App launching and yet more Web OSs

App launching and yet more Web OSs

If you have ever looked at Apple's OS X and thought that magnifying list of applications at the bottom of the screen was really nifty and would be groovy to have in Windows (preferably for free), fear not. We're here to satisfy your craving for cool and costless. The answer is RocketDock from Punk Software.

RocketDock is "a smoothly animated, alpha-blended application launcher that is similar to [OS X's] ObjectDock," according to Stardock, which publishes ObjectDock.

RocketDock is compatible with all of the major skinning formats, including MobyDock, ObjectDock, RK Launcher, and Y'z Dock skins. It is fast and the most stable program of its kind. And it's free.

When it comes to technology it is hard to get too much of a good thing, so this week we will conclude our exploration of Web operating systems, or Webtops.

We'll take a look at a couple of the leading commercial Web operating system projects: YouOS and goowy.

YouOS is slick and has done more to define the role of a Web operating system than any other product. The developers have even written a manifesto on the Web operating system concept.

YouOS, which is based on the Dojo AJAX tool kit, has a tabbed application bar at the top of the browser window and provides desktop icons to launch applications with a button labeled "Stuff" that functions similarly to the Windows "Start" button. Under Stuff you'll find Apps, your collection of installed applications; YouPanel, analogous to the Windows Control Panel, which lets you change various settings and add and remove applications; and Logout.

YouOS also tracks your Webtop's state across sessions so when you log off and then log on again your YouOS desktop and applications will be in the same state you left them.

Applications under YouOS include a word processor, several RSS readers, the Bitty Browser (see the Network World Web Applications newsletter) . . . the list covers more than 400 applications.

Because most of the YouOS applications run on the server and use the browser as a display mechanism, YouOS can expose a lot of low-level functionality by providing a command-line shell, a process manager and a file manager. YouOS also includes a comprehensive and complex IDE to develop and publish your own applications.

The other Webtop we'll look at is goowy, which uses flash to create the user environment.

The applications available on goowy include e-mail, a calendar with an import capability, a name and address book, a lot of games, an instant-messaging client, a file storage manager, and small utility applications that are presented on top of the display over any running application in much the same way that OS X's dashboard operates.

Unlike YouOS, goowy doesn't support session persistence, and you can't develop applications. Given that goowy doesn't have a word processor or spreadsheet, you might think it's less valuable than, say, YouOS, but those omissions underline the system's real goal: goowy is a communications tool set more than anything else.

As you can see from the Web Applications newsletter review of eyeOS we mentioned last week, and our discussions of YouOS and goowy, there are lots of approaches to and philosophies regarding the design and implementation of Web operating systems. Over the next few months more Webtop projects will come to market, but whether they will ever offer Windows real competition remains to be seen.

Do you think Web operating systems will be valuable to the enterprise or are they just a nice idea?

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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