Useful widgets

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I’ve spent quite a bit of time this weekend just playing around with my Mac and now I’m hooked on dashboard widgets. Initially dismissed as a gimmick, these are similar to Yahoo! Widgets (formerly Konfabulator) and the sidebar gadgets in Windows Vista. Basically each widget is a tiny application with a particular function in mind. So, here are the ones that I’m currently finding particularly useful:

  • I’ve already written about Amazon album art but it’s been great for downloading the artwork that even iTunes 7 misses:
    Amazon Album Art widget
  • Wikipedia is a tremendously useful resource – although I could fire up a browser it’s sometimes handy to call up an article directly from the dashboard:
    Wikipedia widget
  • AirPort Radar can be used to enable/disable the wireless interface but its most useful feature is reporting all the available wireless networks and their channel numbers:
    AirPort Radar widget AirPort Radar widget
  • iStat Pro gives a single view of my system’s vital statistics:
    iStat Pro widget
  • Dashalytics hooks into my Google Analytics account and gives an instant view of web site visits and page views over the last day, week and year:
    Dashalytics widget
  • I use the BBC Weather widget in place of the standard one (because it recognises the town where I live)… oh well, looks as though things may brighten up in a day or two:
    BBC Weather widget
  • Meanwhile the BBC Radio widget lets me choose from many local and national stations, updating the logo accordingly:
    BBC Radio widget

Of course, some widgets promise much but are let down by reliability issues, or by poor interface design; however there are a growing number of widgets to choose from (Apple maintains an index of the most popular widgets – 2291 of them at the time of writing). I’ve just downloaded some more to try (including one for Blogger) – let’s see where this goes. Something tells me that widgets/gadgets (depending on your operating system of choice) could soon be big business – and if you’re yet to be convinced just imagine what will happen once these HTML/CSS/JavaScript applets cross over to become common on mobile phones and other handheld devices – after all, a few years ago we’d have laughed at the idea of selling ringtones at £3 a pop to mobile phone users.

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