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This forum is locked: you cannot post, reply to, or edit topics.   This topic is locked: you cannot edit posts or make replies. Posted in: Widget Central
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A real dashboard widget?


Poll Results: What do you think of a dashboard shaped widget described in my post?
Stupid
63%
 63%  [ 12 ]
Not stupid
36%
 36%  [ 7 ]
Total Votes : 19

Author Message
BagOfHammers



Joined: 03 Jul 2005
Posts: 167
Location: under the lucky hippo tree

Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2005 - 2:11 pm    Post subject: A real dashboard widget? Reply with quote

I was just considering an idea for a widget, but having done absolutely no work on widgets other than briefly skimming the Apple developer guide (or whatever it was called), I don't exactly expect to make it anytime soon.

Having said that, I have noticed that I tend to keep only the widgets that are well-made (function and design), relatively small, and, above all, frequently useful.

One thing I don't like is that quite frankly, widgets that look OK individually, when thrown together, don't look all that great, at least by my taste. There are only two possiblilties: either the widgets fit a certain design (e.g., brushed metal look), or they don't. Some people may prefer to have them all have one sort of look, which may be argued to look cleaner or more organized. I just think the hodge-podge bit could be changed.

So, personally, I'd appreciate a selection of skins for all widgets, especially if it became common for widgets to utilize the same look, such as brushed metal. At any rate, isn't more possibility better?

Taking this one step further: there are probably a number of widgets that are used truly like a dashboard...glancing at to get info, such as email counters, clocks (and dates), battery indicators, weather stats, and probably some others. Here's my idea: what if all of these (say, clock, mail counter, battery, weather) were in one clean widget, shaped like a real dashboard?

Cons: the idea is that the "dashboard" would stretch across the bottom of Dashboard (giving the feel of being at the wheel/controls)...taking up a large part of the screen, going directly against Apple's suggestions, and probably eating cpu, but would it be any more than if the widgets were separate?

Pros: A visually pleasing (cool design, number of choices/skins) way to hold all the useful stuff: counters could utilize needles and gauges (like speedometer), as could the clock, battery could be shown as fuel gauge, and even have warnings like in real cars. Weather (and such space-demanding things) could either be worked into a fake LCD display or otherwise put in an easily visible place, blending right into the dashboard.

A radio could be thrown in for kicks...or, for that matter, so could an album art thingy, or cpu/ram monitor, etc. To prevent clutter, perhaps the user could customize it by having an options thing that disables/enables features. Ones pretty much bound to be useful or at least not unwelcome could be worked into the readily visible "dashboard" itself; those that are more up to personal choice (like weather, news, etc) could be swappable/scrollable options in a fake LCD screen.

So, while it is probably too big for a normal widget, I am suggesting that if it wrapped up widgets commonly considered essential, furthermore, putting them not only balanced and well-designed but also to the theme of a car dashboard, it could at least solve the problem of great function, messy combination and make up for it's size.

Of course, more than anything else, this widget needs creativity in interface and design, because it must have a balanced feel/layout, a leather steering wheel, natural and consistent interface, multiple customizable intefaces/skins, and really look like a dashboard, while replacing normal dashboard components like speedometers with counters and gauges. Extras like a honking horn would add to the sense of the wholeness necessary to pull off a convincing dashboard feel.

*And of course, it'll still leave plenty of room for other widgets. I would personally enjoy such a widget, assuming it looks absolutely flawless and functions even better.

So, what do you think? Of course, I don't even know if this is possible....
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Ludge



Joined: 09 May 2005
Posts: 98
Location: UK

Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2005 - 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I voted "stupid" I'm afraid.

Purely out of interest, how old are you?
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segdeha



Joined: 23 May 2005
Posts: 15
Location: Albuquerque, NM

Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2005 - 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ludge wrote:
I voted "stupid" I'm afraid.

Purely out of interest, how old are you?


Ludge,

That sounds unnecessarily harsh. How old are you?

Bag of Hammers,

I can see what you're trying to accomplish with this idea. I agree that multiple skins would be a nice feature for most widgets. I also think this is kind of a fun time to be using/building widgets. It's like a hobbyist community where the barrier to entry is low, but (sometimes) so is the quality.

I'm sure widgets will standardize (and get more boring!) somewhat over time.

What I think might be cool is some kind of uber-widget onto which you could launch elements of your choice in a standard size format. Maybe it could even scale the hosted widgets using Quartz methods. Of course, not all widgets would work in a standard size, but it might work for some set of mix-and-match status widgets.

-Andrew
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Ludge



Joined: 09 May 2005
Posts: 98
Location: UK

Posted: Sun Jul 10, 2005 - 1:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound harsh. I was already too harsh to BagOfHammers, and don't want to do it again. I didn't like the idea, but don't think it's overly stupid, just not great. However the options were "stupid" or "not stupid".

I was wondering how old he is just out of idle curiosity. On reflection, it wasn't a good idea to put those to sentences together in my last post! If it helps, I am 20.

EDIT (to clarify reasoning further).

I am bang alongside the idea of skinnable widgets. I'm just investigating how to do it with my AdiumList one. However, the idea of making them all fit the same theme doesn't appeal. If a user wants this, they can make themes to fit by all means, but I don't think many other people will be too keen on a strict set of window styles. Best just to stick with the Apple design guidelines for widgets IMO.
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EricNau



Joined: 22 Jun 2005
Posts: 92
Location: California, USA

Posted: Sun Jul 10, 2005 - 3:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think making all of the widgets look the same (ie: brushed metal) would defeat the creativness of dashboard. Each widget reflects its own personality, making the dashboard almost "a work of art." (and in my opinion more interesting to look at. Also, if everything looked the same/similar it might be even harder to find a widget when you have 20 of them on your screen.
However, the idea for the one big widget that had all of the "essentials" would be nice, but the user should have the choice of which things they condiser "essential." (For instance I could care less about the CPU monitor, whereas someone else might find it useful.)
The idea for this widget is interesting, but I'm sure it would be very hard, and probably get a lot of bad reviews because it is kind of taking the dashboard off in a different direction.
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BagOfHammers



Joined: 03 Jul 2005
Posts: 167
Location: under the lucky hippo tree

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 - 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. Great to see some input on here! Thanks people.

Ludge, don't worry about being "unnecessarily harsh" on the serious stuff. (I put the choices there after all, to get blunt results.) Like I say, I don't know squat about widget programming, I'm only looking into it gradually (my pace). I don't typically disclose my age so as not to promote age-based generalizations, as I don't really think age has anything to do with creativity or widget-passion. I never learned to program, that's for sure.

I like the point that was brought up about the importance of dashboard widgets looking original (thanks Mr.Nau). I certainly respect that widgets should, to a significant degree, reflect their makers. That is, if I wanted to make such-and-such a widget such-a-such a way, that's better than conforming to one specific, presumably fairly generic form, such as the brushed metal.

That, anyway, is the theoretical basis for the respect for creativity. I don't want to make myself seem like I don't respect that.

Personally, though, my dashboard is ugly. I've limited the number of widgets, but let's speak in terms of color and shape. I have a light-turquoise stick, a brown stick, and four rectangles: purple, pink, beige, and light grey.

Do you see where I'm headed? While I certainly respect that the creators made their particular choices, when they come together, it's pretty ugly, in my case, and presumably others'. At least, we can agree they don't blend all that well. What irks me, obviously, is that if I want their functionality, I have to accept this discordant mess.

It's not that the creators made a "wrong" color choice - although I would not have chosen to make a big grey one - they outright ignored the possibility of not fitting in well on the user end. This pretty much requires one or the other: uniformity, or choices. If I could at least change the light-turquoise to a dark red and the neutrals to something more spirited, I'd be happy. But I can't do that.

[That's my take on the possibility of styles and choices. Now on to my dashboard idea. This is going to be a long rant, sorry.]

Now, I also started thinking about a widget that you could just slam what you wanted on to it, and it would make the necessary adjustments. But I imagined this would be rather difficult to make, not terribly rewarding, and, perhaps, boring: especially if it alone has no character.

One thing I was surprised I never saw was the idea of a real dashboard...wheel, gauges, preferably slightly cartoonish to fit with the mac style. Then I got to thinking, gauges indicating various common info like mail, battery, etc. Most of what I use could be thrown in there, without even taking up that much space. So I'm coming from the basic premise that it would only include so many functions, max, not just throw anything you want on it, because not everything will fit the particular theme. Despite being large, it would quite easily save space if it encorporated a number of functions normally separated.

Of course, I would want the ability to turn various functions off, or to choose which function goes on which gauge, etc. I could even see why some people would want it to only be a decoration, and do nothing. There should be a limited number of functions (fitting the theme), but as much user control as possible. Sound complicated? It does to me, but I'm just throwing it out there.

The idea here, as opposed to the uniformity/harmony of widget appearances, is that for the simple stuff, clock, counters, battery, date, etc., it might be more interesting and creative to work them all into a single theme rather than to theme them individually. (I.e., a brick clock, a mailbag mail counter, a battery-shaped battery, and a bright red calendar don't seem to have any added value combined as they do separately.) The 'real dashboard' would not replace all widgets, just the simple, small things, and maybe weater/news.

Say you want everything but the cpu thing? If I could make this widget, I would make everything able to be disabled on the user end, individually of course, so that the user controls by what he thinks is essential or desireable. The question is not so much of function, since every function would be fairly simple, but of interface and design.

And, I do agree that this takes widgets in a different direction, in terms of size. But the idea of stuffing simple functions into a themed widget, while being perhaps, do I dare say, original, the principle of saving space by doing so meets the "info-at-your-fingertips, easily accessible" ideas. Hmm.

[Thank you for reading all the way through this extremely long post. I must apologize - I just realized that despite discussing two separate (connected, but separate) ideas, I put up a single poll. That was dumb. I really wanted to know if my widget idea was worth me trying it, or anyone else trying it. Thank you, those of you that were kind enough to post your ideas on both issues.]
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BagOfHammers



Joined: 03 Jul 2005
Posts: 167
Location: under the lucky hippo tree

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 - 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I write too much, saying too little. Forgive me.
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sean



Joined: 22 Apr 2005
Posts: 67
Location: Duluth, MN

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 - 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I came into this thread kind of late (just now, in fact), and I didn't start at the top initially. For whatever reason, when I read "dashboard" I was thinking "desktop," which made me start thinking that a desktop widget (redundant, of course...) could be kinda cool. I was imagining the top of a desk, with the front corners lined up with the bottom of my screen, and the back corners up and in, converging toward a single vanishing point to show depth. I could put a desk clock and calendar, and counters and whatnot in real-item-resembling form. I could drag a few files I need to access regularly in from the finder, which would be displayed as sort of real looking pieces of paper lying on the desk, or photos, or whatever, depending on the file type. Hovering over them would highlight them and tell me what they are and a click or two would open them. It could maybe used as a widget launcher too, e.g. a dictionary (book) sitting on the desk, that when clicked pops open the Dictionary widget.

Ok, I'm going to stop rambling on about this. Anything along these lines (dashboard or desktop) would probably be gimmicky, and maybe not worth spending the hours on. Before long though, when every conceivable function has been satisfied by one or more widgets, all we'll be able to do is come up with more creative (and beautiful) ways to show the information, and perform the same functions. Keep thinking outside the box BagOfHammers. I'd suggest getting your feet wet with a simpler coding project before trying to tackle something like this, but I honestly don't think it's a bad idea. I should probably mention, however, that I don't use a single counting, metering, or other passive information displaying widget, so I personally wouldn't have much of a use for what you're describing.

Just out of curiosity, what's the "light-turquoise stick" that you would like to see as dark red?
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BagOfHammers



Joined: 03 Jul 2005
Posts: 167
Location: under the lucky hippo tree

Posted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 - 3:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The turquoise stick is the Wikipedia widget.

I started looking at the Apple developer notes or whatever for widgets. Pretty daunting to me, making even the Hello World widget, which of course is entirely useless! <(sigh<)

A real desktop would be neat too. It kind of reminds me of (though I understand it would be totally different,) a program called 3dna that I used to use on my Windows machine. (3d desktop environment, like a small house you can walk around in. Of course, it ate too much memory when active, but it did have a desk to launch stuff from, among other things.) Very gimmicky, not worth the trouble. But a non-3d, simple launcher like a desk would sure look nice.
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BagOfHammers



Joined: 03 Jul 2005
Posts: 167
Location: under the lucky hippo tree

Posted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 - 3:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lol. That's yours, ain't it? I'm not sure because I think it came with the computer....Right? Says by Sean Billig on the site, and you've taken credit in some other thread. Guess it's you.

Thank you. Great widget. I only don't like the color! Razz
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sean



Joined: 22 Apr 2005
Posts: 67
Location: Duluth, MN

Posted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 - 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep, that's mine, and thanks. I was wondering because I've added a couple other color options for an upcoming release. I'll add dark red to the list. The UI isn't going to change yet (unfortunately), just the color.

If Apple's bundling my widget with their computers, that's news to me Wink. It is bundled with the Amnesty widget browser, maybe you got it with that?
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BagOfHammers



Joined: 03 Jul 2005
Posts: 167
Location: under the lucky hippo tree

Posted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 - 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I just checked. Not bundled. But it's so good I thought it was lol.

Thanks for adding colors (especially dark red)! That's the direction I'd like to see all widgets go. More options, so long as they don't bug or get too complex and bog the thing down, are always good, probably. (Ugh how vague....)

Anyway, I'm looking forward to it!
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cerberus



Joined: 20 Jun 2005
Posts: 118

Posted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 - 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apple practically invented the "virtual desktop" metaphor with the Mac OS (well... Xerox...)

In the mid 90s, some of the original Mac were spun off by Apple as a separate company called "General Magic" which developed this concept for PDAs, Apple also had their Newton.

However with OSX, Apple dropped this metaphor and went with a browser style system...

The reason, I think the virtual desktop metaphor failed is because as soon as you connect to the internet, your desktop becomes impossibly large and deep... The metaphor : using an image of a desk with objects like dictionaries, appointment book, alarm clock etc.. is extremely appealing; but I have not seen a UI concept based on this metaphor that can represent the entire internet as well.

I disagree that all widgets should look the same... I also think "Aqua" menus, buttons, etc.. look out of place on custom UIs... The purpose of Aqua (that does not change the way the UI works, just a theme) is for marketing, so the screenshots of any software also promote the OS.... Why do you think Apple killed "themes" back when they were developing OS8 ? (Kaliedoscope proved there was consumer demand for this feature) Obviously we interact with physical devices in our lives that have different UI designs and it is not a problem.

cerberus

cerberus
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hackand



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 3

Posted: Fri Jul 15, 2005 - 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Here's my idea: what if all of these (say, clock, mail counter, battery, weather) were in one clean widget, shaped like a real dashboard?

Remember the Dashboard Programming Guide? Really useful document. Everyone should read it. It's here.

Move around it for a while, and look inside the "design conventions" for something called "Main Interface Design Guidelines". A really ugly (probably on purpose) demo widget Apple made to show you what you should not do welcomes you, "A cluttered widget is a jack of all trades, master of none", and then they represent the concept of multiple, independent, and much more detailed Widgets, each "focused on a single task". All of them are already in one same place, under your F12 key (or whatever you use, a hot corner for example), so why tie them together?
The desktop objects metaphor comes from way back in 1982, from early stages of development of the Lisa and the Macintosh, when people discussed this exactly same issue, they wanted to make stuff look as close as possible to reality so the user was familiar with them. This idea remains valid until today, and with the Dashboard it has been reborn, the best example out there is stickies in the shape of Widgets (that would have otherwise died, since no one really paid atention to an app that had to be launched before showing your reminders on colored windows that behaved just like other ones, in a very unhandy and inappropiate way for such an utility), that you just glance at them once in a while for useful and quick info Maybe some elements are not that intended to look like a real life instance to satisfy functionality, but the user still gets the metaphor and relates the widget with its intention right away. But then again we find ourselves with computer-exclusive concepts like web searching or email checking where the explicit inclusion of an icon of a magnifying glass or a single mail stamp would repesent the idea quite clearly and effectively.

I'm not sure if this comes close to the topic, but it's what I got after scrolling through this discussion. Sorry if it doesn't have anything to do with the topic, but I spent quite a while re-stating my points and probably lost my original idea. I'm also really sleepy right now.
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BagOfHammers



Joined: 03 Jul 2005
Posts: 167
Location: under the lucky hippo tree

Posted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 - 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right on topic, no problem. (Vague topic to begin with!)

A few things I'd like to point out about my widget idea:

- By "real" dashboard widget, I was trying to differentiate between a dashboard widget and a widget that looked like a dashboard. I personally was imagining a clean, simple, Mac-like dashboard myself, not like a photo of a real one. (Why? A dashboard in a mac should look like it serves the mac, not an automobile. Same deal with airplane dashboards or controls or whatever: different contexts, different gui.) A truly real-looking dashboard would, in my imagination, be a misfit. (As for visual metaphors, I had only considered visual theme, replacing speed gauge with mail, battery with battery, etc. Personally, I hate a lot of such metaphors, solely because they are often not the most efficient. And sometimes they're ugly. )

- I was imagining such a "dashboard" to serve the same core purpose as a car one...to give you the heads up or the "update" (typ. indicators) on the basic stuff, like power, time, etc. I've read that particular guide by Apple, and I consider the "dashboard" widget to go against it primarily in size (width of screen, designed to be placed at the bottom to look natural). Multiple functions with the same purpose...to give you the heads up. Besides, everything on it would either be indicators or possibly require a single click, if appropriate - that's different from fusing a bunch of sub-apps together. It would have less info (not less important or varied) than say, a single sub-app, like dictionaries, encyclopedias, or news widgets. Even less than the stocks widget, although that also acts as a "update"/indicator in the stocks domain. It would not be crowded, confusing, or hard to use...the whole point is to put "update" info where it belongs, from an accessibility perspective: in one place, organized, connected visually. Not just under the F12, which essentially means somewhere on your screen.

- Despite perhaps being bigger than even the separate widgets' areas totaled, a "dashboard" widget would actually separate the basic "update" stuff (indicators) from the rest, typ. requiring user input. It makes sense, I'd think, to have indicators, quick and easy, and then "usage" widgets, separate. In this case, indicators along the bottom, the sub-apps above. There is a clear distinction...appropriate placement would help the interface of the dashboard. Separating/grouping accordingly would make it easier on me, rather than have just everything separate.

- So, essentially, my idea was to put the "update" indicators in a single widget that would display them clearly, together, and to a theme ("dashboard"), to speed things up and have an interesting design for kicks.

***Of course, Apple already thought of all this (dealing with indicators). Anyone else notice how redundant the clock widget is? It is for me anyway, because I can glance up at the (menu?) bar to get the time, and even the day of the week. In fact, my battey's there too! (Plus volume, wireless, bt, language, etc.) All I personally wish I had was a mail counter, and maybe current weather with drop-down forecast. Others may want other indicators. But that's not part of Dashboard, so while I wish I had more options up there, that goes along Os tweaks, not widgets.... If I had what I wanted up in that menu bar, I wouldn't ever want a widget that showed the same stuff unless it had a creative design. Hence, the themed "dashboard" (although whether or not the design would make up for the redundancy is up to the designer).
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