Thursday, May 9, 2013

XWidget: Light and handy, yet a powerful desktop customization platform

XWidget is a free windows program that brings the famous Mac OSX dashboard to windows computers. There are several dashboard programs out there like Rain Meter, Google Desktop (discontinued), Yahoo! Widgets (discontinued) and Stardock ObjectDock (Paid). But when it comes to customizability and features yet very light on resources, XWidget is my program of choice.

 After installation, three widgets will be displayed: clock , wheather, a photo gallery and a browser linked to their online widget gallery. All of the default widgets follows the default black theme, it looks clean and really nice.

 There are fourteen default widgets, namely EkerWeather, EkerPhotoAlbum, EkerTime, EkerUptime, EkerRSS, EkerIP Address, EkerNet, EkerRecycle, EkerSearch, EkerSystem, iFolder Dock, EkerAppsTab, and EkerDriverDock.



XWidget has two modes: Dashboard mode and Desktop mode. Desktop mode will always have the widgets displayed, like what you have with Windows Sidebar. With Dashboard Mode on the other hand, displays the widgets with a semi-transparent background covering all of the screen with the widgets displayed up front. By default, you can enter the dashboard mode by double-clicking your mouse middle button (mouse scroll).

You can also toggle between Desktop mode and Dashboard mode by assigning a hot key, right click on the XWidget icon in the system tray and choose "Options". The Options window will appear, click on "Hotkeys" tab and assign a hot key under "Show Dashboard".


The options are limited, but they are very useful to make XWidget a very customization option.

Some of the options to take note of :

  •  Configurable hotkeys to hide/show the dashboard and taskbar
  •  Run XWidgets on Windows start up
  •  Toggle desktop icons
  •  Hide the XWidget tray icon
  •  Backup widgets when application  exits.


Adding Widgets

There are several ways to add a widget, you can simply double click the XWidget icon in the system tray or you can right click on the XWidget icon in the system tray and click "Add Widget" and lastly, click the "plus" icon at the left bottom part of the screen while in Dashboard mode. By default, you will only see the fourteen widgets I mentioned earlier, but wait, there's more..

More Widgets

Aside from the default widgets, you can access the widget gallery that contains more than 400 widgets. To access the gallery, just right click on the tray icon and select "More Widgets". Though it is glutted with clock and weather widgets, there are much more widgets than you can find in the gallery compared to Windows 7 Sidebar, as these widgets are contributed by other users.

Installing the widget from the gallery is very easy. There's a download button or link on each widget page in the gallery. Upon clicking it starts a small progress bar at the bottom of the page and when it's done, the widget is automatically loaded and opens on your screen.

Creating and Editing Widgets

Although it lacks a selection of widgets, it shouldn't be a problem because XWidgets allows you to edit a widget and customize it. To edit a widget, just right on a widget and click "Edit". The designer window will appear and from there you can now customize the widget. To create a widget, right click on the tray icon and select "Create Widget". The designer opens up and greets you with a prompt that is asking you to name your widget.

Unfortunately, without any knowledge in basic programming, the widget creator will be confusing and difficult. The Widget creator's interface is somewhat similar to popular programming editors. The left panel contains a list of drag and drop elements which you can drop onto the widget's canvas on the center of the screen. For the widget to function , you to bind certain events with javascript/vbscript for it to work.

Here are useful if you decide to create or edit a widget :

XWidget Tutorials Index

XWidget Tutorial Video 2 - uses jscript/vbscript


One of the things that I like with XWidget is being very lightweight to system resources. It only utilizes about 15K of RAM with 18 widgets open; which makes it an well programmed application for its category. All of functions and effects of the widgets never slowed down my computer, it was very smooth all the time.


If you're gonna compare it with Windows 7 Sidebar, XWidgets is far superior when it comes to usability and being light on system resources. And it also allows you to edit or create you own widgets. But if we're going to compare it with Rain Meter, XWidgets needs a lot more to improve. Rain Meter has a lot more to offer when it comes to complete customization , but uses more system resources which is a factor to consider if you only have limited RAM. It's a trade off between complete customization and use of system resources. Overall, XWidget is the application of choice if you're looking for a light yet very robust customization platform for your computer.


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