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.
August 24th, 2006
You know that icon attribute in the Widget XML?
Start using it.
Already using it? Well make sure you’re actually using it to reference an image that represents an icon, not a miniature screenshot of your Widget or other unrelated thing that may or may not have anything to do with your Widget. Having an icon there will be very important in the next release or two.
Here’s another tip to get an edge up on something even before we do… in the Widget icon template, I have the word “widget” on the face on the icon. If you’re on a Mac, you’re lucky enough to see all the great icons I’ve done for all the Widgets that ship with the product… they all have the word “widget” on them. That’s going to go away. So if you’re making a Widget icon now… ditch the word layer.
The curious are wondering what the story is. Well let me tell you.
On the Mac, when I first did the Widget icon, it was a UI convention to add the name of the file type to the icon itself. As the years passed, this held true, but only in a situations where the application had multiple files types, but the same document appearance.
Sure we have two file types*, but the .kon file type looks like a document, while the .widget file type looks like something unique. Plus, get a folder (or some other organizational tool) full of these icons, and it become ridiculous to see the word “widget” over and over. (Note that I keep putting “widget” in quotes because it’s lower case on the Widget icon, and when I write the word Widget, I always capitalize it.)
So there you go. Make use of that XML tag, and make use of our Widget icon template. You’ll be glad you did.
* Actually there’s a third type we never exposed and probably doesn’t even work on Windows. It was for a proprietary encrypted image format we’d created because I was tired of people ripping off my weather images. This was a great idea, but then common sense hit me and I pointed out that all someone had to do was make a Widget that only displayed a single image then take a screenshot of it.