Yahoo! Widgets vs. Google Gadgets

gadget.jpgGo, go, gadget widgets!

This must be what Inspector Gadget would say if he had Yahoo! Widgets–formerly known as Konfabulator–installed on his system. But, alas! It’s Google that uses the term “gadgets” to call its, err, widgets, with its own collection of applets called Google Gadgets, part of the Google Desktop Search.

Somewhat confusing, eh?

You’re probably aware of these two nifty ways to make our lives more cluttered than they already are, but for the benefit of non-ForeverGeek regulars or non-geeks (n00bs!), here’s a brief history and a comparison between the two.

Yahoo! Widgets

yahooweatherwidgetfull-1.gifIn 2003 Konfabulator, a startup, released a paid software that consisted of cool standalone applets that did all sorts of stuff from telling the time, to monitoring stock market prices, to displaying your iCal calendar. This was originally for the Mac OS, and then a Windows port was released late 2004. Apparently, Apple also had plans for a widget system built-in to its then-upcoming Tiger variant of OS X, which was called Dashboard. Tiger was released early 2005, along with Dashboard, amid controversy that Dashboard was a rip-off of Konfabulator.

Mid-2005, Yahoo! acquired the startup, and then offered Konfabulator as freeware, both for Mac OS X and Windows. Everyone’s happy. The Konfabulator people get their millions (okay, speculating here), Apple users get a choice between Dashboard and Konfabulator, Windows users get to utter theirs oohs and ahhs over the OS X-like tools they can leave cluttered around their desktops, and for everyone else, finally, cross-platform apps that actually work!

Yahoo! later had the great idea of renaming Konfabultaor to (surprise!) the Yahoo! Widget Engine.

Google Gadgets

homepage_weather.gifGoogle Gadgets are a recent addition to the Google Desktop Search package. Google Desktop Search is a local, desktop-based search technology made available to the public by Google in late 2004. This software basically indexes a user’s local files and dcuments for keywords, which would then appear on relevant searches when one does a local query.

Google Desktop featured a new addition in version 2, the gadgets-precursor, Sidebar panels, which had the ability to display and aggregate bits of information from other sites. Version 3 improved on the search aspect of Desktop, as the search could span several computers owned by a Google account.

Need I mention that Google Desktop Search was also subject to controversy because of privacy issues?

Google Gadgets, as it is now known, debuted with the release of Google Desktop 4 just this month. Functionality-wise Gadgets is similar to its previous Sidebar plugins incarnation, doing anything that the old Sidebar plugins did. Hey, it looks very much like the Sidebar we know all too well. Ah, the power of re-branding.

How they fare against each other

Having been a Konfabulator fan since it came out free, and being an avid Google user (junkie, if you will), I can say I’ve tried both Yahoo Widgets and Google Gadgets, and I’m quite in favor of one over the other. Here are some areas of comparison.


Google Desktop Sidebar
Yahoo! Widgets

Yahoo! Widgets will blow Google Gadgets away if the battle were only in the Aesthetics arena. Yes, Google goes for the minimalist approach, but Yahoo! Widgets are more visually appealing. You have to understand that these are desktop objects and you won’t necessarily have speed or bandwidth considerations to worry about. Translucency works for me too, especially since I sometimes choose to have some Widgets (like clock and CPU monitor) hover over main applications. My Gadgets only stay on the sidebar, though. I can detach them, but they’d remain regular windows hidden from view. So great styling is good. Yahoo! gets the point here.

Functionality. Both Widgets and Gadgets offer a strong suite of free third-party applications that offer anything from productivity tools to time-wasting oddities. Widgets, having been in the market longer, has an advantage in terms of the number of applets one can download and install. However, Google Gadgets’ parent application, Google Desktop Search extends the functionality well over the perceived productivity increases that Widgets! can give, because users can search for information within their local computers, and across other computers they own. Yahoo! Widget Engine only serves as that–a Widget engine.

So it’s a tie in this area.

Ease of use. Both require the base applications to be installed before applets can be installed and run. However, with Widgets, the .widget files become executable applications in themselves, while with Google, you have to go through an installation process each time you download a new Gadget. You can store Yahoo! Widgets anywhere and activate that widget just be executing the file–sort of like the elegance of the Mac OS X’s application structure (all files under one folder, and an app can run from anywhere its folder structures are stored) versus Windows’ clunky install-files-in-various places methodology. Yahoo! gets the point on this one.

Interface. Google goes for the simple-but-usable approach. But Konfabulator pulled off all stops to make it the interface as elegant (and as OS X-like?) as possible. You can run Widgets and have the applets float just about anywhere you like, whether on top of other windows, underneath, as regular Windows, or hidden until called for.

Widgets’ heads-up-display (HUD, formerly known as Konsposé, actually a play on Mac’s “Exposé” functionality) shows you all your running and background Widgets at a press of a button. Gadgets can only be docked on the Google Desktop Sidebar, and you’d have to select them one by one to display.

Yahoo! gets the point on this one, too.

My conclusion

So for me, I would go all out for Yahoo! Widgets if only I weren’t overly dependent on Google applications in my everyday life (I use Gmail, Gtalk, Gcalendar, Gnotebook, G everything, and the only Yahoo! services I use are YM and Flickr). So I usually run both, system resources permitting. I tend to use Widgets more frequently, as they are more easily accessible. But really, after the novelty has worn out, these usually tend to serve only as eye candy, unless you have some compulsive need to have your information available on hand all the time.

Considering that both Yahoo! Widget Engine and Google Desktop Search are quite the memory- and resource-hogs, I usually relegate these for working on my dekstop. On my laptop, where every bit of extra system resource is precious, I’d rather use my Web browser to access all of these information otherwise also accessible via Widgets or Gadgets (hey, isn’t Firefox a resource hog, too? Exactly!).

Here’s a review of Google Gadgets from PC World. And here’s one on Yahoo! Widgets from Softpedia.


  1. says

    I also run both google desktop and the Y! widget engine :)

    I use the digital clock, system resource meter, picture frame and volume control widgets, and the ‘media player remote’, search, google calendar, news, ‘web clips’ (aggregator), timer, to-do, scratchpad and netstat gadgets.

    I would prefer it if google made their gadgets engine more like widgets and more appealing, rather than widgets becomeing more like google desktop.

  2. says

    If you want to actually get anything done with you day – turn the darn things off! Too much clutter – too much rubbish on the screen. And if you need to know the weather – take a look out the window ;-)

  3. says


    I agree about that weather thing. These days, with the climate changing in my place, it would be bright and sunny one moment and raining cats and dogs a few minutes after. Weather “forecasts” are just about as fuzzy as a kitty cat bathed and blow-dried!

    I usually have the things just hidden behind my windows or minimized, except for the clock, which I have chiming every 15 minutes (reminding me to GTD–get things done!). :P

  4. redmage777 says

    It could also be argued that Stardocks DesktopX had widgets (under the name “Objects”) Prior to Konfabulator. This may be true but it seems the term “Widget” was added to DesktopX after Konfabulator became popular.

    If I recall, Stardock claims to have put Widgets on the desktop first but does not beleve that they had any influance on the developent of Konfabulator.


  5. says

    It would seem that Google Desktop is totally useless. It doesn’t run on Mac.
    Yahoo/Konfabulator was developed on the Mac!

    I use Gmail because Yahoo Mail is garbage. They charge for POP/SMTP access where Google is totally FREE!

    I guess there is no perfect solution.

    Maybe someday one of these guys will be truly cross platform and free…

    For now, I use Apple Widgets on my Macs, and Yahoo widgets on my PCs.

  6. says

    Can you help me? I’m looking for a widget that will accept comments of more than about 100 words. Also, I need a widget that requires name and address for building a list of activists for submitting to legislators. I have an iMac and prefer apple widgets.

  7. KFunk says

    Yahoo Widgets are way ahead in looks, but I prefer Google’s web services, so I have to go with the fugly Google Gadgets. And now we have Vista Gadgets, which is just a rebranded Google Gadgets but with a sleeker albeit not as sleek as Widgets look.

    And don’t forget about Rainmenter and Samarai. Independent solutions FTW!

  8. says

    I like to have my gadgets/widgets allways the same so I’m looking for a tool that can covert google gadgets into yahoo widgets and viceversa, does anybody knows something that does it?

  9. Doctor Star says

    Thanks for the gadgets that save time to do the code yourself and have that easy coverage already made and even to add yourself more new idea to the others users in the internet and os

  10. Charles Ross says

    Alas, it’s 2013 and both are being deprecated by their parents. Also note that G-gadgets were set up to run on iGoogle, which is now being shut down. This avoided the desktop resource issue to some degree.

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