Review: Yahoo! Widget Engine

yahoowidgetengine.jpgThe term ‘widget’ has traditionally been used to describe some kind of contraption or piece of technology that improves the overall functionality of a particular product. Mac OSX and Microsoft Vista users will be all too aware of how software widgets can bring more power to your desktop, as they now come as standard on these operating systems. For the benefit of the uninitiated, a widget is basically a small application that provides you with easy access to a particular function. These applications are docked on a ‘dashboard’, and you can add as many widgets as you like, giving you instant access to anything from a simple clock to a weather forecasting tool.

Yahoo! was one of the early pioneers of widgets, and this application is likely to intrigue anyone who hasn’t come across the technology before. The package sits on your desktop and allows you to download and install widgets from the Yahoo! site. There’s a healthy range of widgets available here (almost 4,000), each of which are installed automatically as soon as they’re downloaded. Although this helps to keep things simple, it’s frustrating that you cannot change the destination folderwhich folder the widgets are stored in here.

While it all runs from the same package, each widget is actually its own application. In previous releases of the Widget Engine, this had a tendency to tie up your system rescoursces when using multiple widgets. However, tThis issue has been better addressed in this version, and it seems much less memory-intensive than before. Having said this, it’s not a good idea to keep more than about 10 running at once, as you do start to notice it then.

In terms of the widgets themselves, it would obviously be impractical (and quite frankly, boring) for us to review all 4,000 here, but needless to say there are some very useful ones, along with some downright pointless ones. For instance, we can’t really see the benefit of having a dancing skeleton on your desktop , yet there are tools for checking stock quotes, accessing iTunes, organizing your Flickr images, checking your WiFi signal and getting the latest travel news, all directly from your desktop. Graphically, the widgets are very impressive and each of them floats over the screen without the constraints of traditional window borders, ensuring they don’t intrude on your other activities.

We like the fact that you don’t need to register a Yahoo! account in order to use widgets but Yahoo! still doesn’t allow Desktop Widgets to be included on My Yahoo! pages, overlooking something both Microsoft and Google already allow. Although the program doesn’t really add anything you won’t find in Vista’s built-in widgets system, it’s perfect for XP users who want a taste of what they can expect when they get around to upgrading to the new version of Windows.

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