Tag Archives: Sidebar

More Widgets, This Time from Google

This whole widget thing seems to be taking off. Opera has released a preview version with widgets built in, and now Google have offered something. The new beta of the Google Desktop includes what aren’t being called widgets but should be, as described by Mihai Ionescu, one of the engineers behind the Desktop : 

As a Sidebar user, you can now customize and view personalized information anywhere on the the desktop by clicking and dragging your favorite panels wherever you like. Furthermore, you can now easily share information from your Sidebar panels with your contacts by sending it to them through email, chat or directly to their Sidebar. As an added bonus you and your contacts can also play online games through the Sidebar.

I haven’t checked this out yet, but I will.

Blindsided by Google’s Sidebar

I’ve had the Google Sidebar aboard for nearly a month now and, sadly, I’m not impressed. I had hoped early teething problems would somehow fix themselves, but they haven’t. These are the problems I’ve encountered (some of which may be down to my own ineptitude, or conflicts I grant you):

  • unable to access Gmail account in Email Plug-in (password not recognised). Others report a similar problem;
  • unable to access AdSense account in third party Adsense Status plug-in;
  • Unable to ‘train’ News Plug-in so it gives me news I can use. I’ve been telling it what I don’t like by clicking on the ‘Don’t show me items like this’ for weeks now and it still gives me news even my broad interests don’t embrace;
  • The otherwise neat Todo Plug-in occasionally won’t allow me to add items — the box appears but won’t accept text.

I know we shouldn’t look gift horses in the mouth but this is one of the biggest (in terms of features and file size) pieces of software Google has shipped to consumers and it doesn’t bode well that it works so poorly. I think that, for what it was, the Desktop Sidebar was better. I also heard that Serence is planning a sidebar version of Klips that doesn’t take up as much space as the Google version. Watch this space.

Undermining the Browser

If it was from any other company it wouldn’t really matter, but Google’s Desktop Sidebar is important, not because it’s particularly new, but because it undermines the primacy of the browser.

Loose Wire ‘s WSJ.com column in June looked at desktop widgets like Konfabulator and Klips before, as well as existing sidebars like the Desktop Sidebar, put together in his spare time by software engineer Damian Kedzierski, 34, who lives in Katowice in southern Poland. Or the SpyderBar from New Orleans-based TGT Soft. In the longer term, Microsoft has indicated that it plans to incorporate a very similar approach in its next version of Windows. Yahoo!, of course, have already bought Konfabulator and I would be very surprised if someone doesn’t snap up Serence, the folk behind Klips, pretty soon.

That’s probably where the battle is going to be: the space on top of the browser. Google can find a way past Microsoft only if it’s able to supplant, or bypass, the browser as the main tool for not merely looking for information (like the search toolbar) but also how the information is displayed once it’s retrieved. That’s where the Sidebar comes in.

While I don’t think Google have done a particularly good job with the Sidebar. The weather widget, for example, only shows U.S. cities. There’s nothing new in there to surprise anyone who has used Damian’s Desktop Sidebar. But the power is not there, it’s in the fact that it channels all existing Google products — search, Gmail, presumably Google Earth etc later — straight to your desktop without going anywhere else first. The heat, finally, is on.

How To Cut A Long URL Short

(This post was originally made a few months ago at the loose wire blog. As part of efforts to streamline Loose Wire’s online activities, the material at loose wire cache is being moved to the blog. A list of the resources can be under either the Resources list in the sidebar or the Resources category, also in the sidebar.)

A way to turn long URLs into short ones, so you can paste links into emails without them wrapping (and therefore becoming unusable) etc etc. In most cases you just visit the site, enter the URL you want to abbreviate, and hey presto! you get a new short URL that should last forever. (A lot of them can be added to your browser toolbar via Javascript which makes the whole thing even easier.)

 

This is not yet exhaustive; much of this list is from notlong.com, which compares their features.