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QotD: Dashboard Apps

Question: What Dashboard apps do you want?

My Answer: I wrote several months ago in an article called "Konfabuseless:

Konfabulator's list of widgets is full of Airport signal monitors, battery monitors, to-do lists, and more. Says the description of one widget, "Useless, but fun!" Guess what? I've already got things that do these things. The menu bar (Airport, Volume, etc.) and dock (CPU Monitor, etc.) all handle these tasks. They're always available unlike Konfabulator's windows, which can easily be obscured by other apps' windows.

I admit to not having seriously looked at Konfabulator since. However, as I ponder Dashboard, and the usefuleness it adds by simply staying out of my way by default, I wonder about the Dashboard apps I might use. A package tracker would be nice - I wouldn't have to launch my desktop package-tracking software. The address book quickie seemed nice - it avoids having to launch Address Book. The calculator is nice. So is the stock tracker. Calendar. Stickies. The world clock, and many of the others. Those widgets could all replace tens of little apps I find myself launching several times a day.

In other words, Dashboard may be more of a competitor to LaunchBar than Spotlight! All of my "quickie apps" (iCal, Stickies, WorldClock, Calculator, Address Book, Stock Magic, etc.) may move to Dashboard and away from LaunchBar's "cmd-space, A, B, enter" (for Address Book).

From JDD:

Interest is very high. The session on Dashboard this morning was SRO and they stopped letting people in. So they scheduled a follow up repeat session after the rest of the sessions of the day. It was almost full as well. Interest is high. Repeat high.

I think we'll get to see a lot of these quickie applications, too. My only concern then becomes one of organization: how many widgets are too many widgets? Screen space and presence in the Dashboard "dock" are going to become a precious commodity, are they not?

You are encouraged to answer the Question of the Day for yourself in the comments or on your blog.

16 Responses to "QotD: Dashboard Apps"

  1. I'll definately be using a to-do list widget, even if I have to do it myself (which shouldn't be much work). And the calculator as well.

  2. Primarily, the only app I would be using the most on Dashboard will be the calculator. I'm always needing it for something. The iTunes controlled may be useful as well, but I'm okay with clicking down on the iTunes icon on my dock and clicking on "Next song."

    I agree with the quote on Konfabulator, though. I found it kind of intrusive being on the desktop all the time. I never saw the point in a widget telling me how strong my WiFi signal is when I have to do is look at the AirPort icon on the menu bar.

  3. I see that like the desktop when Konfabulator came out, there will be a scarcity of space, which is why people will need to make compact widgets that are useful.

    I'm guessing however, like any widget type program, we'll see a hell of a lot of clocks the first few days Tiger is released. I hope to God not, but I really don't think I'll be proven wrong.

    What made Konfabulator hard to use for many people, was that many of the widgets were downright useless.

    Personally, of the default widgets, I'd only use the AddressBook, Calculator, Calendar and Stickies (I suspect that Stickies is not going to be a stand alone app anymore).

    Just my 0.02

  4. I really want the Stickies, iCal, and Address Book gadgets. I also as mentioned above want a to do list gadget that hooks into iCal. Beyond that I want gadgets that totally replace Sherlock/Watson. Like one to show movie times and previews, that would let me drop a movie time into iCal and link to buy tickets online. It'd be even cooler if it could list the Tomato Meter rating with the movie description. I want a package tracker, and I want a phonebook gadget too. Type in a business name and have a map with directions there. Gotta have a stock tracker too. Weather and traffic gadgets would be nice too, and a gadget the tied into Seattle's BusView, bus tracking would be amazing.

    I really hope the Dashboard dock allows you to order the gadgets and is expandable.


  5. Screen space and presence in the Dashboard "dock" are going to become a precious commodity, are they not?

    Screen space shouldn't be a problem - if it gets crowded on screen, they can just scale and/or arrange the widgets to fit, similar to the way Expose works with windows.

    Since widgets will tend to be smaller than typical windows, less scaling should be needed than Expose uses.

  6. I disagree Jon. Dashboard has but one layer: the dashboard. Application windows have multiple layers - the applications themselves, tiled in Exposé, etc. Scaled or arranged widgets lose their usefulness when they scale too small, naturally. Furthermore, the little area where you choose which Dashboard gadgets to show or hide could very easily become cluttered.

  7. I just want a gmail checking gadget. 🙂

  8. I wrote a few widgets in Konfabulator, one was a Caltrain schedule that always showed the next train's arrival time (I live a block or so from a train station). Another checked to make sure my site was up. And another checked for any impending library books that needed to be returned, but I never got that one quite working the way I wanted.

    Ultimately I was frustrated by Konfabulator's lack of HTML support, its lack of graphical tools (why do I have to go into Photoshop every time I want a red rectangle for crying out loud?) and its lack of interface standards (focus anyone?). My widgets didn't look like Arlo's, they were butt ugly.

    You know, that's probably my biggest beef right there. I could have these absolutely gorgeous but useless widgets that ship with Konfabulator. Or I could have useful but butt ugly widgets I had written myself. I stopped using it about 6 or 7 months ago, but I probably would still be a happy customer if some graphical goodness shipped with it. I I can completely understand why Apple implemented their own, as opposed to licensing or buying it.

    But to the more general question as to what you do with it? I tended to use it to regularly check on the status of some web accessible snippet of information. Not that far from what an RSS aggregator does for News, but instead of new articles posted its your library books, or maybe your FedEx package or whatever. Why keep going back to a website again and again checking for a change when you can have a little widget check for you?

  9. To solve the Dashboard screen space problem... Expose for Dashboard! It'd be like Expose within Expose.

  10. I specifically want Dashboard widgets for Airport signal strength and Battery monitoring because I've got too many things on my menu bar to play nicely with apps that have lots of menu items. Anything that can be moved off of the menu bar and onto the rest of the screen would be good.

  11. And I would be using Konfabulator today iff the thing had the beautiful concept Dashboard has: its default position is out of my way. 1024x768, folks. Design for it, not 2000x1500 or, geez, 2900x1600.

  12. Sort of off-topic, but here's my answer to your comment on my site:

    I appreciate your concern. Though I'm not under any NDA, I will happily oblige to any official request for their removal.

    The reason for posting them are not for "spreading warez" or any of that crap, it's simply an answer to real public concerns about the safety measures built into the gadgets, and of course to inspire future gadget writers who can't afford the cost accosiated with attending the WWDC.

  13. Erik - all due respect - your answer is ridiculous. If you've not violated an NDA (removed link to page which displays nearly all default gadgets from Tiger build, including Apple's copyright), then you've plainly admitted to theft simply by posting content you could only get from someone under an NDA. What did you do, download it from a warez site? Furthermore, you've broken copyright law in redistributing the work. Perhaps you might consider international (and local) law an "official request" for their removal?

    I don't care what the reasons for posting them may be: that does not change the fact that you've broken the law and that people who do such things are responsible for Apple's tight controls on the seeding process.

  14. Trying to neutralize your attack with a complimentary "all due respect" is pretty futile, don't you think?

    Posting stuff like this is nothing new and is what keeps the rumor sites going (despite numerous cease and desists) from Apple each time they post something new. Posting the gadgets are no different than posting a screenshot. Of course this is a grey area, but nobody is hurt and everybody gains. Apple gains by quelching security fears (people thinking that running gadgets through a browser will let a third-party access your personal data (address book for instance)) and they get more developers interested in developing new gadgets by demonstrating the technologies behind it.

    But of course, you don't care about reasons either, the fact is that this is nothing new and once Apple releases a developer's preview to the public their tight control has evaporated completely. Things like this is to be expected and knowing from experience (having posted countless screenshots and info during the seeding of Panther), Apple lets discussion of unreleased products go on in non-Apple forums slide. In the end it just serves to build up a buzz about the new technology.

    That said, I will repeat what I said earlier: If there's any "official request", being it a cease or decist or any form of communcation from Apple, I'll be happy to oblige. A disgruntled attack from Random Blogger Guy means nothing, no matter how much he'd like to speak on Apple's behalf.

    Thank you for your respect though, that's heartwarming.

  15. You're wrong that nobody is hurt.

    once Apple releases a developer's preview to the public their tight control has evaporated completely.

    You're right. And that's exactly where the law steps in. Laws you've broken. Respect? I respect people who "do the right thing." That ain't you in this case.

    Where exactly have I said I speak for Apple? I don't. I speak as one of their third-party developers.

  16. The weird thing about stickies in Dashboard -- you can't put something useful on a sticky and then refer to it from an application... Dashboard hides.