Windows: Visible Clock on Multiple Monitors

Prior to Windows 8, the multi-monitor taskbar was not even a native feature in the world of Microsoft. They have finally added it, but for whatever reason, did not make it possible to add a clock on the second monitor. I might find myself in the minority here, but for whatever reason, I instinctively want to glance in the lower-right of my visible screen space to see the time. Barring any tweaks or workarounds put in place beforehand, I will find no clock there, and then have to shift my gaze left to see the time. First world problems? Sure. But solving those is pretty much the point of this blog.

If you’re anything like me, and just want to be able to see a clock on your second monitor, there are a few options available to you, and none of them are native to Windows. Either you’re not using Win8 yet and you don’t even have a taskbar for your second (third, fourth, etc.) monitor, or you are, and that taskbar doesn’t support a clock. There are third-party apps you can grab to solve this, like the wonderful Actual Multiple Monitors, but they are not generally free for personal use. You could switch your primary and secondary monitors in your screen configuration, but that has other implications you might not desire. You could simply train yourself to look for the clock where it appears naturally, but where’s the fun in that?

Another option would be to use a desktop gadget, but there are two possible drawbacks here. Either you set this gadget to be always-on-top, in which case you risk it becoming extremely obtrusive (as with fullscreen video, for instance); or you allow it to sit on the desktop only, in which case it becomes obscured whenever you actually use the secondary monitor. The point of this post is to propose a compromise between these two, that results in a clock visible at the stroke of a key.

How to Make Your Own (Mostly) Always-Visible Clock

See that clock on the second one?

1. The first step is to find the clock you want to use. For this, I recommend Rainmeter–an extremely robust , self-described “desktop customization tool.” It has many more tricks up its sleeve than clocks alone, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. If you decide to use Rainmeter, which I will assume for the remainder of this post, you have an inexhaustible supply of clock skins to choose from. The important thing is that the clock have an opaque background, for reasons which will become clear later on (Get it? Clear? I’ll set myself out.) As of this post, I am using this.

2. Once you have found a place on your desktop to put the clock, the second thing you will need is AutoHotkey. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that sentence in the past year, but at this point, I cannot remember life before it. At the very least, you can download stuff other people make (like what I am about to share), but if you want to give it time, you can solve just about any problem you may have with your operating system or applications. See this Lifehacker post if you need further convincing.

3. Download this script from my GitHub–don’t worry, it is thoroughly commented for your benefit, and you can obviously feel free to modify it to suit you. Essentially, the idea here is to enable a keystroke to send the desktop clock to the top of the window stack for a few seconds only. This will bring it to your immediate attention regardless of what else is happening on that monitor. After a few seconds, the script returns the clock to the desktop, hidden and out of the way, where it won’t disturb you further. You’ll know the time, you’ll have looked exactly where you wanted to look for that time, and you can go back to looking at fullscreen whatever without being disturbed.

Again, keep in mind that Step 3 presumes you are using a RainMeter clock. You will have to modify the script if you’re going to use something else (Let me know if you need help). Good luck, and I hope this works for more people than me.

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