Heads Up for both Mac and Windows?
November 3, 2009 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to make one universal desktop/dashboard for both Mac and Windows?

Is there a way to package and deliver desktop gadgets or widgets for Windows and OS X all in the same bundle, or some other combination that can provide for a single universal download?

I've already made a few for myself, but only for OSX, and that's the end of my experience with them. But now I'd like to wrap a few up, polish them a bit, and let clients use them to monitor things too, because I find that a meaningful amount of my time is spent just checking one of them and reporting back to a client question with the result. So I would like to give them a freebie timesaver that will allow them to monitor the info themselves via a desktop doodad.

If they were all OSX users I'd be done now, but these clients aren't all very tech savvy, and they use a mixture of Macs and PCs. I don't want a support nightmare, and I'd prefer not maintaining two different thingies.

The complexity of the gizmos I am interested in would be pretty low: just HTML/Javascript doodads that display info easily sucked from web servers that I can control. (That is, HTTP requests are made for info from mydomain.com, not from Yahoo's stock quotes or anything foreign, so the HTML or RSS or whatever that is served back will always be trusted, reliable and constant.)

The UI needed is nothing fancier than what one gets from Safari's existing "Web Clipping", in fact (just an up to date or 'live' view of some info), but it needs to work as Vista/Win7 desktop gadgets too, and Safari's clips don't do that in Windows.

I know that most such gadgety things are just HTML and JS, so there's no Windows or Mac native code there, so is there any way to avoid making and maintaining two different packages, here?

Also, are there third options that need addressing? Does Konfabulator/or Yahoo Widgets have much of a user base, or can that be ignored in favor of the built-in widgets in recent Windows?
posted by rokusan to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
This sounds exactly like what Adobe AIR is designed for. Also, they're sneakily bundling it with Reader updates, so you have a pretty good chance that the framework's already installed. Even if it isn't, you can bundle it with your application easily.
posted by odinsdream at 3:25 PM on November 3, 2009

Came in to suggest Adobe AIR but it looks like odin beat me to it!
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:06 PM on November 3, 2009

Hm. I'm not afraid of Flash-AS if necessary, but those AIR runtime apps don't work as dashboard/desktop widgets/gadgets, do they? They act as standalone apps, I think?

I'm looking for a way to deliver these as things that coexist with other dashboard widgets (Mac) or desktop gadgets (recent Wins) and maybe even Yahoo Widgets, if that's useful.
posted by rokusan at 6:23 PM on November 3, 2009

Have you considered Java? I believe both widgets and gadgets can run a Java app.
posted by whiskeyspider at 6:31 PM on November 3, 2009

Opera and Google has cross platform widget/gadget engines, can you use either of them?
posted by wongcorgi at 9:19 PM on November 3, 2009

Netvibes UWA(Universal Widget) is easy to make and universal as the name suggests

"UWA widgets are compatible with all major widget platforms (iGoogle, Windows Vista, Apple Dashboard, Live.com, iPhone, Opera, blogs, MySpace, etc.)."
posted by radsqd at 11:28 AM on November 4, 2009

Hm. Thanks, radsqd. Netvibes looks like the first suggestion that can publish/export/whatever portable widgets for the environments I care about (Vista and OSX dashboard).

I can't tell from their soft info whether widgets built with Netvibes are necessarily tied back to their service(s), though, or whether they can be "extracted" to complete standalone-ness for distribution without their involvement after the fact.

Do you know, offhand, or should I dive into their more technical docs to figure that out? For my application here, it shouldn't be necessary to run a browser or visit a netvibes url, and I'm uncomfortable if the ongoing operation of the widget will rely not only my own server staying up, but on NetVibes staying in business with the same API forever. I don't want an SaS solution, in other words, but something that can be completely self-supported.

(Also, I'm not at all interested in widgets on web pages or portals, which seems to be their business focus. I need one-key instant display of info, like Vista and OSX provide via their gadgets/widgets).

Still, this looks most promising so far.
posted by rokusan at 7:26 PM on November 4, 2009

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