Reviews
Weather Monitors

M. says: "In the beginning, I was only interested in downloading as much free software as possible :) And I was getting all sorts of warez and so on. But, as I..." Read the rest


Best Weather Monitor

We have a mini review this time - on the subject of little weather monitors - tools that sit in your system tray and keep you updated on the current weather.

There are some very good freeware weather tools, but we've seen quite a few people using adware weather programs, and there are some relatively expensive shareware or subscription-based weather tools out there. So one objective of this review is to help you decide whether the free tools are good enough for you or whether you need to shell out some money to get what you want.

Because we recommend a variety of tools for different users, we are not naming a single winner at the top of this review. For casual users we recommend the freeware progam Weather Watcher; for more serious weather buffs we recommend the subscription based WeatherBug.

Thanks to momonan and everyone else on the forum that helped with this review.

Email inquiries to WeatherBug about a possible discount for our members were never replied to.

WHY INSTALL A WEATHER TOOL FOR YOUR SYSTEM TRAY?

Most people need to know the exact temperature outside their window at all times. Wait.. That's not true.

Most people don't need a tool to tell them the weather. And you can always open up your web browser and surf to a weather site.. Sometimes we forget that we don't need a tool for every job, and checking the weather may be something you can do quite sufficiently simply by opening up a web browser to weather.com or a similar site.

However it can be quite fun to have a little icon in your tray reporting the current temperature and weather conditions, with a quick click to get a forecast of the current day or week, not to mention pop up alerts about weather advisories, etc.

FEATURES WE CARE ABOUT

All weather tools will let you choose your home city and report its temperature in your system tray as a number in Fahrenheit or celsius that you can check at a glance, and they will all update the weather at user-selectable intervals.

Additional features you may or may not care about:

PROGRAMS

We looked at a ton of programs for this review; here are the ones that made the final cut:


Weather Watcher

 

Data Source: Weather.com (good but delayed)

Scope: Mainly the United States, BUT does support some international cities well.

Cost: Freeware

Extras: Lots of US and international weather related maps; can set desktop wallpaper to map images.

Screenshots: click here.

 

We really like Weather Watcher a lot. It has a very compact attractive window display, and the information presented is very cleanly organized and aesthetically pleasing.

 

It uses a little less resources, in terms of cpu use and memory use, than Weather Pulse (see below) but is otherwise extremely similar.

 

We liked the large collection of US and International weather-related maps, and the history menu of them is useful in finding the ones you like to look at, but we really would have preferred a Favorites menu for our favorite maps so we could select them easily again.

 

Weather Pulse (like Weather Watcher below) has some nice features for setting the desktop wallpaper to updated map images automatically.

 

If we had to pick one general purpose freeware weather monitor for the united states (and major international cities), Weather Watcher would probably be the one; but then you can't go wrong with Weather Pulse either.


Weather Pulse

 

Data Source: Weather.com (good but delayed)

Scope: Mainly the United States, BUT does support some international cities well.

Cost: Freeware

Extras: nice map collection (some animated); can set desktop wallpaper to map images.

Screenshots: click here.

Forum: click here.

 

Weather Pulse and Weather Watcher are like twins separated at birth. They both use Weather.com for data, so they both support the same cities and the same basic forecasts.

 

Weather Pulse has a different way of viewing weather maps than Weather Watcher, which may appeal to some people; maps are displayed inside the main window, and are organized according to a couple of categories. It can either be confusing or useful depending on the way you work.

 

Weather Pulse also supports several animated maps which can be quite nice. If you love looking at maps we suggest you try Weather Pulse and Weather Watcher to see which one suits you best.

 

Weather Pulse is also a little better than Weather Watcher and letting you switch between cities.

 

Like Weather Watcher, Weather Pulse has some nice features for setting the desktop wallpaper to updated map images automatically. Weather Pulse also has a nice user forum.

 

Weather Pulse and Weather Watcher really are so similar, and both are free - you really could just install both and see which one appeals more to you. At this time we give the slight nod to Weather Watcher, but that could change any time and we highly recommend you give both a try.


Weather Bug

 

Data Source: Proprietary

Scope: United States Only

Cost: Freeware for Ad-supported light version which is positively infested with ads and annoying registration procedures; Subscription version without ads also available for $20 per year (!).

Extras: great live cam collection with animation, etc.; Up-to-the-minute weather updates; great alert options.

Screenshots: click here.

 

Weather bug is qualitatively different from the other weather applications listed in this review: First, you must either purchase a yearly subscription, or install an adware-supported version, which we at DonationCoder.com almost never recommend.

 

However, WeatherBug deserves a serious look for anyone who wants a little more up-to-the-minute forecasts, and some well integrated extras.

 

If you really enjoy watching the weather, then the $20 a year subscription (or the annoyance of ads) might seem like a great bargain - it is a fun program to play with, and has a rich user interface where you can easily look at web cameras from your local city, see wind direction and temperature minute-by-minute (as opposed to the delayed updates through the free Weather.com based programs).

 

WeatherBug has a ton of US based satellite and radar images, and does a fantastic job of animating them. You'll also find a ton of browser-based features, like weather news, fun, history, etc. Definitely a ton to play with.

 

No other weather program has as good an alert-customization system as Weather Bug, though the program only supports the United States.

 

It can be run from tray, but its probably overkill for people who just want occasional temperature information and forecasts at a glance. It also has no options for setting wallpaper based on maps and weather.

 

Some advice - you may want to choose a custom install and skip installing the BrowserBar addin - a lot of people find it intrusive and unnesc.

 

Some people (including your reviewer) are really bothered by ads in programs; if you are this kind of person, then you really have to ask yourself if $20 a year is something you are willing to pay for the funnest of the interactive weather programs. If you really like to play around with weather, and you live in the United States, we think you'll probably be pretty happy with weatherbug; if you just want some info in tray to glance at occasionally, the freeware programs are sufficient.

 

Froggy

 

Froggy is a fun concept that could appeal to people with a playful spirit and lot's of desktop space; it displays a beaker on your screen with an animated frog who reacts to the weather. Fun.

 

Data Source: Weather.com

Scope: United States Only

Cost: Freeware

Extras: great live cam collection with animation, etc.

 

Froggy is a fun novelty, but we wouldn't really recommend it for real weather monitoring. If you have a young child though it might be just the thing.

 

WetSock

 

Wetsock is a text-only, international weather tool which lets hardcore users see actual weather data in textual form.

 

Data Source: National Weather Service weather.noaa.gov

Scope: Focus on United States but some international

Cost: Shareware, $12

Extras: Can easily display info for multiple cities.

 

WetSock is a bit of a curiosity - using raw data from the National Weather Service, and letting you look at the text details, including cloud coverage details, etc.

 

While it's interesting to see estimates of probability of rain, etc., the information is not easy to digest and there are not daily forecasts or images. Could be useful for debugging National Weather Service reports but we recommend you look elsewhere for your fun weather updates.

 

Weather1

 

We thought the interface was a bit busy.

 

Data Source: WeatherUnderground (wunderground.com)

Scope: International

Cost: Shareware, $18.

Extras:

 

Weather1 is a shareware program - and we would have a hard time recommending it over our two freeware favorites (Weather Watcher and Weather Pulse). It does have international support and uses Weather Underground data instead of Weather.com, which may appeal to international users.

 

We also liked the main page display which shows a variety of fun information like sunrise, sunset, yesterday's high and low, etc. But the interface is a bit busy and we preferred the clean approach of the freeware programs, or the interactive approach of weatherbug.

 

 

Cli-Mate

 

Data Source: National Weather Service

Scope: Focus on United States; supports some international cities.

Cost: Shareware, $25

Extras: Nice graphs of temperature over time.

 

It's hard for us to see paying $25 for Cli-mate, but we did love the graphs provided by the National Weather service and displayed elegantly in Cli-mate. And we liked the way you could set favorite cities and switch between them easily.

 

One thing we didn't like it how requesting a forecast opens up a browser window, but this reflects a decision by Cli-mate authors to let a normal browser do normal web-based work, and they include a nice weather menu where you can visit a good collection of weather sites. But given that the price seems unreasonable.

 

Storm Predator

 

Cost: Shareware, $40

 

Storm Predator is not really a general purpose weather monitor tool like the other programs in this review, and so isn't being reviewed here per se. But we thought it was worth mentioning because of it's unique and interesting focus on tracking storms and letting you really explore severe weather issues interactively in a way that no other program can do.

 

If you are an amateur storm watcher, and live in one of those areas that god likes to get angry at, having Storm Predator running full screen with its simulated radar display might be just the ticket and provide the perfect way to enjoy the coming storm, at least until you lose your internet connection.

 

SUMMARY:

Weather Monitor tools are fun.

It's nice to be able to look down at your system tray and see the current temperature, and double click to bring up a nice forecast for the day or week, or look at radar images, or get alerts when a storm is coming.

For people who just want to be able to glance down at their tray a couple of times per day and occasionally check out the daily or weekly forecast, there are two fantastic freeware tools to choose from: Weather Watcher and Weather Pulse.

Both of these programs are completely free, without ads or spyware, are both actively developed, and have almost identical feature sets which will satisfy the needs of casual users. They are both great programs and we have no hesitation recommending you install them and try them out. Both focus on the United States but support many international cities, using the Weather.com data. Keep in mind that the weather data used is delayed, and only updated periodically, up to an hour between updates.

At the current time, we favor Weather Watcher over Weather Pulse, for reasons including stability, use of resources, and interface.

If you are more of a weather buff, and want to go to the next level, we recommend our choice of best weather monitor, Weather Bug.

WeatherBug has tons of fun interactive features that the other free tools don't have (though it is restricted to United States weather), including local webcams (so you can see what it really looks like at the town center, etc), and perhaps most importantly, up-to-the-minute live weather data (compared to the much delayed data from Weather.com). This makes a pretty big difference if you really want to monitor the weather as its unfolding. WeatherBug also has probably the nicest integrated view of animated maps and other cool displays.

The real problem with WeatherBug is its price. To use WeatherBug you must purchase a $20 yearly subscription. Or alternatively, install an adware supported version that is pretty heavily laden with ads.

If you can live with the ads, more power to you - it's not something we were prepared to live with. On the other hand, the yearly subscription may not be totally outrageous for this program, after all you are paying for a regular service, and if you really love following the weather, then WeatherBug might easily be worth the yearly fee, and you're likely to have a lot of fun using it.

 

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