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active desktop replacementActive Desktop, a feature introduced with Internet Explorer 4.0, and included in every Windows version since then until Windows Server 2003, allowed users to put websites on their desktop. While it enjoyed little widespread use, and often was subject to criticism, the idea of placing websites on the desktop is still an appealing idea to some (provided you enjoy widgets on the desktop).

In this post I’ll be exploring active desktop replacements for the now defunct Active Desktop feature – Snippage, AveDesktopSites, and minibrowser.

Snippage

Snippage - add website to desktop

Snippage is a neat application (requires Adobe Air) that allows you to “snip” parts of websites and place them onto your desktop. The interface is intuitive, allowing you to expand to a browser to find a site you want to snip from, and an easy to use dragging and resize mechanism.

In the above screenshot, you’ll see that I’ve clipped the Most Popular stories from CNN. However, Snippage is still in beta (at the time of this writing) and therefore is not a completely polished product.

Best suited for keeping track of portions of websites – it combines the idea of Active Desktop and WebSlices into one useful application.

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Snippage is compatible with any system that can run Adobe Air.

minibrowser

minibrowser

minibrowser is a Vista sidebar gadget that basically does what it says – gives you a small window to browse in. It’s useful for monitoring websites and small scale browsing – but unlike Snippage, it doesn’t allow you to create customized snippets of a web page. Rather, you’re faced with something similar to crunching a website into a confined space, which usually doesn’t work too well (see above screenshot, I’ve configured minibrowser into a 640×480 space). It’s also unable to be dynamically sized (you’re faced with guess and check pixel measurements in the options panel).

However, it’s the only app in this list to feature a zoom toolbar (not enabled by default) which allows you to dynamically size the content – great for broadening or narrowing the scope of what you’d like to see.

Best suited for light web browsing – this app is also the most similar to Active Desktop with a slightly larger feature set.

minibrowser is compatible with Vista, and with a little hacking, XP.

AveDesktopSites

AveDesktopSites - add website to desktop

AveDesktopSites (click on the screenshot on the website to download) is a small application – it can take a portion of a webpage and display it on the desktop. Unfortunately, this is the only thing it can do – the scroll bar appeared to be nonfunctional. Links don’t work, so consider this a very basic application best reserved for keeping track of news front pages or other equally simple tasks.

Best suited for keeping track of changes in a website. In comparison to Active Desktop, it can be described as a weaker contender – but perhaps this is all you need.

AveDesktopSites is compatible with Vista only.

Conclusively, these three applications all have their similarities and differences with Active Desktop. Snippage offers a unique take on the “web on your desktop,” minibrowser offers a feature set most similar to Active Desktop, and AveDesktopSites offers an extremely basic set of features.

Do you know of another (better) active desktop replacement? Any Active Desktop clone? Share it in the comments.

Photo Credit: Dave Child

  1. Andersson
    January 24, 2010 at 1:13 am

    As an administrator in a university i want to have an non closeble active desktop replacement. Becouse there is info to students to be shown.

    So i did my own “ActiveDesktop”.

  2. Andersson
    January 24, 2010 at 12:59 am

    As an administrator in a university i want to have an non closeble active desktop replacement. Becouse there is info to students to be shown.

    So i did my own "ActiveDesktop".

    You are free to try it out. Yes its free.
    http://www.appas.eu/activedesktop

  3. anonymous
    February 13, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    EXCELLENT FINDS!!! VERY NICE ARTICLE!

  4. SGT E. V. McKay
    February 11, 2009 at 2:12 am

    Absolutely.
    Also I can not be held responsible if the software in question will work as more than an active Desktop, but it is part and parcel to an active desktop, and then some.

  5. SGT E. V. McKay
    February 10, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    I think that any one looking for this kind of functionality, plus adding your own HTML as well should actively look into 360 Desktop.
    The options are great and easy to use, plus with a WYSIWYG editor, you can attached HTML's of your own making, with customized URL's and shortcuts to the web and your system. Plus you can cut a page and add it in order to monitor that page. Not to mention the expanded real estate as a bonus.
    I use it on my laptop as a replacement for 3 monitors at my desktop

    • Jason K
      February 10, 2009 at 8:44 pm

      Looks like a promising piece of software - although its scope is broader than that of the article.

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