After hearing all the whining about another example of how Apple is killing off third-party developers by “shamelessly copying Konfabulator” (which can fairly be described as Super Desk Accessory Toolkit, an update of the classic Mac OS utilities), I decided to take a look at this amazing product that I’d somehow overlooked.

Um, where’s the fire? I just went through the gallery of Konfabulator widgets, and far too many of them are like these two:

ugly clipboard manageryour IP address as a bar code

A small handful of them were useful, but while some of Apple’s sample gadgets from the Tiger beta are badly designed, at least they’re good for something. In fifteen minutes of browsing, I couldn’t find a single Konfabulator widget that was interesting enough to encourage me to buy and install their application. Indeed, the trite “get the original Dashboard now” page at their site showcases a bunch of gaudy widgets that I simply don’t want on my computer.

There’s a fugly clock that slavishly emulates a low-resolution, low-legibility digital clock; another one that slavishly emulates the limitations of an old analog wristwatch; a color-coded pseudo-3D to-do list that’s covered with redundant buttons; a Google searchbar that looks like it’s supposed to be inserted somewhere; and a user-hostile iTunes controller (okay, Apple screwed that one up, too). And how do you gain access to these screen toys? Through a pull-down menu, just like the old Apple desk accessories.

Designing your own means learning to use their XML layout schema. Designing a Dashboard gadget, on the other hand, is as easy as laying out a web page, because it is a web page, rendered with the same engine as Safari. In fact, you can create it with your favorite text editor and graphics program, leveraging your knowledge of HTML and CSS.