Active Desktop was a feature included with Windows up until the release of Vista. It allowed HTML sites, among other things, to be viewed on the user’s desktop as if they were part of the wallpaper. They were then constantly updated to provide news, weather, and a host of other information at the user’s fingertips.
Microsoft had decided that it was time for Active Desktop to be retired with Vista because of the newly introduced sidebar. The sidebar gadgets can be dragged out onto the desktop, and they therefore were expected to serve a similar purpose.
I was never really a user of Active Desktop, but I know plenty of people who were. For that reason the How-To Geek started a $206 bounty to see if someone could replicate what the Active Desktop did on Vista.
The same person stepped up to the plate that made a program to increase the Taskbar thumbnail size in Vista. The resulting application (Download Mirror) isn’t the most extravagant thing in the world, but it gets the job done. With it you can specify multiple websites, the number of pixels each should occupy on the desktop, the position of each one, and how often it should be updated. It works just as you would expect allowing all of your desktop icons to be placed on top of the items you add (as seen in the picture above with the Recycle Bin).
It doesn’t work exactly like Active Desktop did because none of the links are clickable, and the items can’t be easily resized and repositioned by dragging and dropping. Nevertheless, it might be exactly what you’ve been longing for, especially if you’re wanting to put some weather radar images on your desktop.