What's new in gDesklets 0.36

1. Introduction

gDesklets 0.36 is the long awaited update of gDesklets, a program which provides an architecture for widgets to be placed on the desktop. gDesklets is a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) project and there are more than 100 desklets available providing a wide variety of eye candies for your desktop from weather forecast and system monitoring to RSS readers, games and beyond.

It has been about 2 years since the previous release of gDesklets (0.35.4) and half a year of development on launchpad before 0.36 finally has been released on February 21st, 2008.

Please visit the official website to learn more about gDesklets and how to write your own desklets.

2. General new stuff

The release of 0.36 has been much more than just a move to a new version. A lot of work has been spent on setting up a complete new infrastructure for the whole project which includes a new drupal driven website as well as moving the development system to launchpad (https://launchpad.net/gdesklets). Furthermore there has been a lot of code cleaning and optimization and bugfixes. For a complete list please take a look at the included ChangeLog file.

This section shows what's new for the users.

2.1. The About window

One of the first changes included in gDesklets 0.36 a user might notice is the new menu entry for every desklet called "About". This menu entry opens the new "About window" which shows basic information about the desklet.

Every information displayed in the About window is taken from the desklet's meta information included in the desklet's source code. The graphic provided in the "preview" attribute of the meta tag will be displayed followed by the name and version of the desklet, the description and other information. The meta information about the "author" will be displayed in a new window when pushing the "Credits" button.

Figure 1The About window (from Clock v0.52)

To provided the user with more useful information two new mandatory files have been introduced in gDesklets 0.36 to be included in every (new) desklet: LICENSE and README. These files will be displayed in a new window when using the "License" or "Readme" button in the About window.

The LICENSE file should inform you about the license the desklet has been published under.

The README file should provide the user with any additional information that might be helpful and interessting. This might include any kind of information like a detailed description of how to use and configure the desklet, a detailed ChangeLog or how to contact the author etc.

Please notice that the "License" and "Readme" buttons will only be displayed in the About window if the according files are available!

2.2. Basic Desklets

Before the release of 0.36 gDesklets wasn't shipped with any included desklet leaving the user with not much to do with the freshly installed gDesklets system. Unfortunately the available gdesklets-data packages for some linux distributions haven't been maintained very well either providing a lot of desklets which don't work with newer versions of gDesklets. Furthermore the older website(s) had already gone offline and a lot of the older but working and new desklets didn't find their way to the new website making it a little hard for users to find working desklets.

This made the gDesklets team decide to include a basic set of desklets to gDesklets 0.36 giving the user an easier start. The following four desklets are the first to be included in gDesklets as the so called "basic desklets".

2.2.1. 15 pieces puzzle

Want to play a quick little game ?

15 pieces (also known as 16 pieces) is a puzzle game where you have to arrange pieces in order from 1-15 counting from top left corner to bottom right corner or piece together some image. There are 5 images included to be solved.

Figure 215 pieces puzzle (v0.5)

2.2.2. Calendar

Need to know when the next holiday is coming up ?

This is a navigable calendar showing the entire month with the possibility to show events (public holidays ...). Highly configurable it leaves nothing to be desired.

Figure 3Calendar (v0.6)

2.2.3. Clock

Looking for a nifty little clock on your desktop ?

Try this scalable and configurable clock with 16 different clock faces to choose from.

Figure 4Clock (v0.52)

2.2.4. Quote of the Day

What about daily pieces of wisdom ?

This desklet displays a quote for each day of a year. Currently you can choose from "Famous Quotes" or "Bible Verses" as a source database.

Figure 5Quote of the Day (v1.1)

3. Layout news

No news here, sorry.

4. Config news

gDesklets 0.36 provides the following new and improved elements for the configuration system:

4.1. ConfigDate

The ConfigDate element makes it a lot easier for the user to choose a date and time.

Figure 6ConfigDate

By clicking on the ConfigDate element a new window called "Pick a date" will open up. This window includes a navigable calendar and three spinboxes to select a day respectively the time.
Furthermore a "Set now" and "Re-set" button are provided to set all values to the current date and time or to discard all changes made.

Figure 7ConfigDate - Pick a date

4.2. ConfigInfo

The ConfigInfo element provides an easy way to display an informational text in the configuration dialog with pango markup support.

There is a wide variety of usage for this configuration element, like warning the user of possible wrong or bad configuration patterns, status reports, "data provided by" information, counters, hi-scores etc.

Figure 8ConfigInfo

4.3. ConfigRadio

The ConfigRadio element is a representation of a classic radio button widget. Radio buttons are used in groups to select from a mutually exclusive set of options. The ConfigRadio element can be used for single selections only.

Figure 9ConfigRadio

4.4. Icons in the Prefs Tabs

Tabbed notebooks are virtually used in every desklet's configuration dialog. These tabs can now be decorated with tiny little icons.

Call them "pure eye-candy" or find them simply helpful for the user to find a tab faster: don't they just catch your eye and look great ?

Figure 10Icons in the Prefs Tabs

5. Control news

A control is a privileged (unsandboxed) property-based module, which can be shared among applets, and implements certain interfaces. gDesklets provides a basic set of Controls which can be used out-of-the-box. This section shows the changes to this basic set of Controls.

There has only been a minor change to the Time Control when moving to 0.36. The Time Control now has a new attribute called ticks which provides the current ticks in floating point numbers.

Due to this additional attribute the Control's interface ID has changed which may cause older desklets using the Time Control to quit with an error. In this case the display file needs to be changed to include the Time Control with its new ID.

6. Documentation

The basic documentation has been adjusted to the new features and changes to gDesklets. The man pages and the gDesklets Developer's Book (develbook) have been updated and expanded, too.

A new document has been introduced to gDesklets with the release of 0.36: the Basic Usage Documentation for gDesklets. This manual provides basics of installing and running gDesklets on your computer. It has been implemented to the gDesklets' shell and can be found in the Help menu (Help -> Contents).

Furthermore you are already reading a new documentation feature: the "what's new" pages. Starting with the release of gDesklets 0.36 these pages will give the user and developer a rough introduction into the latest changes and improvements to gDesklets. These "what's new" pages will be released with every new release of gDesklets.

7. The rest...

No news here, sorry.

8. A look at 0.36.1 (and beyond)

Development doesn't stop with the release of gDesklet 0.36. Some new features just didn't make it in time for the release of 0.36 and have therefore deferred to 0.36.1. Furtheremore there are still a few non-critical bugs open to be closed.

So here is a short (and not complete!) list of upcoming features in 0.36.1:

  • updated versions of the basic desklets;
  • a new included Control: "Random";
  • new layout features, e.g. bars in the plotter element;
  • updated documentation;
  • bug fixes and more.

A. Credits

These release notes were compiled by H.Humpel with help from the gDesklets community. On behalf of the community, we give our warmest thanks to the developers and contributors who made this gDesklets release possible.

This work may be freely translated into any language. If you wish to translate it into your language, please contact the gDesklets team using the gDesklets Mailing List.