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Widget Wars!


Frogboy

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First there was DesktopX.

Then there was Samurize.

Then there was AveDesk

Then there was Kapsules.

And soon Konfabulator for Windows will be out.

Each one has their pros and cons to them. I'm trying to work out the pros and cons of each so that we can learn from all of them.

I've been a huge widget fan since before they were called widgets. Back in 1999 when we started working on DesktopX, what I wanted to see was a way for users to be able to create their own live mini-applets on their desktops. We call these objects (And still do).

This may sound bizarre but we don't view Samurize, AveDesk, or Kapsules as competitors (in the financial sense we don't, obviously in the pure development point of view we do). But we do view Konfabulator as a competitor. But that sounds absurd doesn't it? But Stardock actually is the host for Samurize. Samurize.com runs on a Stardock machine with our bandwidth at no charge. We would do the same for AveDesk too btw.

But why? Because we are convinced that widgets are the next big thing. I think many of you agree. And a rising tide lifts all boats. The more people who get into this, the better off all of us will be.

So what are the pros and cons of each of these? I'm ignorant to various degrees on some of these so if I make an error, it is not out of an intention to spread FUD but only because I'm dumb. ;)

AveDesk:

Pros:

+ It's free

+ Low overhead

+ Widgets are skinnable

+ Widgets are configurable

Cons:

- Core widgets are DLLs that require "real programming" which will limit the overall # of unique ones. On the other hand, how many "unique" widgets are there really?

- Scripting doesn't seem to be native, requires SysStats.

- Bit of a pain to get widgets downloaded/installed

- No real library yet.

- Seems to be reliant on "what is Konfabulator doing?" type thinking

Samurize:

Pros:

+ It's free

+ Has a visual development environment for the creation of derivative widgets

+ Makes it easy for non-techies to make derivative widgets

+ Widgets are configurable

+ Has a library

Cons:

- Loading up VB Script files is not most people's idea of intuitive

- "Widgets" don't seem to be that compact, that is, it's .vbs files and images thrown together.

Kapsules:

Pros:

+ It's free

+ Everything is modularized in a .widget file

+ Widget configurations handled very cleverly

+ Has library

Cons:

- Less third party support

- Written in VB (I believe)

Konfabulator (for Windows)

Pros:

+ Very well known

+ Will be able to use some of the Konfabulator for Mac widgets

+ Widgets are very high quality

+ Widgets are modularized in an XML file whcih handles everything except the images.

+ Great library of high quality content.

Cons:

- It's not free

- Most Konfabulator widgets are in .sit or .dmg files which PC users won't be able or willing to make work.

- It's such a direct competitor to Avedesk and Kapsules that it'll have a tough time getting people to pay for it.

- Memory overhead not known yet but as the developers of the others can tell you, getting this stuff to not be a pig is not trivial -- you can't just go "Neat, layered windows, let's have each widget be a layered window!".

DesktopX (I'm most familiar with this so it'll have more +'s and -'s)

Pros:

+ Very widely used (>11,000 downloads last week alone)

+ Widget making is GUI driven (you don't have to edit file directly you do it from the GUI).

+ Its widgets are literally .EXEs, no messing around with installing them to the right directory. And its objects (the equivalent to AveDesk widgets) are .dxpacks which when clicked on automatically load up.

+ Very low overhead (load up AveDesk and load up the iTunes widget, then load the iTunes DX widget and compare the difference).

+ High speed animation support - fluid alpha blended animation supported that uses essentially no CPU -- i.e. DX uses video card hardware acceleration.

+ Mature object model

+ Can also be used to build entire desktops which can be exported.

+ Pro version available that allows widgets to be exported as stand alone programs (so developers can graduate to making a living selling custom software).

+ Support both scripting and plugins (i.e. like AveDesk + SysStats combined) natively.

+ Huge library of objects, widgets, and themes that even novice users can use (i.e. no downloading and figuring out where to copy it, no tracking down sys stats, etc.).

+ Much easier to create objects and widgets for (but this is a negative too)

+ Free version allows unlimited use of using widgets and creating objects and themes.

+ Includes hot keys to bring all widgets/objects to top or hide them all together.

+ NATIVELY SUPPORTS ACTIVEX CONTROLS Which means every COM object on your system is effectively the same as an Avedesk plugin (no one had to "program" an iTunes plugin for DesktopX for instance).

Cons:

- It's not free

- 3/4ths of the objects for it suck (because they're so easy to create) so users have to sift through a lot of junk.

- Power developers still have to use the GUI: .dxpack files include an INI file + XML for the scripting + images but they're not well documented so you wouldn't want to make them that way).

- Piont and click interface for object creation not necessarily suitable to all developers.

- Widgets are not very configurable by default.

- Widgets vs. Objects differences may confuse novice users

- Until DesktopX 2, DesktopX was more of an experimental "neat gadget" than ready for prime time so users who tried it long ago may have had a bad experience with it that they remember.

- Because it takes such a different development approach than the others (GUI based object manipulation vs. editing a .widget file on the hard drive) it may seem "strange" to users.

So there you have it. Others please feel free to add on to this so that we have a more rounded view of each of these.

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A fair description. The only thing I notice is the AveDesk/iTunes vs the DX/iTunes. The Ave uses less memory, for me, but I prefer the extra functions of the DX widget. So a reasonable trade off.

Everyones systems will be different for some reason when it comes to resource comparisons, even if specs are very similar.

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Indeed.

Much has changed though in those areas.

Check out: http://www.stardock.com/products/desktopx/resources.asp

We felt the same way as you.

1) Documentation was poor and incomplete.

2) Object model in scripting was too hit and miss.

Now, you can pretty much do everything in scripting that you can do via the GUI other than states which are still set up in the GUI but I think there are advantages to that (as well as disadavantages).

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Like all the others the RAM used depends on the object. And like all the others, they use very little memory.

I have an iTunes widget screenshot:

lowoverhead.jpg

The point here isn't to say that DesktopX has less overhead than AveDesk. Just that they are roughly equivalent. In fact, all of them are very good at resource usage.

That's the whole point of widgets mind you, to have mini-applications that use fewer resources (memory / CPU) than a stand alone app.

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Here's my opinion. Note that this is a biased opinion, since I'm the creator of avedesk.

I wouldn't compare widget applications for one big group of users, but would think of three groups of users:

  • - Normal Users this group of people just want to have the cool stuff.
  • Power Users this group wants the cool stuff, but they want to be able to tweak it when necessary (with or without the needed knowledge) and are also concerned about the CPU usage/Ram usage (and if they are geeks ;) handle usage).
  • Creators/Developers This group is actually only concerned how they can create the cool stuff. One might want to break this group into two: graphics artists and coders.

I'm not gonna repeat the things Frogboy already said.

For every group, an application has it cons and pro.

DesktopX

DesktopX has a long history of widgets and its main advantage for the user is that it is a commercial product. Yeah, that's right, you pay and you'll get support and widgets. DesktopX is like what you would expect from an commercial application.

The normal user would like DesktopX very: theme support, double click on a theme and voila, you are using it. Lot's of widgets, but like a million clock

variatons...

The power user - which I consider myself - can edit the widgets in the editor, but, for me at least, running a theme with only a couple of meters DX 2.1 Free, - not talking about 2.2! - ate 70% of my CPU (and 30megs of ram, but I really dont care about that, RAM is there to be used after all). Anyhow, a regular DX users told me 2.2 would dramatically improve this.

I can't comment on the developers thingies, since I did not try them yet.

Samurize

Actually an application for monitoring system stuff, but used as a widget app for a long time now.

The normal user might easily get confused by the way samurize works, but once they get their favourite config running, it's nice application. A big problem is that

with every update configs seems to get broken somehow.

The power users are really at home here, everything is tweakable, not a cpu/mem slurper.

The Creators/Developers: there is a visual editor which allows graphics artists to make configs pretty easy.

Kapsules

Very nice application, I really do like it a lot. The scripting is very nice, you can actually draw things using GDI+ power in the scripts.

The normal user gets one-file-install widgets, that do look pretty. The properties are very cleverly implemented towards the end-user.

The power user would get a high level of tweakability, but the required .NET binaries might be an issue. Also the fact that .NET takes 50MB of VM here isn't really nice and takes 30 seconds to load isnt very nice, but that's more of a framework issue.

The graphical artist might be lost on kapsules, he need to edit scripts mainly. The developer would be content.

AveDesk

My own app, that's why it rules them all ;) More serious, AveDesk is nicer towards end-user than to developers for now.

The normal user would get powerfull widgets with options that are easily editable thru the familiar windows propertysheet dialogues. All widgets does have some nice features as colorization, dropshadow, labels etc... Installing widgets can be a pain.

The power user would get an application that can be accesed thru scripts and doesn't consume a lot of memory nor cpu power.

The graphical artist would get an application that does have widgets that are skinnable most of the time. Best example: AveTunes and SysStats.

The developer would be a Delphi/C++ lovah which is highly familiar with Windows code. This makes widget developing for AveDesk only possible for a select few.

On the other hand, effect files are scriptable, but since virtually no documentation exist yet, it sucks currently.

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- Core widgets are DLLs that require "real programming" which will limit the overall # of unique ones. On the other hand, how many "unique" widgets are there really?

This is actually one thing that I like about my own app. Widgets can be programmed in a lower level language, and are able to more powerfull things without installing extra COM objects. Ofcourse, a more higher level of making widgets should be available too, that's what I am aiming for for next versions.

- Scripting doesn't seem to be native, requires SysStats.

AveDesk exposes an object model, making mods as AveFocus possible. Widgets itself cannot be scripted indeed.

- Bit of a pain to get widgets downloaded/installed

true, very true.

- Seems to be reliant on "what is Konfabulator doing?" type thinking

Not really true. The reason why there are a bunch of Konfabulator/DashBoard/Mac like widgets is that I use to hang around at the aqua-softs boards, where people request such things.

MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR :hippi: ;)

PS. Why do people care so much about memory usage: You do have enough - if you are not on a <128MB machine - and otherwise memory will be swapped to VM >.<

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I just downloaded DX2.

Its alot nicer than it used to be, good job. But it still looks like (by default) a sort of tacky GUI. None of the elements that I saw looked nice enough to have on my desktop frankly. I also found it very hard to use, as you stated in your post.

I think its still going to be avedesk 1.2 for me aswell, but desktopx has come along way.

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well, by throwing in my 2 cents, i guess one important fact for users, which proup ever, is the "feeling" either. ya, i hear u, wtf about "feeling"? well, i´m talking about that the yzdock-objectdock-case. both tools have their pro & cons, but after all it´s the feeling which decide.

i guess it´s something similar with the widgets-stuff. important is not only the result but things like configure the tool, stability, usage.

one thing for sure: big advantage to have as much different tools to choose from as possible. development is future.

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Good article. The only thing which Im both amazed and baffled by is Frogboy's

"- Written in VB (I believe)"

A .NET assembly is a .NET assembly. Whether it be C#, Managed C++, or VB.NET. I've gone over this so many times im surprised I dont repeat it upon answering the phone. So thats pretty much a low blow, and I have no idea how using the .NET framework would be a con. Maybe to the short sighted or narrow minded, but I completely disagree with that assesment and Im fairly sure anyone who has a great deal of practical experience with .NET would concur.

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I suppose I should say a few words :D

I have to be honest; I haven't even tried most of the applications that are being discussed here; I barely have enough spare time to make Samurize configs for myself heh. Though I did fire up AveDesk 1.0 and was impressed with its potential (I say "potential" because I think a lot of things I didn't like about it were fixed in 1.1)

I can of course comment on what others have samid about Samurize:

Originally posted by Frogboy+Aug 19 2004, 06:31 AM-->
QUOTE(Frogboy @ Aug 19 2004, 06:31 AM)
- Loading up VB Script files is not most people's idea of intuitive

Not quite sure what you mean here, you can create a great config without using any scripts at all. They're just an extensibility measure.

Originally posted by [email protected] 19 2004, 06:31 AM

- "Widgets" don't seem to be that compact, that is, it's .vbs files and images thrown together.

This is true, and is probably the most annoying thing about Samurize at the moment; sharing configs with other people is a bit of a pain.

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Sorry Andrew, my bad. There is a stigma to VB. But it's NOT a fair stigma.

This is a great discussion btw.

Alilim, wait until DesktopX 2.2 comes out on Monday. That's the version you want to try out.

One thing that I think needs to be emphasized: Unlike other products, widget programs don't compete in the same way. I don't worry whether my program was made with Delphi or Visual Studio. Similarly, users shouldn't worry about whether their widget is with AveDesk or Kapsules.

Each developer is, in the big scheme of things, on the same side. It is our job to make widgets more popular because in time, I am convinced that it'll be mainstream.

I used to say the same thing about GUI skinning back in 1999 and people thought that was absurd. But today there are people who make a living doing nothing but making skins.

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As a "User" I found AveDesk the easiest to get right in, use and configure. I use Samurize for more technical stuff such as system stats on my current and remote PCs. I just display that info as small text on the desktop. ;) I tend to think that apps like this that are free and have a solid base tend to do better because of community support. Ive watched samurize grow for a long time now and its got one of the best communities around. Thanx to all the developers of these apps they are all very good. I look forward to how this thread develops. :D

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just a little comment about samurize, what was said do not let everyone know that now samurize allows also the creation of real DLL (separated on a source class and a visual class, meaning you can as always mix and match ) written at the moment in C/C++ powerbasic and delphi.

but as I saw a lot, many users are in fact using multiple apps to achieve a result (maybe not in the case of desktop X which is more a full shell replacement than a desktop enhancement )

I also have to said that I was impressed by AveDesk CPU usage when hovering on animated desklets etc.. indeed a very good job on memory and CPU optimization (one of the reason I didnt used the 1.0 )

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Everyone that is looking to put info on their desk is gonna find one of these apps sooner or later, I found Samurize first and stuck with it obviously. My point being that if you find Avedesk first and enjoy it, you will be more inclined to stay with it, I am not here to say one is better than the other because I am very biased towards Samurize. Samurize provides so much in terms of customization that I personally think it is a puter hackers dream because it seems to be almost unlimited in terms of what you can create for your very own personalized desktop. Samurize seems to be making leaps and bounds, it has come a long way in such a short time, there are some very incredible coders over at our forum that produce some mind blowing plugins and they just keep coming and coming. Again, not here to say which is best but once you learn to "Samurize" you will never look back.

Thank you :)

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My issues<<

I have used everything from desktop X to deskblox on the pc, and all the widget stuff on the mac.

I have yet to find anything that I use on a continuous basis, once the novelty of the widgets wears off, i usually stop using the prog all together.

I am a graphic artist and need every oucne of performance from my machines, so i tend to not bog myself down with extra thing.

The solution??? I don't really know, I like the widgets, but they just don't serve enough of a purpose for me to keep using them day after day.

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I myself don't follow a stick with the first thing you use attitude myself I try out things and if I don't like them I don't use them. Sometimes I switch between apps or use different apps at different times and I come back to applications I don't use sometimes to see if the have been improved since the last time I used them. Most of the programs I use right now aren't the first things I used and stuck to them they are what I ended up with after years of experimenting, etc. I find that a healthy mixture of commercial and freeware apps is what works best for me and I always like to see if a new app could do something better. But that's for me to try it out and decide, not someone else for me. But that's my philosophy in general about software, etc.

Although I also, like Photos678 don't tend to run widgets on a continious basis. I do play around with them sometimes. But they are mostly for novelty effect for me.

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Since all the devleopers are here, if each of you writes your own article, even if it's biased on what you think the core strengths of your widget program is, and make it as nice as possible (screenshots of examples and such) I'll compile it and put it up on the various websites I have access on (Neowin, WinCustomize, JoeUser, etc.).

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As a designer (no matter how ****y I am I am a designer none the less.. -_- ) From my experience desktop x is more stable and has better visual effects. Now this is not suprising considering the fact that it is a Commericial program >.:(

Ave desk is great in the fact that it is at version 1.1 and is as stable as desktop x witch is at version 2.2 (by monday) and Ave desk most likely has far less developers.

Kapsules isnt even at version 0.9 and is very stable and has a great way of packaging it's widgets (.widgets with the .kap files and such)

I would most definitly use Desktop X if it had more "prettier" objects and was free. :rolleyes:

Avedesk seems the way to go for the mac emulation crowd (mostly because of it's seclected icon box thing and color lables...)

Samurize seems more flexible has a huge libary of items.

Desktopx IS the way to go if your a designer with 0 codding experience and is willing to shell out money for a desktop enhancment. And if you dont care about the "mac look"

there goes my opnion.....I support Ave and other developers of the free desktop enhancment programs.

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Originally posted by babypapichulo@Aug 19 2004, 04:52 AM

...

I would most definitly use Desktop X if it had more "prettier" objects and was free. :rolleyes: ...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

There is a free version that works VERY nicely, including those kickass arcade games :)

Check the DesktopX download page.

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Originally posted by NeM

Errr I don't know what you're talking about with configs being broken on every update?  The only time configs really "broke" was the transition from 0.6X to 0.8X (that was a long time ago).

Somehow, when I upgrade Sammy my favourite configs always get broken in some way and I need to either edit some lines in a script or redownload them. Maybe I'm too stupid to use Samurize :P

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DesktopX is memory eating,it takes up approx. 19M memory,and if I have loaded more than 5 objects.it wil takes up 20-30% of ur CPU.so I dont like it.it's to load all objects on windows' start up.and objects moves from its original place when objectbar loads skin.I prefer AveDesk1.1,it takes only abit more than 500K memory :P

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