December 14th, 2007
As you may or may not have seen by now, we’ve released the new Yahoo! Widgets/Konfabulator 4.5. This version was a major undertaking, and there are four particularly cool and important features in it for developers.
- Full W3C DOM
- Fine-grained Security
HTM… something or other
Yes, you can now embed HTML into your Widget, thanks to the magic of WebKit. If you wanted, you could pretty much write all of your Widget in HTML. You can also just grab some AJAX code off the web and with a few modifications get it running inside Konfabulator. Your HTML code has access to all the features of the Konfabulator engine if it’s all contained in your Widget bundle. If you are accessing remote sites or scripts, you are restricted to the typical web sandbox. Just add a attribute to your Widget and point it at an HTML file and you’re off! Not only can the HTML view see Konfabulator, but Konfabulator has access to the innards of the web view itself via the ‘base’ attribute of the web object.
After HTML, there’s Flash. Like HTML, you can deploy a Flash Widget in Konfabulator. If Flash is your favorite language, have at it. Unlike HTML though, Flash cannot access Konfabulator itself, but Flash does provide a number of its own useful functions to get things done. In theory you could write yourself a video-based-community-type Widget now
Both HTML and Flash run just as any other view inside your Widget. You can inter-mix them with other Konfabulator objects and control their opacity and rotation, as you’d expect.
Wait? What are you saying?
I’m sure many of you might be asking whether this means we are favoring HTML or Flash for writing Widgets. It does not. We are merely offering them as alternatives. Many developers want to deploy something in HTML to allow them to run a Widget on the Web. Now they can also get a desktop presence in Konfabulator without having to rewrite the code. The same thing applies to Flash. Would I recommend this way of writing Widgets for someone just starting to use HTML? Probably not. It’s way too heavy for most Widget needs - it will consume more resources for not a lot more bang on average. If you don’t require features specific to HTML, or you aren’t porting AJAX code, I still recommend you stick to the native language.
DOM, da-DOM DOM!
Another big change is the introduction of the full DOM. This means the entire structure of a Widget is now accessible via DOM APIs. You can even run an XPath expression across your Widget. Rob does this to find all elements with tooltips in one of his Widgets, for example. You can locate all your Windows simply by saying document.evaluate( “/widget/window” ). Simple. As you are developing, you can also look at your DOM by merely executing document.toXML() in the debug window to see if things are as you expect them to be.
The new release has an expanded Security Block. It’s enforced if your Widget has a minimum version of 4.5 or later. It lets you specify the things your Widget might want to have access to, such as the file system, http, etc. This information is shown to the user in the new security dialogs. The dialog can now be expanded to display the information in (hopefully) human-readable form.
If your Widget ventures beyond the contract of your security block, an alert is presented and your Widget is terminated with extreme prejudice.
Under The Hood
The DOM really caused us to change our entire infrastructure. This might cause some compatibility issues with some Widgets. For example, one of our own Widgets had a property of an object called tagName. This is unfortunately an official property of a DOMElement these days, and so there was a conflict and the Widget had to be fixed. So as you try your Widgets out on the new engine, be on the lookout for issues like that.
We also have a new JS engine in this release. It’s the first time we’ve upgraded SpiderMonkey since the original Konfabulator release, as far as I know. Like the DOM, this might also cause some subtle issues for your Widgets. One example we ran into with two Widgets in particular is that there’s a class called Block in the new JS, and these two Widgets tried to create their own variables called Block.
We ran about 1000 of the most popular and recently-added Widgets when we tested this version of the product. We fixed everything we found, and when we found something we couldn’t fix (like the issues mentioned above) we reached out to the developer of the Widget to tell them what needed to be changed so they could resubmit their Widget with the fix so that users could hopefully get uninterrupted service.
The good thing about this infrastructure change is that we now have an excellent, solid foundation on which to build. We can add features faster now than ever before. For example, our new Display object took me literally 20 minutes to add. Granted, it was a simple feature, but it would have taken hours previously. This is going to make a huge difference for us. It also means we can start to implement things we never could before.
With our infrastructure out of the way, the next releases are going to focus on features to allow developers to build some amazing Widgets faster and easier than you could in the past.
One other thing: there’s a rudimentary debugger accessible from the debug window now. It’s not 100%, but it’s a start. Eventually there’ll be a UI for it. /help should let you know what the commands are… it’s somewhat akin to gdb. I’ll likely post another entry explaining how to use it.
Until then, enjoy the new features!
November 16th, 2007
A lot’s happened in Widgetland since we first launched the widgets.yahoo.com site more than 2 years ago. Of course we’ve shipped a couple major versions of Yahoo! Widgets, and we’ve improved the site with additions like our Widget badges and the in-page installer. But in that same time, the catalog of Widgets in the Yahoo! Widget Gallery has more than doubled. And to be totally frank, our tools for finding Widgets haven’t quite kept up.
Today, we’re very proud to reveal the fruits of months of hard work and kick-off a new era for Yahoo! Widgets with the brand-spanking-new widgets.yahoo.com. Much of the work in this release went into rebuilding (almost) the entire site from the ground up on top of Yahoo!’s powerful search, community, and personalization platforms. What that means to you is this is just the beginning — we have laid a solid foundation on which we can more rapidly innovate and deliver new features to improve your Yahoo! Widgets experience. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of cool things for you to start enjoying today. Far from it, we think the new site is packed with quite a bit of awesome. So, here’s a little primer to get you started.
That covers some of the highlights for the initial release, and there’s more info on our What’s New page. There are also a couple of other notable changes:
That should be more than enough to get you started, so what are you waiting for? Hop over to the new widgets.yahoo.com and start checking out the new hotness. We really put a lot into this, and sincerely hope you’re as excited about it as we are. And as I mentioned, this is only the beginning — keep checking back for more improvements in the weeks and months to come. We’re also very eager to hear what you think (the good *and* the bad) to help us make the new site even better, so please do make use of the Suggestions link at the bottom of every page.
Thanks, and enjoy!
- the entire Yahoo! Widgets team
P.S. The launch required some DNS changes, so it may take a few days for everyone to see the new site. We apologize for any funky behavior between now and then.
July 26th, 2007
It’s been four months since Konfabulator 4.0 has been unleashed and it’s gotten high marks from users, developers and the ol’ blog-ball (”blogosphere”? Oh no, I’m not saying that). New Widgets have been released that take advantage of 4.0’s features and we’ve seen quite a few existing Widgets updated too. If you’ve got Widgets from 3.x or earlier that you haven’t cracked open in a while, now’s the time! At the very least, you want to be sure that you’ve got an icon for your Widget to stand out from the others in the dock.
The dock is a great way to display regular updates from your Widget, but even without going to those lengths, you can put a static 75×70 pixel image in your Widget’s metadata file to represent your Widget in the dock (and by doing so, avoid getting the generic icon). The path to your icon goes on the
image usage="dock" line in your
if you’re looking to have your Widget display periodic updates in the dock, a good way to start is to use the Widget Converter to crack open a few of the Widgets that ship with 4.0 and see the variety of ways in which they do it. Search the code for instances of
Another good reason to add dock presence: icon-less Widgets aren’t eligible to appear in the Gallery Spotlight!
Along with 4.0, the Widget Gallery saw some changes too (though just the tip of the iceberg for what’s planned). The major change was the addition of the in-page installer. No more downloading a Widget, finding the downloaded file, unzipping/mounting a disk image, moving the Widget to your Widget’s folder, disposing of the downloaded file and then finally running the Widget. With the in-page installer, it’s a single click from seeing a Widget in the Gallery site or the Gallery Widget to having it on your computer and running.
To work with the in-page installer, Widgets have to be submitted to the Gallery as a
.widget file. Zipped Widgets or Widgets saved on Mac disk images will no longer be accepted (an exception for Widgets that need to be zipped with supporting software, though those won’t work with the in-page installer).
If you have Widgets currently in the Gallery that were uploaded as
.dmg, you’ll make them available to the widest audience by resubmitting them as a .widget file (and could take that opportunity to add a dock icon in there too!) Like those not having an icon, Widgets that aren’t in a
.widget format can’t be selected for the Gallery Spotlight either.
Widgets also need to have a unique identifier. This is the
<identifier> line in your
widget.xml file. Widgets submitted to the Gallery with an identifier already in use — by any other Widget in the Gallery — will be rejected. Having an identifier will allow your users to be notified via the dock when updates to your Widgets are posted (on that not-too-distant-future day when the switch is thrown on that feature). If you don’t want your Widget to give automatic update notices, don’t include a
<identifier> line in your
An easy way to generate unique IDs is to use the UUID Vault Widget. An easy way to get a Widget rejected is to copy the
com.yahoo.widget... value from an existing Widget. Don’t make me come over there.
The Unix Utilities
For the same reasons that Widgets in Zip or disk image archives aren’t being accepted in the Gallery, Widgets that make use of the Unix utilities will also be rejected. The utilities are just too large of a stumbling block for end users to get your Widget.
Most of the functionality of the Unix utilities has been added to Konfabulator itself, and if there’s something you’re using that we’ve missed, please let us know. This isn’t to say you can’t make use of Unix functions on the Mac and DOS tools on Windows, but you’ll have to use platform-specific code blocks for those tasks in your Widget instead of relying on the presence of the Unix utilities on Windows (and Widgets that aren’t cross-platform make Geary cry).
Lastly, a couple new items have been added to the Workshop if you haven’t stopped by recently.
The Widget badge creator is a simple way to make a badge for your site or blog for people to download your Widgets (or other Widgets that you like). Soon, this badge will use the same in-page installer as the Gallery so that people can get your Widget directly without leaving your site!
The Widget class library contains an extensive set of interface elements and the code to drive them, ready to be included in your Widget. It can save you a lot of time by not having to reinvent the wheel to get standard window, checkbox, drop-down menu, etc behaviors.
May 23rd, 2007
While we’re flattered, we’re also a bit confused as to how we got placed in the same category as some great apps like Bloglines, Greasemonkey, and Firefox. How to cast your vote with a field of … let’s say… eclectic contenders? Perhaps by using the time-honored tradition of Picking The Candidate One Would Most Like To Have A Drink With.
- IE7’s out… he’s a teetotaller.
- Firefox? You know he’s more of a smoker than a drinker.
- Netvibes may be chill to hang with, but it’s a little too easy to harsh his mellow.
- Pageflakes is up for an evening out, if he shows.
- Yahoo! Pipes is using those pipes for more than just connecting data sources.
- Greasemonkey is fun, until later in the evening when “stuff” starts being thrown about.
Now, Yahoo! Widgets… there’s a technology that loves tossing back a good pint or two (or three), and maybe a bit of tequila now and again.
Oh, we kid! We kid because we love. All of these are great products, and we’re honored to share their company as finalists. Go check it out before June 11, and vote for us if you feel like it.
March 22nd, 2007
Yes! Yahoo Widgets 4 is now available for download. This version has a lot of cool new features for users as well as developers of Widgets.
For those that think we’ve been sitting around drinking tequila and not really focusing on Konfabulator/Yahoo Widgets, today’s the day we show you what we’ve really been up to for these past months. Well, we’ve been drinking some tequila too, but let’s stay focused, shall we? What?!
Note, by the way, that our new release is called simply Yahoo! Widgets. No more ‘Engine’. It was too much of a pain to say, quite frankly. Not to mention users don’t care about engines, they care about Widgets. Developers might care about the engine, which is why as of this release we are once again calling the core engine Konfabulator! Why not? Everyone still calls it that both inside and outside of Yahoo!, anyway.
And now, without any further ado, let’s get into all the awesomeness we’ve added in this release.