Linux Dashboard Solution With Opera Widgets and Compiz Fusion


Many users who have migrated to using some form of Linux from Apple's OS X, and even many who have not used OS X before find themselves looking for a Linux Dashboard solution. That is, many users look for a way to replicate the functionality of the OS X dashboard on a Linux operating system.

What is the Dashboard in the first place? It is an application designed for OS X systems that supports small applications known as widgets. These widgets are single purpose interactive virtual applications that are used, for example, to display the latest information, the time and date, the weather, online sites, and so on. They are small and simple, and allow for a great degree of customization since the user can select which widgets to use and which not to use. In a sense, they allow users to put together their own interface for performing their own kinds and mix of activities on the computer, both off and online. They are especially useful for power users and web developers who would need access to a wide variety of small apps over the course of their day.

This function as a widget engine is not unique to Dashboard, however. There exist several different engines that Linux users could also possibly use, if they just wanted to have widgets on their systems. What would probably be the more unique feature of Dashboard is the fact that these widgets are placed on a semi-transparent layer that is invisible until called up by the user. This layer can be activated by clicking on the appropriate icon, pressing a user-selected hotkey, or even moving the mouse to a specified corner of the screen. The widget layer would then be displayed with the actual desktop faded in the background. This means that the widgets are out of the way until the user needs them, providing an elegant solution to the clutter that inevitably became a problem with the use of widgets.

Fortunately, even this functionality can be had on a Linux system, and here is how. One way is to use Opera in conjunction with a Compiz Fusion plugin called Widget Layer. Opera Widgets are almost exactly the same as Dashboard widgets, offering a similar variety of small widgets for users to use with the Opera browser. These tiny web applications, however, run on the desktop by default, and are not hidden, like Dashboard widgets.

The Widget Layer plugin would allow you to specify rules for transferring regular windows from the windows manager over to a special widget layer. This widget layer acts exactly like the Dashboard widget layer in OS X, being invisible until needed and called up using a hotkey or mouse click. To make Opera Widgets run on this layer, simply set the Widget Windows field to "role: opera-widget", and presto! This Linux Dashboard solution is just one among many, but is rather simple and easy, using only the Opera browser and the readily available Compiz Fusion plugins and configuration system.


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