Open Sourcing Google Desktop Gadgets

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Google Desktop team has been steadily releasing our Desktop gadget (widget) creations as Open Source for the past few years. If you check out this list, you can see most of the official Google created gadgets are actively maintained by the Google Desktop developer community. We had many good reasons for opening this code for the community:

  • Source code can be a valuable learning tool. The gadgets not only show you how to develop Desktop gadgets, integrate with Google APIs, but also provide other tidbits of knowledge such as how to calculate phases of the moon or StarDates.

  • The images and graphics are also Open Sourced. Being an engineer, I know how frustrating it is to work hard on an application only to have it dismissed because of hand-drawn stick figures and shapes. We hope people can take advantage of our graphic designers' talents. If you're a fan of clocks, I have something right up your alley.

  • We get warm fuzzy feelings by simply supporting the cause. It fosters a spirit of openness and collaboration between the team and developer community.

To summarize, I'd encourage community members to consider opening your projects, even smaller ones. These fancy search engines nowadays are quite good about picking up code, and your algorithms and graphics can help someone in need.

In the past few weeks, we released some pretty cool gadgets for YouTube, Calendar and Google Docs. While developing these gadgets, we tried something different and almost exclusively used Project Hosting on Google Code rather than internal Google repositories, as our goal from the outset was to open this code base to all who might benefit from it.

Our experience has been great. We had to work closely with the Google Gadgets for Linux team, who typically work entirely in public Subversion repositories; using Project Hosting on Google Code helped us better integrate with their development process. We also asked expert users of Google products to consult with us on usability and design concerns. It was a great pleasure to add them as full-fledged project members during the development phase instead of waiting for this feedback post launch. We also worked with many contributors who are not Google employees, who helped provide development and graphic resources. These were the most enjoyable projects I've been a part of during my time at Google, primarily because of the cooperative atmosphere among many different people and teams.