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.
May 14th, 2007
It’s about time for some tips and tricks, and today’s post is all about using the debug window more effectively.
In 4.0.3 and later, we’ve changed the debug window’s evaluate field to actually do what it says now: evaluate. Pretty clever (read: about time). So for example, where you used to type:
print( x )
You now type:
Think of all the saved keystrokes!
During 4.0, I ended up adding some commands into the debug window for my own nefarious purposes. I just didn’t put it into the /help command. They are:
/gc Forces garbage collection to happen immediately, prints the final memory number. Again, this is the memory used by the JS engine, not by the entire application.
/tracethrow [on|off] Allows you to see what the file and line number is as an exception happens.
One of the most useful functions you can use is _dumpViews. You use it as such:
_dumpViews( windowVariable )
You’ll end up with a nicely formatted list of views in the specified window. This is helpful if you don’t understand why things aren’t visible, etc. I use this all the time to help debug engine oddities.
A sample output might look like:
Window 010AEB30 d:0 View (010AEE18): (0 0 100 200) d:0 z:-1 v:1 o:255 Image (01091910): (0 0 140 140) d:0 z:1 v:1 o:255 image001 src: Sun.png Image (01091AB0): (0 0 140 140) d:0 z:2 v:1 o:255 clipped src: Sun.png
In the output, there’s many abbreviated terms. ‘d’ means dirty, and is used internally for drawing. ‘z’ is the z-order of the view. ‘v’ means visible and should be 0 or 1. ‘o’ is the current opacity from 0 to 255.
That’s all for this time around. Hopefully the above items will help you debug your Widgets more effectively.
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.
October 4th, 2006
The Widgets/Konfabulator team is upsizing!
If you’d like to help us out, or know someone who can, feel free to point them our way. We need help on our engine, as well as a Widget builder to help us build some cool, fun Widgets. Here’s some links to the two positions:
This is a great time to come on board and help out, as we’ve got some amazing plans for our future!