Wednesday, August 16, 2006

To Widget Or Not To Widget!

When Apple introduced Mac OS X 10.4 we got a fancy new thing called the Dashboard, which allows you to run small javascript based applications called widgets in a hidden layer on the Mac, thus saving on valuable desktop real estate. Pressing F12 switches between the standard Mac OS X and Dashboard layers and vice versa.

Of course other big players like Microsoft couldn't wait to jump on the bandwagon and copy Apple as they always do. Now you can get widgets for your PC in the form of Microsoft Gadgets, which run in the normal OS layer. Not to be left out of the hype, search engine giant Yahoo, bought out Konfabulator and turned it into Yahoo Widgets, the mighty Google have introduced Gadgets for their Google Desktop environment and then there's Opera Widgets, from the Opera browser folk. The Yahoo and Opera offerings are both Mac and Windows compatible and all but Apple's run in the normal OS layer.

Now all this sounds great and, if you go to Apple's widget download pages, Dashboard Widgets or any of the others, you'll find hundreds of useful little apps but there is a down side. Widgets, gadgets or whatever take up system memory and CPU cycles and, on a Mac, once you start them running they stay resident until you log out. What really annoys me is the fact that I often hit the F12 key instead of the backspace and then have to wait until the Dashboard initializes. I know I can assign a different hotkey to it but I'd much prefer to be able to run the one I want, when I want it and then close it down when I'm done with it. I've only got a 1GHz G4 iMac so CPU cycles and memory are precious so I've resorted to using a free preference pane called DashPrefs, which lets me disable it completely. I still run it at work but I've got a whumping great Powermac G5 Quad and a 20" Cinema Display there.

Something else I'm going to investigate is the ability to detach a widget from the Dashboard and run it in the normal application layer. Some of these apps are really useful and would be welcome additions to the tool library. Mac OS X Hints has published the means to do it so I'll give it a try soon.

1 comment:

SuperSteve said...

Stumbled here, nice blog!

The Blogger beta is nice, but interoperability with many 3rd-party apps is broken (Picasa/Hello, for instance). I migrated yesterday as well, check me out!