It’s 2021, why do people still miss computer desktop widgets

The advancement of science and technology has brought a steady stream of new technologies, and while changing our lives, it has also taken away some of the fun.

This reader’s message can’t help but make me feel distressed. Every time a new product or new system is released, it will bring a lot of new technologies and new features, and at the same time, it will also cut a lot of features, just like this Windows 11 upgrade. The dynamic tile function was abandoned.

Some people are deprived of their fun in this way.

In many discussions, these cut-off functions and technologies are often considered to be eliminated due to backwardness. In fact, they are not entirely true. Many of them still have extremely high-level functions in terms of aesthetics and practicality. It's just out of season.

For example, those computer desktop widgets "cut off" by Microsoft and Apple.

The computer desktop widgets that used to be like a treasure chest

Desktop widgets, as far as Mac or Windows are concerned, initially appeared as productivity gadgets. The interaction logic of the mouse and keyboard is inherently complicated. Coupled with years of development, the system and software are becoming more and more complex, and the emergence of small quick-operating components is natural.

Let’s take a look at the desktop widgets on the Mac first. Apple introduced this feature in the macOS X 10.4 Tiger system. It still wakes up like normal programs until Apple set up a negative one screen for desktop widgets based on the multi-desktop function— —Dashboard.

If you are a veteran Mac user, you will be very familiar with this logic. You can directly control multiple widgets by sliding and switching the desktop with four fingers. Some of them are gadgets, and some are born for quick operations.

The Mac system provides a number of desktop widgets, such as calculators, notes, weather, iTunes, music and other common tools. You can directly control calculations or fill in notes on the Dashboard. This collection of interactive common gadgets is more important than searching or searching directly. It is more convenient, especially when there are more software.

▲ Developer Mario Guzman re-engraved the iTunes music widget, which can be used to control Apple music on macOS 11.

The calendar, weather, system operation dashboard, etc. gave birth to the demand scenario of brief information viewing, and you can see today's schedule and even the operation of the computer system with a scan.

At the same time, Apple also provides a webpage clipping function. Users can freely intercept a part of the webpage as a desktop widget. This is useful for users who need to view multiple data webpages such as Google Trends. After the clipping is completed, they can watch it in the Dashboard panel at the same time. Web results without the need to visit these sites.

▲Dashboard's web page clipping function. Picture from: telerik

And because the Mac desktop widgets are developed based on the HTML language of web pages, developers can quickly develop widgets in a relatively short period of time. At the WWDC 2007 conference, Jobs showed off Rotten Tomatoes box office, National Geographic magazine selection and other widgets.

Dashboard is like a whiteboard, allowing people to place and adjust the size of small parts, enhancing the sense of order and making it look more beautiful. Of course, the quasi-materialized design style of small parts has also been praised by many people.

Today, many people still miss Mac desktop widgets. In addition to the developer Mario Guzman just mentioned, someone else has developed a retro website for computer desktop widgets that can use some of the functions of the Dashboard on the web page.

▲ You can even play the “puzzle'' desktop widget for a long time.

These two applications have been sought after by many people on the well-known Apple blog Cult of Mac and Twitter, and people still talk about the convenience of Dashboard.

Microsoft is the same as Apple. At first, the official desktop widgets were similar, they were all weather, calculator, sticky notes, etc. However, due to the security risks of Windows widgets, Microsoft blocked it for a while and did not even recommend users to use it.

▲Windows desktop widget. Picture from: lifewire

Instead, third-party desktop widgets have developed. Because Windows is relatively late in creating virtual desktops, third-party desktop widgets such as 360 Desktop Assistant will combine shortcut tools with desktop organization.

▲ Full screen files are the desktop normal of many Windows users

Microsoft's official optimization of desktop widgets will have to wait until Windows 8, the emergence of the concept of dynamic tile design. The concept itself is very advanced. You can see the thumbnail reminder content of emails and other software without clicking on the software. , Even later, Microsoft tried to add the interactive design of tiles, so that quick operations can be done directly on the tiles without opening the software.

▲ The dynamic tile design also entered Windows Phone later

And these small components that once astounded a generation have now disappeared in the new system. Apple has completely removed the Dashboard function since the macOS Catalina system, and Microsoft has also completely abandoned desktop tiles in Windows 11 and switched to learning from the mobile terminal. The two choices coincided with each other.

Computer desktop widgets that learn from the mobile terminal, with information but less interaction

Regardless of whether it is Mac or Windows, the new system is learning the mobile terminal, and the desktop widgets are carried in the form of information flow. The benefits are obvious. The size of the widgets is framed by a fixed size specification, which is not obtrusive and at the same time. Can not waste computer display space.

At the same time, this is very friendly to the new generation of consumers. After all, they first touch the mobile phone and then the computer. They can quickly become familiar with this operation. For the older generation, there is indeed a familiar process.

But compared to the old version, today's computer widgets are more like unfinished products. Take the Mac widget as an example. To activate this function, you need to click the time button in the status bar. The interaction recognition is not obvious. Windows 11 still does it. A button.

And the number of widgets on the desktop is indeed relatively small. The preview version of Windows 11 has just been launched, most of which are based on the Edge browser. Of course, these may be improved in the official version.

▲Mac desktop widgets on the left, Windows 11 desktop widgets on the right

On the Mac side, desktop widgets have been integrated into the sidebar for a long time, but today the number is still small. What's more important is that widgets take on the role of displaying quick information, but they lack interaction. Most computers Desktop widgets, clicks are to start the software instead of direct operation.

Take a typical case. In the past, we could directly edit notes on desktop widgets to record work or to-do in real time, but now widgets can’t do it. Mac does not provide note widgets.

Instead, the memo displays brief information and cannot be edited or viewed in real time. After clicking on other widgets, the App or web page is opened, so the quick operation advantages brought by widgets are gone, especially like switching music modes and modifying notes.

▲ Whether it is a memo pre-installed in the system or a third-party note-taking software bear, desktop widgets cannot be edited directly. Clicking will open the software directly

This is also one of the reasons why people use computer desktop widgets less and less, and its experience cannot be called a "treasure box".

What is more imaginative is the widgets of iOS and Android, whether they can be integrated into the computer desktop widget function bar like the software notification information, so that the data and richness of the widgets have improved a lot.

Of course, I also hope that the software in the original desktop ecosystem can adapt to this component. After all, computers and mobile phones are still two different categories, such as quick control of fans, checking network speed, CPU occupancy, etc., or only computers will have it. .

▲ If you are using an Intel chip version of MacBook, I am afraid that there will be a need for fan adjustment software

Having said that, I have to talk about the current form of information flow of widgets. Some mobile phone manufacturers have added this feature. On the one hand, there are indeed some users who need to read information. It is more convenient to use in the negative one-screen widget bar. .

On the other hand, information flow, as a service provided by mobile phone manufacturers, is also conducive to grab users' attention, open up information flow advertising services, and obtain profits.

This is also the reason why some users complain about the information flow of widgets on Windows 11. It looks like an annoying "ad". As a productivity device, the computer pays more attention to efficiency rather than content and information consumption. If you have to say that a device suitable for this function, there may only be a tablet two-in-one product like Surface Pro.

I miss it because I look forward to better

The merger of mobile and desktop has become a new technology trend. Windows 11 introduced Android and macOS and introduced iOS/iPadOS applications to enhance its application richness. After all, the ecological prosperity of mobile has already surpassed that of desktop.

Getting through the software side not only directly enhances the competitiveness of computer products, but also creates more possibilities for computer use. Using full-featured WeChat and Douyin on the computer is the best case.

From this point of view, it is not surprising that Apple and Microsoft have chosen to learn the mobile terminal by coincidence, changing the desktop widgets to the sidebar or the form of information flow. After all, the number and usability of the mobile terminal widgets are much higher.

But as mentioned above, the current computer desktop widgets are more like semi-finished products, and there is still a long way to go before desktop software and mobile software coexist harmoniously on the same computer.

And the reason why some people miss old computer desktop widgets like Dashboard, in addition to missing the pseudo-material design, is because the existing version experience is not as high as the old version.

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