There is one area in which the Internet has had an effect perhaps more pronounced than all its other ramifications: software names. From Skype, to Ubuntu, to Greasemonkey, the young developers who currently stand astride computing technology’s leading edge seem to favor the off-the-wall, the punnish, and the pleasingly ethnic. Just which of those categories Konfabulator falls into, I couldn’t say if my life depended on it. That hasn’t kept me from having a lot of fun with it, though.
Konfabulator started on the Mac, and is hugely popular on that platform. The Mac has always been notable for the slickness of its interface, and the widgets that are available for Konfabulator flaunt that ancestry with striking design, soft colors, transparency, and reflective effects. In other words: they’re pretty. They are also useful. I have one that runs Winamp, another that displays an elegant analog clock, and a third that monitors CPU and memory load. None of them are essential, but they are cool.
No good idea remains unmolested, of course, and Konfabulator now has plenty of competition. Skinning the Frog at Joeuser.com has a nice article comparing some of the different platforms. In addition to Konfabulator and Samurize, probably the two most popular, there is DesktopX, and Object Dock, and now Microsoft and Apple are both adding widgets, or gadgets, or whatever the marketing types decide to call them, to their own shells. Recently, Yahoo purchased Konfabulator, and it may be that, as with browsers, the independent guys will be out of this market in a few years. That would be a shame, but the creators of Konfabulator will always be a part of the history of the applet paradigm.
Konfabulator is very easy to use. You can download the latest version, 2.1.1, here. Once it is installed you will find a folder of widgets that come packaged with the apps. Just open the folder and double-click on a .widget file, and you’re in business. Once you fool around a bit you can visit the Konfabulator Widget Gallery and grab a few more. Most are small, and download in seconds. Once you have a few running on your desktop, hit the F8 key, and experience one of the application’s neatest features: Konspose mode. In Konspose mode all the normal Windows XP desktop elements receed behind a grey fog, and all the widgets pop up to the front. Very slick.