Widgets

What are Widgets?

Widgets can be any icon or graphical interface element manipulated by a user to execute a desired task on the Internet or on the computer. They are usually pieces of programming code embedded on an image file programmed to react to mouse clicks or keyboard commands.

The icons located on the desktop, including media player buttons, Web browser controls, and email function controls, are considered widgets. When a user clicks or manipulates the widgets with a mouse or a keyboard, the user is interacting with the computer or website, essentially telling the user’s desired action.

Types of Widgets

There are three types of widgets used to accomplish different functions:

Desktop Widgets

Description

Users can download these widgets and may keep them running continuously in the background.

Pros

These widgets provide a pervasive kind of experience for the widget producer, even when the user is offline.

Cons

They must be downloaded and can only be seen by the user who downloaded it.

Personal Web Widgets

Description

These widgets are used to create a personal website by embedding contents from one site into a page on another site.

Pros

The widgets may be viewed continuously by users who have set their personal home pages as their browser’s start page.

Cons

These widgets can only be viewed by the user.

Public Web Widgets

Description

These widgets are publicly posted in social network profiles, online communities, blogs, and other similar sites. They can stay on those pages indefinitely.

Pros

These widgets can be seen by many people, and the user can install it on multiple sites.

Cons

New contents must be provided daily or weekly by the publisher to keep the widgets fresh. They also must be highly interactive so their users can experience them in different ways.

Desktop Widget Choices

Apple Dashboard and Microsoft Windows Vista Sidebar

Pros

Existing codes for a Web page run easily within these environments. They allow the use of special objects in Javascript to reach the underlying system. These widgets provide ease of availability of HTML authoring tools and off-the-shelf usage of AJAX libraries.

Cons

These widgets can potentially take up a significant amount of system resources as each widget is a full-on Web page. These widgets are strongly tied to the operating system (OS).

Yahoo! Widgets

Pros

These widgets have the largest addressable audience. They feature powerful design, animation, and interaction facilities that are based on five years of developer feedback. These widgets have more application-like environments than Google gadgets or DHTML.

Cons

These widgets lack video support. Their familiarity with Yahoo’s XML language over DHTML is an advantage, though.

Google Desktop Gadgets

Pros

With these widgets, background in HTML is needed. However, they are not constrained by the HTML model. Both Javascript and Visual Basic are permissible for these widgets. Their own Gadget Designer development tool is used to aid in designing a gadget. Also, these widgets are not very resource exhaustive.

Cons

These widgets are fairly limited in its abilities as compared to other engines, specifically in the presentation. Their interface is riddled with update flashes and jerky motions and they require the download of the entire Google Desktop package before it can run.

Basic Web Widgets Format

JavaScript

It has remained a popular choice for dynamically changing the content of a Web page and its interaction. It executes as part of the Web page and with access to the page’s current structure and mark-up. It can add additional elements to the page, such as additional scripts, styles, or embeddable objects.

Embedded plugin objects

Browser plugins are small desktop applications integrated with a Web browser environment to provide additional functionality. Widgets powered by plug-ins operate within a specific area of a page, defined by the embedded object or object elements.

Blog Plugins

Blog plug-ins are considered as an integrated part of each blog. They are executed on the server and are delivered as a single HTML file to a blog viewer’s browser.

Frame content

Widgets within frame content do not have direct access to the full content of the parent page or its user data. They connect the contents and preferences of a main page with the framed widget content.