A few points to note up front:
- I’m referring to standalone dedicated applications that are used in desktop OSes and not smartphones.
- Whether you call it a gadget or a widget, it’s the same thing.
- This is not OS-specific. Microsoft Windows has ‘em, Apple Mac OS X has ‘em and Linux (specifically KDE) has ‘em. For the Windows that doesn’t have ‘em (pre-Vista), there’s Yahoo! Widgets and Google Desktop.
- A desktop gadget is distinctively different from a web-based gadget in the respect a desktop gadget is actual software that runs locally on your computer – even if it polls its information from the Internet.
I am of the opinion that desktop gadgets are worthless mainly because for whatever they can do, the web itself can do better and more efficiently.
Two of the most popular desktop gadgets I see people using are the analog clock and simple weather reports – with emphasis on simple.
The analog clock gadget other than for aesthetic value is worthless because a) You’re using it on a fundamentally digital medium and b) You already have a clock in your taskbar/panel/menu bar.
The weather gadget is worthless because it cannot display everything you need to know that’s important (keyword there) in a single view. If for example I bookmark Tampa, Florida on Weather Underground, this tells me everything I need to know without even having to scroll past the first page. Temperature, humidity, heat index, wind direction and speed, five-day forecast and any weather advisories. In addition, leaving that web page loaded auto-refreshes itself every few minutes. I can’t get that all that information in a weather gadget without having to pile through menus or tabs. And yes, the fact I’d have to pile through menus and tabs is annoying because it shouldn’t be required.
Yes, I know, I’m seriously raking desktop gadgets over the coals here, but I honestly question whether they’re actually useful or not. Stylish and "cool", yes, but useful?
My question to you, the reader, is this:
What desktop gadgets do you use, if any, and why do you use them? Don’t worry, I won’t chastise anyone that does use them. I’m asking just to see if anyone finds any real value in having those little mini-apps on the desktop. When I see gadgets, I see Microsoft Bob, but you may see something different, and if so, feel free to explain why you think they’re useful because I can’t think of any good reason to have them.
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