Sidebar gadget brings WebSlices to the desktop

WebSlices on desktop

WebSlices, meet desktop. Desktop, meet the web. Sean Lyndersay, ironically a former Microsoft IE developer (now Live Search), has developed a rather ingenuous solution to display WebSlices on the desktop using a very simple Sidebar gadget he calls the “WebSlice Viewer Gadget“. It’s still in alpha so it’s all Microsoft’s fault if it breaks.

WebSlice Viewer Gadget OptionsIn a nutshell, because WebSlices are actually stored as feeds inside the native Windows RSS platform, desktop applications including Sidebar gadgets can very simply fetch and display the data without much hassle. In this case, it couldn’t be any simpler to pick the WebSlice you want to display in the gadget, and have it appear in a simple frame on the desktop.

I think many people underestimated the potential of WebSlices by implying it was redundant in IE8 because you could just as easily load the full page which is true inside a browser, I think this gadget outside of the browser is a much better example of demonstrating where “subscribing” to a portion of content on the web is extremely convenient and powerful.

Also as opposed to RSS where you’re subscribing to new content, WebSlices focuses on updates to existing content, for example an eBay auction which would never have worked in RSS.

I only wish the Internet Explorer team had integrated the gadget in the first place, much like what OSX 10.5 Leopard did with “Web Clips”. Credit where credit is due – Apple’s implementation is actually far superior because users themselves define the portion of the webpage they want to clip, not rely on the discretion of the web developer. That way they can subscribe to anything and everything. Someone outside of eBay and Facebook will implement WebSlices, right?

27 insightful thoughts

  1. nice info Long, i wish the gadget was implemented from the get-go as well, i really like the webslides feature, great for watching ebay items!!

    and i think as time goes on more people will start jumping on the “webslices bandwagon”


  2. WebClips could easily support finding the WebSlices areas, and use those at will. Thus 3/4 major (Safari, IE, Firefox, Opera) web browsers support WebClips to some extent.

    And Active Desktop is back baby!

  3. You know, I had feeling that if anyone was going to spontaneously find that blog post, it would be you. Your ability to find random, Windows-related information is unparalleled.

    Thanks for the link. 🙂

  4. I’m sorry but I’m either missing something here, o that I really used abused Active Desktop when it was first introduced; I use it for these same puroses when Active Desktop was the big thing in Windows 98. In any case, Active Desktop + Web 2.0 is not a shabby idea at the least. This is another case where Microsoft’s technology proves ahead of its time.

  5. Jeff (and others):
    Active Desktop was certainly ahead of its time. 🙂

    However, I should note that this feature is both better, and not as good, as Active Desktop.
    * It’s a gadget, which it’s not stuck on the desktop. You can bring it to the front of the easily (hit Win-Spacebar) without having to switch to the desktop.
    * The content is stored locally (in the RSS platform, for the technically inclined) so WebSlices can be viewed offline (gadgets that are just live images, like the MSN headlines don’t work well).
    * Like others have noted, WebSlices are not just about viewing some page, a key feature is the change-notification that you get in IE (the bolding of the button). I haven’t implemented notifiation (or the related feature — expiration) in the gadget yet, but it is still — even if only theoretically, for now — an interesting difference in design between ActiveDesktop (or Safari WebClips) and WebSlices.

    Not as good (as ActiveDesktop):
    * The WebSlice feature removes most of the potential interactivity from the HTML. ActiveDesktop pages were full web-pages, with all that that entailed (ajax, ActiveX, etc), whereas WebSlices (and hence, the WebSlice Viewer gadget) are mostly static HTML.

  6. what i’d really like is a short cut key to bring up the desktop gadgets on top of everything (ones that aren’t docked in the sidebar) and then send them to the back again, like F4 does on mac os with the dashboard. alt+tabing to the desktop hides the sidebar if it’s not set to always on top. Or better yet, for the sidebar to have a shortcut key to switch between docking on the side and showing all the gadgets docked to a full screen overlay with the gadgets laid out how i want them, like the dashboard. that way i can have them always visible in the small form and then hit the button to get the expanded information. Sidebar might actually have to be built into explorer then and not a separate .exe. From the windows 7 M1 screen shots it looks like it may be heading that way with the gadgets.

  7. it looks like sean just answered the short cut question in the post before mine. i’ll have to try that when i get home.

  8. Mike:
    The closest you can get on Vista is Win-Spacebar, which brings them to the top, followed by Alt-Esc, which will take you back to your app (or just click on your app).

  9. “I only wish the Internet Explorer team had integrated the gadget in the first place, much like what OSX 10.5 Leopard did with “Web Clips”.”

    IMHO, if Microsoft did that, they would be facing monopoly-related charges and penalties, whereas Apple can go away with it.

  10. Am I the only one who notices the iMac on eBay that Long has an eye on? Long, are you planning on switching? Cause if you are, you should tell me first so I can unsubscribe. (Just kidding!)

  11. This color scheme better be the April Fool’s. My eyes bleeding with pink blood!

  12. AAAAARGH!!!
    I was getting notices by email on new messages and when i saw posts about something pink, i didn’t understand. LONG! In the name of all that is holy change it! Change it.Change it.Change it.CHANGE IT!

    (i know its your site, but if i look at so much pink much longer, i’m afraid i’ll catch the gay.

  13. @Mike:
    you can also use Win+G to cycle through the gadgets individually, as opposed to using Win+Spacebar to bring them all to the foreground.

  14. Right now webslices is useless, ie8 does not support detection inside framsets and seem to have issues with running over https and through a forms login.

    I assume all these limitations will be removed once it hits rc or else it will be completely useless.

  15. you know the moment I read the headline, Web Clips came to my mind then I noticed you’d already mentioned it otherwise I’d have stated it in the comments : ) Web Clips, I’ve always felt, gets far less attention. MS should really deliver such a feature in a powertoy. Till then, we have some partial solutions like Amnesty Generator.

  16. OMG it’s ACTIVE DESKTOP!!!!!

    (did you know that Vista is the first version of Windows to ship without /that/ since windows 98? and now it’s back…)

  17. well, it looks like windows is back.
    haha. but i think thweir playing catch up to mac.
    but whatever, its deffs awesome.
    =] =]
    goooo vista

  18. The only way MS will ever catch up to Mac is when they start focusing on error free programming instead of kicking alpha-3’s to the public while calling it post-betas. The only reason I am even on a PC instead of Mac is because some programs (that I have yet to afford), was only available on a PC. These programs have a very limited audience to begin with, so wasn’t very likely to ever make it to Mac. The only other reason why I use PC is because so many developers, browsers, and related IT businesses refused blatantly to even support Macs. They were all ganging up trying to kill the Mac. In support of what? Was Bill Gates paying them big bucks down in Palm Beach to change their allegiance to Microshifty?

  19. @tpgames:
    MS isn’t trying to catch up to the Mac. if you’ve paid attention to anything lately, it’s quite the opposite.
    as with anything else in the industry, only those who remember would understand or even notice when it happens.

    when Apple announced WebClips, a lot of us ‘Softies couldn’t help but notice it was a lot like Active Desktop. when Apple announced Dashboard, i thought it was going to be just like the dashboard in MSN Explorer, but then Apple did something “revolutionary”; they made the dashboard tiles float on the desktop. media playback in Finder took me back to Windows 98 and when the Finder in Panther introduced the “genius” Sidebar, i had flashbacks to Windows 2000. as for the latest developments, why on this green earth after saying that transparency in the UI is useless and counter-productive, and abandoning it completely by the time Panther came out, would they then commit what has to be one of the greatest UI design crimes and make the sole menu bar of the entire interface transparent? launching applications from a quick search via spotlight? and on the subjuect of quick, QuickLook – if you pretend to not remember, Quick View was from Windows 95!!! (Quick View did actually make it’s debut in NT 3.51 shell test) heck, you could go as recently as the ill-regarded Windows Me, which had one touch launching of a very similar feature.

    one way of looking at it would be saying that Apple being Apple, takes a really old feature from where ever it can find one, put a lil polish on it, smack an Apple logo on the thing and they are genius. don’t let the aesthetics fool you. Apple copies just as much as everyone else does (yes including Linux). the difference being that they have the gall to stand on stage at a conference and claim it “new”, “revolutionary”, “unique”, and what ever buzz words come spilling out of the Grand High Triangle Lover’s mouth.

    the other way of looking at this would be to say that Apple finally comes around to what other developers (not just Microsoft) have realised and done already and figure that the old snatch and polish would make it great and they’d get to use all those buzzwords they love throwing around so much.

    i can’t wait to see what golden oldie they pull up next.

  20. You obviously didn’t get what I was talking about. I don’t care who had what idea “first”. Being first does not make you the best. Being the most error free makes you the best. MS is Too buggy to be better than Apple. I don’t care how much MS pays their employees to support Vista. Vista is pure junk. Its take up a huge portion of the PC, takes up too much Ram (1gb). It is nothing but a symbol of what MS really is – gOd. They think they are god. They worshop themselves. They never gave a hoots patoot about their customers and never will. All they want is everyone to worship them, and buy their products often and over and over again while creating thousands upon thousands of wasted CDs because the software doesn’t work with Vista. MS is about as environmentally friendly as the old ways of not filtering used water, and tossing garbage wherever it may lie. And yet, I use PC and XP. Will I ever upgrade to Vista? No! When I can no longer use my computer, it will become a linux build for only one reason – Free BSD, and other products are environmentally friendly, they do not produce garbage for the landfills. They do not require more printed money to buy. They do not require paperwork and other forms of waste to use and acquire. And, they remain compatible with other software developers without discrimination and bias as much as is possible given the restraints of human error, while human intelligence, is trying to not cause issues with other software programs. This is in constrast to MS stance of not caring what other software developers do, as long as MS can plow them over and destroy.
    This is my last comment here so that no one gets offended by me any further. 😀

  21. @tpgames:
    i didn’t think i came across as offended, but hey i was just responding to the multiple cries that Apple creates and MS imitates. i know that being first doesn’t make you the best. heck, most of the time (regardless of who does it) being first means being the worst!

    as for the whole MS god complex bit, meh. i’ve never noticed this from anyone at MS, but i actually do notice this from Linux fans. MS is like “we have this thing, that’s like everything else out there”, Linux is like “we have this thing that’s like everything else out there, but it’s unbreakable” and Apple is like “we invented this thing that everyone else out there has a version of. they stole it. immolate in the presence of our l33t skillz”.

    if you don’t want to use Windows, don’t. i don’t get why people complain saying stuff like “i can’t run this. vista is a pig. i’m switching to a Mac. Linux 4 evah!”. if you hate it so much, don’t use it.

  22. It’s embarrassing that people think MS needs to “catch up” with Mac, these Mac nerds can get away with statements like that because the general public has no idea what a Mac is.

    The truth is that Mac OS is extremely buggy, had numerous security flaws and has numerous issues with hardware and compatibility, but like I said, that’s not something the general public knows so they fall for the Mac nerds crap on forums. It’s the same with Linux, when you actually try to use it you see how crappy it really works.

    If you say that webslices is ripped from Mac I could just as well tell you the whole “web 2.0” is ripped from Microsoft, they were the first ones that put the xmlhttprequest intot he browser and voila most dynamic stuff we see to day is ripped and derived from that simple addition.

    Have you heard the expression nothing is new under the sun ? Everything is built on something, it’s silly and immature to say that something is ripped or copied or anything like that, do you know the store how the mac os came to be ? Hmm, xerox anyone ?

    Life is to short for religious wars, use whatever you want but don’t try and convince everyone else that your own buggy os is better than someone else’s buggy os, the truth is that software is still in it’s infancy, come back in 100 years.

    Cars have existed for more than a 100 years, they still fail in all sort of ways, why should software be any different ?

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