Using gadgets outside of iGoogle

Alyce asked:

Bernie, I’m working on a Disaster Housing project in New Orleans/Gulf Coast. Is there some way for me to permanently code in Days Since Katrina Aug 29 2005 (928 days and counting!)I’d like to embed widget in communications to certain folks who refuse to move any quicker! In a very nice way, mind you!

Would love to say “yes” to this one. But unfortunately the answer is “possibly.” :)

So I’ll use this as an excuse to at least start the explanation, since Google doesn’t do a good job in their information for users (or their API) to be clear about what gadgets can/can’t do. I’ll talk about Days Since, but this applies to any Google Gadget.

The gadgets I’ve written all happened to be written first and primarily for iGoogle. But gadgets can be used in several different environments, with various limitations.

  1. iGoogle
  2. Google Desktop
  3. Google Sites
  4. Open Social sites, like Orkut
  5. Any Web Page. Well, on any web page that supports javascript objects (e.g. a WordPress blog like this one, although you have to edit from the “code” tab). Google Pages also works.
  6. And (kinda) via email with “Share this Gadget” within iGoogle

Add to Web Page

Here’s an example, created using Google’s Gadget for Webpage Directory and searching for Days Since.

Google gadgets on a webpage are quite noisy — Google adds all kinds of buttons and links, etc. that make them not very attractive.

What to modify this embedded gadget for your own page? Click on Google’s editor here to start where I left off, and edit the reminder and look of this gadget, and get the code to embed in your own page.

First thing you’ll notice is the settings that you normally see in “Edit Settings” have to be entered manually. Here’s where the design of Days Since isn’t really compatible with embedding in the web. You have to enter the “reminders” field by hand — but in raw json format! If you’re comfortable, go for it. Otherwise, you might add a copy of the gadget to your iGoogle page, get all the reminders looking the way you want them, and then go to “Edit Settings”, copy the reminders, and paste them into the “Add Gadget to Webpage” creator.

Share this gadget

If you’d like to set up some reminders and email them to a friend (or set of coworkers) who use iGoogle, that’s easy. Just get the gadget set up like you’d like to share it, and select “Share this Gadget” from the gadget’s standard drop-down menu.

Enter a few email addresses, and make sure to check “Send my settings for this gadget” (this is off by default). Now, your recipients will get the full, working gadget, with all the reminders or other settings you had set up.

Reminding people about Katrina

So for Alyce:

  • If you want to do this by having the gadget be embedded in your email/newsletter, it will only work if you have a web page with your newsletter/email on it, have the gadget embedded there, and the actual email is a link to that page. It won’t work to embed the gadget directly in the email, because mail programs rarely allow embedding javascript.
  • If you just want to send out a copy of Days Since to other iGoogle users with the “Days Since Katrina” reminder populated, just set that up in your iGoogle page, and “Share this Gadget” (and its settings).

But, for the case you seem to be talking about (reminding the reluctant), I don’t know if either of these methods will achieve the desired effect. I’m sure a little digging might find something better. But maybe the second (sharing the gadget with Days Since Katrina pre-populated) might be a soft enough touch, yet useful enough that the people you’re thinking about will play along.

In any case, best wishes and good luck,