NerdTool over GeekTool

GeekTool went up on the Mac App Store on August 21, which explains why my various GeekTool posts have seen a jump in traffic.

GeekTool script traffic

I’ve been using NerdTool since I saw this Brett Terpstra post several months ago. I had to abandon it for a while on my MacBook Air when I upgraded to OS X 10.7, but I’m running it again now that Mutable Code has made it Lion-compatible.

Since GeekTool is free, and Brett seems to have gone back to it, I figured I’d run the two programs head-to-head to see how they compare. Based on a short test, I’ll keep using NerdTool, mainly because of this:

GeekTool/NerdTool memory comparison

I suppose I shouldn’t be concerned about a hundred megabytes or so, but I’ve had trouble with GeekTool eating up memory in the past and just don’t want to worry about that again. For reference, both Tools were running my old Date and Time scripts and this set of Spotify scripts I wrote a couple of months ago.

Another point in NerdTool’s favor is its support for shadowed text. The Finder uses shadowed text for files on the Desktop and for good reason—it definitely makes the text easier to read.

GeekTool doesn’t have a checkbox to shadow the text, although I’ve found that you can edit an exported Geeklet file (it’s just a plist) and turn on shadowing. The code to look for is this:


Just change that false to a true and reimport the file to get shadowing. Unfortunately, GeekTool’s shadowing looks like shit with smaller fonts:

Comparison of text shadowing

The NerdTool screenshot is on the top and the GeekTool is on the bottom. Nobody wants to see the harsh shadowing that GeekTool uses.

Update 9/9/11
You can set and adjust GeekTool’s text shadow through the font picker. See Alex Reid’s comment below.

One advantage that GeekTool has—especially for people who just want to import a few nice Desktop decorations instead of building their own—is the Geeklet system. NerdTool has a similar system, but its exported files are binary rather than text and they’re given the dull and confusing name Logs instead of the cute and accessible name Geeklets. It would help if NerdTool could import Geeklets, but it can’t.

Since I’m all about building my own, the Geeklet advantage means little to me. I’m sticking with NerdTool until further notice.

7 Responses to “NerdTool over GeekTool”

  1. Brett Terpstra says:

    Thanks for the comparison, I’m sold. I’ll be switching back to NerdTool on both of my machines :).

  2. Ben Brooks says:

    What Brett said.

  3. Donald Curtis says:

    For small apps like this memory is even more important; you will run many small apps and that 100MB adds up quickly.

    Keeping memory low shows the developer cares.

    I really only posted this so that my name would be on a list at least one place with Terpstra and Brooks.

  4. Alex Reid says:

    You can give GeekTool text a much nicer drop shadow by using the inbuilt controls in OS X’s font palette. It gives you control over blur and opacity (you might need to widen the font palette to make the shadow controls visible). Here’s a screenshot of mine:

  5. Dr. Drang says:

    You’re right, Alex. As soon as I read your comment, I realized that I’d seen that before and completely forgotten about it. I wonder why the font picker window doesn’t either

    1. start out wider so you can see all the tools; or
    2. give an indication that there’s more to be seen if you widen the window.

    In any event, I’m still sticking with NerdTool because of its smaller memory use.

  6. Pattulus says:

    Just out of curiosity - have you reset Geektool before comparing the memory usage?

    I found that after tweaking GeekTool, arranging and writing stuff it acts like a memory hog on the run. If I restart it or simply disable and enable it everything is way back to normal. I’m running 15 Geeklets and it uses 20 MB.

    Anyway, you’re post has made me itchy and curious, so, I’m going to test Nerdtool with my settings to see what’s it with the RAM.

  7. Dr. Drang says:

    As I recall, I took the screenshot after killing the GeekTool process and then restarting it, but it’s possible that I had turned on one or two of the Geeklets just before taking the shot. I’ll do it again with an absolutely fresh start and update the post if there’s a big difference.