Our life is surrounded by data. For example, your calendar, events, appointments, special dates, current projects, job data, friends, family, books, research, and anything in between. It is getting to point that it is uncontrollable. One cannot finish jobs by their priority because knowledge and data are continuously flowing in. There must be a solution. There is, but it is currently in MSR (Microsoft Research), still being developed. In the mean time, there must be an application to organize data, but in a way that is always accessible. Enter Dashboard in MSN 8, and Side Bar in Longhorn. The only problem is that Dashboard is part of a parent program, and Side Bar is long from materializing, besides in beta groups. Even when Side Bar is released, it still will not be open to third party development. These problems and more were my primary motivations in writing this program.
For now, I only have written panels (or a tile, depending on your preference) that are most commonly used: Stocks, Internet Search, Weather, News, Dictionary, Sports Scores and Messenger contacts. My goal is to develop a tile for every piece of information that would ever be wanted in this format. This is where everyone else come in. Use this as a framework, and then go develop your own panels, ones that more accurately present your interests. Then, go and distribute this program. Don’t just give this to the development community, but give it to your friends, family, and coworkers. Anyone is a worthy candidate for data organization. I mean anyone. For example, say your company likes stocks, but they also need a way for people to easily grab documents over the network. Well, get rid of all the panels except for stocks, and then write your own panel to show and easily enable workers to distribute files over the network. You are not only limited to these panels, or even any of these at all. Write all your own. As I said, the framework is in place. All that is needed is creativity. Then come and post your new panels to this web site and spur more innovation.
Enter the programmer
You may be wondering how you can develop you own panels. What you put on the panel is totally up to you. This gives the freedom to accomplish the most challenging presentation. In order to develop an application, all you must do is create a class that inherits from
Dashboard.Windows.Forms.CollapsiblePanel, as in such:
public class News : Dashboard.Windows.Forms.CollapsiblePanel
Inside the class, there are some functions that should be implemented in all panels. For example, a constructor that accepts the variable of type
PanelSettings, which will pass the panel variables. Further, there is an override function that is called when the program is exiting, and basically you put any class of data in the
PanelSettings.classobject and then the program will automatically take the
PanelSettings class and serialize it, unto which it gives it back when the constructor is called. The specific function for saving functions is called
PrepareSettingsObject. Examples of constructor and destruction are followed:
public News (PanelSettings ps)
public override void PrepareSettingsObject()
nsc.updateInterval = this.updateInterval;
nsc.rotateSpeed = this.rotateSpeed;
this.SettingsObject = (object) nsc;
Besides this, all you need to supply is a small XML file that describes important DLL data, and then it can be installed easily. Here is a sample file called newsinstall.xml which is used to install:
The common points of interest are:
GetPanel – A function in the class which returns the class object or
this identifier. This function is imperative, or else the panel will not work.
public Dashboard.Windows.Forms.CollapsiblePanel GetPanel ()
SystemType – The exact namespace and class of the panel class, including the name of the DLL in which the panel is in. As in this example:
Dashboard.Components is the namespace, and
News is the class name.
Components is the name of the assembly.
As of now, there is no supporting text for features or an SDK. But, in time, I plan to write something similar. If you would like to help, please go ahead.
I would graciously like to thank the following:
The reason many of Microsoft applications succeed is because the product is supported by the developers. The same holds true; without you, there is no program. Therefore, to make this program work to the greatest benefit, you must make panels. Ones that interest you. I will be developing many more panels and will update this page as they become available, so check back. Further, I would be more than happy to hear feedback concerning the application, bugs, or need-to-be features.
- News item for Health News is fixed
- Stock Reader fixed
- Internet search
- Dictionary word of the day
I attend Midland High School in Midland Texas. My current research interest is the architecture of the file system for Windows. Some of the features that are going into Longhorn I have been thinking about for a while, but there is still much more to do in order to distibrute content seamlessly. In order to increase productivity by a factor of one thousand, it only takes a couple of redesigns. The materials to build the product are available; all that is needed is the builder. To redesign the file system to this degree would be a huge undertaking, but the rewards would be Incomprehensible. The professional and personal sources come together to form a partnership that neither could provide alone. But, everyone has data to offer. It is just a matter of uncovering that data and distributing it. The file system then turns the personal computer into the personal enterprise server. In result, this is a world driven on knowledge and information; all that is needed are the data facilities which enable the greatest amount of portability and compatibility. Finding the data that is needed, when it is needed, and where it is needed on any device, anywhere, any time. This is the goal. This is software. This is Microsoft.