Saturday, June 30, 2007

Blogging from the Dashboard

Sometimes I wonder about widgets.  There seems to be one out there for everything, but do we actually need a widget for everything?  Maybe.

Widgets are best suited at performing small and simple tasks.  Most of the great widgets to one thing and they do it really well.  I have a language translator widget that translates what you type in one selected language into another selected language.  Brilliant.  Likewise, I've another that converts currencies.  There's a widget on my Dashboard that tells me the weather, another for the date, I've got a calculator widget, a dictionary widget and even a Goggle search bar widget.

Now, do I really need a Google search bar in my Dashboard?  Isn't there one of those built in to every web browser running these days?  Indeed, but perhaps you don't have your browser open and you want to run a search right now.  Dashboard springs forward, Google search bar at the ready.  Input your text and hit enter, the widget opens your browser and populates the search results.  Its not going to save you thousands on car insuarance, but it serves its purpose.

The latest addition to my Dashboard's family is Blogger, the widget.  Within a simple text field I can type up a blog, as I'm doing here, and either publish or save it as a draft.  No need to open my browser, point it to Bloger and navigate to my posting page.  It lacks any features beyong simple text input with an italics and bold option - there's no photo upload tool, for example, it doesn't insert links, and it doesn't spell check either.  For words I'm aware I don't know how to spell I've got my trusty dictionary widget, but no doubt there will be times when I'm either wrong about a spelling or simply making a typo, and a little squigly red line won't be there to bail me out.  Another drawback is it doesn't insert a scroll bar once you type your way to the bottom of the screen, the field simply grows further down the screen as you type and eventually just runs down to where you can't even see it.  Typing blind is one thing, but the buttons to publish or save are at the botton of the widget so once they're off screen there's not much more you can do.  Clicking the very fine line of a frame on either side of the text field will allow you to grab he widget and move it upwards so the top extends off the screen, but we are now officially into the "that's annoying" stage of widget usage.

As I stated earlier, the best widgets perform simple tasks.  In the case of the Blogger widget, I wouldn't turn to it for posting anything elaborate or media rich.  Its best suited to small topics, quick notes, that sort of thing.  This post, for example has already gone on far too long to have been considered convenient to write from the Dashboard, but being the inaugural (thank you dictionary widget) post from this widget I'll make an acception just this once.