Konfabulator vs Dashboard

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Mac OS X ‘Tiger’ just came out and in it is a technology called Dashboard. Dashboard is a layer of the Finder that holds mini applications called Widgets. These Dashboard Widgets are simple single-purpose little applications. There is a Widget that for controlling iTunes, a neat little clock, a small calendar, a flight tracker, and on and on. The Apple-provided Widgets are gorgeous, delicious looking mini apps. They technology is very cool, and the best thing is that anyone can make one. Apple provides a wealth of information on how to make Widgets.

Apple’s Dashboard, when it was first announced, made a huge splash throughout Mac-Land for 2 specific reasons: 1) The technology and Apple’s spin on it is a very cool thing indeed, but more importantly 2) There already was an application that did nearly the EXACT SAME THING! It’s an application called Konfabulator, created by Arlo Rose and Perry Clarke. Konfabulator, a shareware application, has been out for about 2 years now and provides almost the same abilities as Apple’s Dashboard. Konfabulator is a JavaScript run-time engine for little mini-apps called Widgets. The Widgets are single-purpose little applications that, for instance, can control iTunes, there is a Widget that is a neat little clock, etc.. Catch a pattern? The two are almost exactly the same. Almost. I’m not going to go into the debate regarding why Apple decided to create Dashboard instead of just Buy Konfabulator, you can read more about that here if you want more information. I’m going to go into why BOTH are worth having.

First off, I need to say that I enjoy both Konfabulator and Dashboard. When I first saw Konfabulator I drooled. I was in the audience of a (then) San Francisco tv show called The ScreenSavers. After the show, one of the hosts, Leo Laporte came to the audience and asked if there were any mac users here. I was the only one, (it was a very PC heavy show), so he then showed me this nifty little app called Konfabulator. I was floored. How cool was it to be able to have little floating applications that could give you stock quotes, your weather, the phase of the moon, etc… ALL THE TIME? I instantly went home and bought the shareware app. My wife was so thrilled also that we bought 2 licenses. We each had Konfabulator on our machines and we loved it.

Konfabulator’s biggest strength and most ingenuous factor was that anyone could theoretically create a Widget. Konfabulator even provided documentation and templates on how to create Widgets. Each Widget that was created by the Konfabulator community was then shared on the Konfabulator website, and they were all free! That was the biggest hook. What you bought the application for initially was what kept you going back to get more Widgets.

Now to Dashboard. A lot of similarities exist. Apple has provided documentation on how you can make your own Widgets, and they have a website where you can get more Widgets, so the Dashboard layer of Finder will keep getting better. It’s really the best of both worlds. But I had to ask, which one is better?

Apple gets huge points for the look and feel of their Widgets. They look slick. You’d expect no less from Apple. And they are QUICK. I have my computer set to show the Dashboard when I flick my mouse to the upper left-hand corner of my screen. One flick and the Dashboard fades and zooms into place. Gorgeous. And very kewl. The Dashboard Widgets look cooler, and their enhancements are a bit cooler too. To change the preference of a widget all you need to do is click on the little italicized i in the corner of the Widget. When you do this the Widget flips in glorious OpenGL 3D to reveal its backside where you can change its preferences. Another point for Apple.

More points for Apple come from adding Widgets to your screen. When you drag a Widget from the Widget Dock to your screen you get this great little effect like when Neo touched his finger to the the broken mirror in The Matrix. Very liquid.

But Apple LOSES points to Konfabulator on one huge part. Konfabulator can have the Widgets right on top of the Desktop. Dashboard sends you into a layer of the Finder. This takes you out of your computing environment and into the Dashboard layer. To me this is a huge drawback to Dashboard and a huge reason to have Konfabulator around. I’ve gotten spoiled with Konfabulator and its ability to have the Widgets on the Desktop. I have this one Konfabulator Widget called Tail Chaser that is a very helpful Widget. All it does is displays a text file over my Desktop Picture. I have it set to show the contents of my system.log file. This file shows a lot of what’s going on in my system. This log keeps track of applications that are launched, of volumes that are mounted and unmounted, and it keeps track of any errors that are reported. This has become my favorite Widget. This really can’t be replicated in Dashboard.

Konfabulator gains points for the ability of some of it’s Widgets to work with Finder files. There are some Widgets that you can drag and drop files onto to invoke an action. There is an FTP Widget that, when files are dropped onto it, will upload those files to whatever ftp server you have specified. I don’t see Dashboard doing that.

There are many, many more details about each application than I can go into. To sum it up, Apple’s Dashboard is great because it’s fast, the initial Widgets are gorgeous, the Dashboard itself takes great advantage of the power of Mac OS X, but the fact that the Dashboard is on layer of the Finder is a huge disappointment.

Konfabulator is still quite useful. Konfabulator’s ability to have its Widget’s right on the Desktop is a huge plus. It’s ability to be able to work with files in the Finder is another huge plus. My main disappointment about Konfabulator is that the Widgets, most all of them made by the Konfabulator community, don’t have the polish of Apple’s Widgets.

If you have Dashboard and love it, and you’ve never tried Konfabulator, well, give it a try. I think they can both co-exist. Dashboard is not a Konfabulator killer.

Article from dizzyblog.com

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