Comparison of Widget Libraries for Flash Desktop Widgets

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Widgets are here!

Widget libraries for the desktop are beginning to be more prevalent with OSX, Vista and many widget toolkits such as Yahoo Widgets (previously Konfabulator). 

Here’s a great blog post(on yahoo so its slightly biased) but its pretty even handed on comparing the widget libraries from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Apple.

Desktop Widgets, Cross Platform please… 

However, if you are trying to create a desktop widget (flash or AJAX based) that is for the desktop that is cross platform (in terms of Windows and MAC) the list quickly filters to the following types of tools:

  • Yahoo! Widget Library or other widget library
  • A Flash Desktop App Creator such as MDM ZINC (Embedded Flash in an application, ZINC is the best in my opinion)
  • Adobe Apollo (RC Alpha, this has been in development and usable for developers for a couple of years but should launch by Q3/4 2007)
  • Microsoft WPF/E(Not out for a while, now called “Silverlight”)

Widgets that are too platform specific 

Essentially the Vista and MAC OSX widgets are cool, but unusable if we are only developing one codebase for all platforms. 

Google Desktop Widgets (http://desktop.google.com/plugins/) don’t work on a MAC, Windows Gadgets (http://microsoftgadgets.com/) do not work on a MAC and MAC OSX Widgets to not work on Windows Vista.  If we are only considering cross platform widget libraries these are all nixed.

So that leaves us with essentially three choices from before.

Pros and Cons

1) Yahoo! Widget Library
PROS:

  • Good user base already (Konfabulator has been around since 2002-2003)
  • Familiar name (for download support)
  • Easy to use
  • Fairly easy to develop/design (have to learn the XML/DHTML lib of Yahoo Widgets which can be limiting)

CONS:

  • NO VIDEO SUPPORT (videos would have to be linked to)

2) A Flash Desktop App Creator such as MDM ZINC
PROS:

  • Allows Flash to be wrapped with a flexible skinnable application.
  • Develop in Flash Actionscript and minimal integration calls
  • Supports playing Flash Video FLV

CONS:

  • Each user would need to download the application.
  • Would only work when downloading from a trusted site.

3) Adobe Apollo
PROS:

  • Allows cross platform support for one file type .air.
  • Develop in Flash Actionscript and minimal integration calls.
  • Excellent toolkits and development power.
  • Supports playing Flash Video FLV.

CONS:

  • Each user would need to download the Apollo runtime.
  • Not out fully yet.

4) Microsoft WPF/E
PROS:

  • Develop in .NET C# or other .NET languages
  • Excellent toolkits and development power.

CONS:

  • Each user would need to download the WPF/E runtime.
  • Not out fully yet.
  • Lack of support for FLV video which has become the Internet standard essentially.

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Conclusion…

If you had to build an application that would run on the user’s desktop and this application woudl need to support FLV video and be cross platform in terms of Windows and MAC, the choice is down to Adobe Apollo and A Flash Desktop App Creator such as MDM ZINC simply because WPF/E is too large a download currently for the runtime.  

Apollo is more of a risk in the interim due to the lack of the Apollo runtime not being propogated but a very large technology company is behind Apollo (Adobe) and in a short time it will be prevalent.  Using MDM ZINC the user will still have to download the program to run and does not provide the tools for the desktop as good as Apollo. 

My opinion, Apollo might be better for cross platform simple apps that can be widget like or bigger.  A smart development might be developing the widget in Flash and then putting it into BOTH Apollo and MDM ZINC to offer users both ways to download only supporting one codebase in the main core application/widget.

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3 Responses to “Comparison of Widget Libraries for Flash Desktop Widgets”

  1. fdumlao Says:

    I don’t think I really agree with this (even if it is almost a year old).

    Silverlight’s lack of FLV support is not a problem. FLV is not a “standard” it’s a wrapper and it only supports 2 proprietary codecs. Have you ever tried to play an FLV in any player other than a pre-build flash one?

    Silverlight supports VC-1 which is an actual published standard that anyone can write their own version of and have it be compatible. It also supports WMV – which is proprietary but Microsoft puts out the encoder for free so anyone can make WMV. The same cannot be easily done for FLV (except for ffmpeg and it’s wrappers).

    Ultimately none of this matters because if you provide the app you can specify the video format and you would likely provide a transcoding service for any video that was in the wrong format – so that is just NOT really a problem.

    Also – I’m not sure what the runtime size was like in April of 07, but it is definitely not an issue today.

  2. drawk Says:

    Hey fdmlao,

    Yeh this is a bit old this was before AIR was even released and Silverlight 2.0 details were sketchy. Although, even flash has changed since this time and the new version allos H.264 video, quicktime, mpeg etc not just FLV file formats. Where Silverlight will only play WMV and silverlight encoded video. Both do HD now at 720.

    As for widgets, AIR is much better than Silverlight because silverlight has no desktop capability just yet. Also zinc has pretty much been squashed as well as all the other SWF to EXE kits. They still have some use but with the jump to AS3 and AIR out there they will be playing catch up.

    We’ll see how it plays out but yes I definitely need to update the angle on this post.


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