I recently did a post on Dashboard Widgets for techies and am working on another about Dashboard Widgets for developers. There was one important widget missing from my list of widgets for techies, one for converting Unix Time Stamps to human readable dates and vica-versa. The reason it was missing was because I couldn’t find one anywhere on the Apple site! I find this strange because I regularly need to deal with Unix Time Stamps in things like logfiles and raw data in Databases, hence I’d have expected others to need this too and hence for there to be a widget for it. Well, I decided to remedy this omission by writing my own Widget which I’ve now submitted to Apple for addition to their Widget Downloads Page. I’ve decided to release it as GPL so you can get it on the downloads page of my home page.

So, how easy was it to develop my first widget? Trivial! I went from deciding to write the widget to a fully working first implementation in about 2 hours including all reading and experimenting that I had to do to get started. IMO that’s not bad at all, in fact I can’t think of any other platform I’ve ever used where I was able to do something useful as quickly.

So, what’s involved in writing a Dashbaord Widget? TBH very little. If you are up to speed with client-side web technologies then you’ve pretty much got everything you need. Yes, there are some extensions to these technologies involved to allow you to interact with the OS and the command-line and also for 2D graphics with Quartz if you want to get fancy but they are very easy to get to grips with and there are some excellent guides on Apple’s Developer Site.

A Dashbaord Widget is basically a web page written in XHTML that is skinned with CSS and made interactive with JavaScript. There really is nothing more to it than that. If you want to give this a go yourself the links below are all you’ll need.

As I said I had a fully functional Widget in two hours, took me a little longer to get it to do cool stuff like flipping round to show the credits on the reverse side and getting it skinned in a way I was happy with but all in all that Widget was no more than 5 hours work including all the fiddly graphics and layout stuff. A screenshot of the finished product can be seen below.

Screen shot of Unix Time Stamp Converter Widget

Tagged with: