Widgets of the week: June 24, 2005

In this week’s roundup of useful Dashboard Widgets, I cover ways to find movie times and create good passphrases, and I discover an even better clock than one I previously recommended. I also avoid ever again discussing an entire genre of bad widgets with one fell swoop.

RADMovieTimes 1.2 (   ; free). There are a number of “movie times” Widgets out there, but right now my favorite is RADMovieTimes. Provide your zip code and RADMovieTimes finds nearby movie theaters and their schedules; you choose whether you want the Widget to display the results by theater or by movie. For example, if you choose to view results by movie, the pop-up menu at the top of the Widget lists movies playing in your area; choose a movie, and the Widget displays theaters and movie times for that movie. You browse theaters showing that movie using the arrows at the bottom of the Widget. Clicking the Info button switches to your Web browser and opens the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) page for the current movie; clicking the Map button opens your browser to a Yahoo! map for the current theater.

RADMovieTimes Widget

Make-A-Pass 1.1 (   ; free). Along the lines of finding the best of a breed, I’ve come across a bunch of Widgets designed to help you create random, secure passphrases—a regular task for many network administrators and IT staff. Some of these Widgets look great but don’t provide many options; Make-A-Pass, on the other hand, is likely the ugliest of them all, but it’s also the most flexible. Via the options available on the back of the Widget, you can choose which types of characters are used in the passphrases generated by Make-A-Pass: lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and/or punctuation symbols. You can also choose to exclude characters that look the same, so you won’t have to figure out if a character is the number 1 or the letter l, or the number 0 or the letter O. Back on the front of the Widget, you create a passphrase by choosing the desired length (from 4 to 64 characters) and clicking the Make-A-Pass button; the new passphrase is displayed, as well as copied to the Clipboard for easy pasting.

Back of Make-A-Pass Widget

Front of Make-A-Pass Widget

Flip Clock (   ; free). In a previous column, I recommended the generically-named Timer as my favorite digital clock for Dashboard. A scant two weeks later, I have a new favorite: WidgetMachine’s Flip Clock. As I mentioned in that column, Apple’s World Clock Widget is nice, but given Dashboard’s “get in, get out” philosophy, I prefer an easy-to-read digital model. Flip Clock is that and much more. For starters, it has character: It looks like one of those old-fashioned clocks with plastic number panels that “flip” when the time changes. But it also has a good number of useful options. For example, the built-in alarm works great, even when Dashboard isn’t visible, and each instance of Flip Clock can display the time in one of over 200 world cities, in 12-hour or 24-hour mode. (Clicking the city name in the Widget displays the date.) And if you don’t like the stock theme, there are eight to choose from, including Metal, Plastic, Rust, and Wood. (I'm partial to “Night,” shown below.)

Flip Clock Widget

 

Widget “Why?” of the Week

Each week, I usually give a good-natured poke at a Widget that makes me think, “Why was this thing actually created?” But this week I’m going to break with tradition and suggest a bad Widget instead. Or, rather, a Widget that’s “less bad” than about 100 other Widgets.

What the heck am I talking about? I’m referring to the odd trend of people releasing Widgets that are nothing more than a picture . That’s right—if you go to any of the popular Widget sites, or VersionTracker or MacUpdate, you’ll find scads of these “picture” Widgets. You say you’ve always wanted a picture of a U.S. flag on your screen? Yearning to have an X-Wing fighter on your Desktop just like the plastic one you have on your desk? Aching to stick a Care Bare on the Dashboard? Widget-makers have got you covered.

Now, I’m not bemoaning the fact that some people want to use some of their precious Dashboard real estate for a non-functional object—to each his or her own. But it seems like a major duplication of effort for so many people to waste their energy creating dozens of otherwise identical Widgets just so that every “image need” can be separately fulfilled. So I was pleased—in a shameful sort of way—to discover Zweben’s Image Widget , which is basically a picture holder:

Front of Image Widget

Drag whatever image you want—a Transformer, the Starship Enterprise, a Pokemon, Jar Jar Binks—onto Image Widget, and the image is displayed just as if it had its own Widget. As the developer so eloquently put it: There is now absolutely no reason to upload a widget [to the Widget sites] that does nothing but display an image.

And the back of the Widget is just as snarky and brilliant as the front:

Back

So all you picture-Widget-makers, I beg you: Stop the madness! Just let people drag pictures onto Image Widget instead. Assuming that happens, I pledge to never waste space here talking about how silly “picture” Widgets are.

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