Desktop mashups

This week I’ve been [dipping into and watching](http://crispyj2.blogspot.com/2007/04/educational-videos-from-google.html) a lot of Google TechTalks with the [engEdu tag](http://video.google.co.uk/videosearch?q=engedu) on Google video. I guess like visiting the library shelves and *browsing* (something I really ought to make time for!) as opposed to just hitting the catalogue for a specific title, this tends to throw up interesting things that you wouldn’t otherwise come across. One such was a TechTalk by [Mark Birbeck](http://internet-apps.blogspot.com) of [formsPlayer.com](http://www.formsplayer.com) who presented [Desktop Mashups: Combining Web Applications to Make Desktop Productivity Tools](http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=7466594705962010566).

Now this is really interesting because he describes [Sidewinder](http://www.formsplayer.com/project/swviewer) which is essentially a next-generation browser that has support for XHTML + other XML markups (MathML, SVG, etc) and [XForms](http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/Forms/), the W3C recommendation for Web UI (nice tutorial intro from Mark [here](http://www.formsplayer.com/introduction-to-xforms)) but with a twist! The twist is that with a little JavaScript, you can turn virtually any web page into a desktop *widget* (or *gadget*) that can be docked to the desktop à la *google gadgets*. Furthermore you can combine streams of XML to provide all kinds of useful mash-ups. An example given in the talk put Gmail into a Sidewinder window, docked it to the side of the desktop with auto-hide, and intercepted open window events from GMail (created by following a link in an email, for example) so that the opened pages appeared in another dockable Sidewinder window. This effectively makes Gmail into a desktop app rather than a browser app. Other use cases were also given, but it’s this one that I like the best. For example, it should be possible to have my [twitter](http://twitter.com/cpjobling)*tweeter* on the desktop rather than in a browser sidebar or, worse, an AIM client. Mark promised support for more sophisticated mash-ups like a form of [lifecasting](http://crispyj2.blogspot.com/2007/04/lifecasting.html).

I need to read (or [view](http://video.google.co.uk/url?docid=-6347740793556865808)) more about Xforms and give Sidewinder a try.

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Author: cpjobling

Senior lecturer, College of Engineering, Swansea University