mac computer

UPDATE: This article was updated for Sonoma. Luckily all of the programs that ran previously are still good!

It’s been a few years since I’ve done a Christmas desktop post. Most of what was true in my 2019 post about Catalina is still true. There are two main programs I use, MacLampsX and iSnow for desktop decoration. Since 2019 there have been a few more entries, and I review them below. Also if you know some Christmas (or other winter holiday) decorations for the desktop that I’ve missed, please leave a comment and I’ll add them to the article!


I’ve used this for probably over 20 years, it still has the “X” suffix to indicate that it’s a program for Mac OS X vs classic! I contacted the author a few years ago and he updated to program to work on 64 bit macs, although as of this writing it’s still compiled for Intel macs, I confirmed it works fine under Rosetta 2 on my M1 Mac Mini. You have a lot of options on how to decorate your screen. Various bulbs, holy, and you can even download extra options from his site (or make your own if you’re adventurous) MacLampsX has been my favorite for 2 decades because it does what’s on the tin, and does it well. You can download the current version from Ben Kurtz’s website here:

MacLampsX showing some lights around a macOS 13 desktop
MacLampsX showing some lights around a macOS 13 desktop


ISnow is another one from over 20 years ago they also use the “i” naming convention to set it apart from the old Mac Classic OS(which it existed on). This program makes your desktop snow (which MacLampsX also does now). The advantage of iSnow is the snow accumulates on the top of your windows. It also has more options than an old school nerd like me can fathom. It now can use you location to show the Sun, Moon and do other fun things. It’s not free, but an eye watering 99 cents. That’s right, the author charges less than a buck, less than a small fry at McDonald’s, a coffee at Starbucks, etc for this program which will fill your screen with holiday joy. As you probably know it costs US$100 to be a developer, so this 0.99 that they charge isn’t making them rich! There seems to be a small bug in macOS13 where the snow gathers slightly higher than the window. I’m sure the author is on it and it’s probably fixed by the time you read this!

iSnow in Mac OS Ventura. Note the accurate Sun, Santa, Polar Bear, and web admin trying to figure out why webp isn’t working in their wordpress (you need to add webp to your allowed file types)
The old school amazing number of customizations to iSnow.

Bash Shell (not just mac, any Linux or WSL that runs bash)

If you want to decorate your terminal, the old BASH Christmas tree is still a good option, you can download it here:

or run it directly by running this in a terminal window:

wget -qO- | bash

Live Background

Live backgrounds seem to have a haydey in the ~2005 time frame with mac-quarium copy cats abounding. There is still a good Christmas live background. It also costs a trivial 99 cents on the Mac App store. It has an assortment of options, some more religious and some more secular as you like. You can purchase it on the app store here: Mac Christmas Live Wallpaper . It has some Christmas music if you like, although I found it repetitive quickly. I also couldn’t figure out how to get it on my second monitor. But it has a few nice options, you can change the animated characters to your choice, and again 99 cents means the developer is just trying to recoup their cost to publish, not making any real money.

A Mac Desktop showing a Christmas scene, and a "bookshelf" of optional characters that can be animated in the scene.
Christmas Live Wallpaper

What about you? Do you use any apps to make your desktop a little more festive? Please leave a comment below. Due to massive spam all comments have to be approved, but I’ll be approving every day thru Christmas 2022 and I honestly hope to find new decorations for our mac desktops!

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