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Active 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,, and minibrowser.
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.
Snippage is compatible with any system that can run Adobe Air.
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.
(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