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OK, I’m starting to see what the fuss is about. I finally got around to playing with Konfabulator, and it’s really cute. Possibly even useful. I can see why Apple decided shamelessly to rip it off for Tiger.

Basically, Konfabulator lets you install ‘widgets’ – small chunks of functionality – on your desktop or as floating, possibly translucent, windows. They’re typically clocks, calculators, wifi-signal-strength-meters etc. Some of them talk to the net, and keep you updated with share prices, or the image from your favourite webcams etc.

Well that’s nice, you may be thinking, but it’s hardly revolutionary. And you’d be right. What’s revolutionary is just how easy it is to create these widgets for anyone with any familiarity with programming. Basically, a widget is a directory containing an XML file describing the layout – put this image here and this text box there – and the functionality – do this when the mouse moves over the image. The functionality is written in Javascript and there are lots of helpful predefined commands to open a URL in your browser, for example, or to play an audio file. So you need a bit of XML knowledge, but not much, a bit of JavaScript know-how, but not much, and a certain amount of Photoshop expertise if you want it to look pretty! This is simple enough that there’s a huge and growing collection of third-party widgets available from the Konfabulator web site.

Anyway, I put together a ‘Status-Q’ widget. (Shown below with the rather nice standard Weather widget). It has two buttons which bring up my browser ready to read statusq.org or to post new articles. I predict that something like Konfabulator will be the new AppleScript before too long. And about time too.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser