Migrating from GeekTool to Übersicht

I’ve been a big fan of GeekTool for a while. It’s been one of the subtle things that I’ve felt that separates OS X from Windows. For a while I had several widgets (called Geeklets) run by GeekTool to display various information on my desktop. A post last week by Patrick Welker (@_patrickwelker) opened me up to a new way to put widgets on my desktop.

Übersicht, from Felix Hageloh, is a great update to the GeekTool concept. Like GeekTool, Übersicht will alllow a user to create self contained widgets and have them rendered on your desktop. But what makes Übersicht stand apart from GeekTool is getting the widgets to be based on HTML 5 using either Javascript or Coffeescript as the widget file. Shifting over to using HTML 5 in Übersicht generates a much more visually appealing presentation than previously possible with GeekTool.

Widget Layout

The basic compoents of a widget includes:

  • command [required]: The shell command that will be used to help capture what information you want to see on your desktop.
  • refreshFrequency [required]: How often you want to run the shell command to refresh the information. The integer is listed in milliseconds.
  • style [required]: The CSS styling to render the information you want shown on your desktop.
  • render [required]: The function that is used to parse the information from the command to the style to display on your desktop.
  • update [optional]: When the widget is first run, it will take the command output and display the contents via the render section. The update section replace the contents displayed based on the refreshFrequency.

An example of a simple widget to show your public IP address using a simply Python script: Gist link

Felix Hageloh, lead on the Übersicht software project, has more details on widget development on GitHub.

Widget differences

There are some subtle differences how GeekTool and Übersicht parse commands. GeekTool can take a shell command that you’d run in Terminal and use it for a Shell Geeklet. One common GeekTool GeekLet is displaying the availabile hard drive space on your Mac, using the following shell command:

df -Hl | grep 'disk1' | awk '{print $4"/"$2" free ("$5" used)"}'

Übersicht can parse the same command, but like most other scripting languages, it needs to know where to start and when to stop when parsing information. The section of a widget, labeled command, needs to be encapsulated in a set of double quotes - ". To do this with the disk space shell command it will need to be properly escaped like this:

df -Hl | grep 'disk1' | awk '{print $4\" used/\"$2 \" free (\"$5\" used )\"}'
If you get an error with your widget, and it includes actual text from your command, take a look at how well your command has been escaped.

Once you have the shell command working, you can start on laying out your widget.

Javascript vs Coffeescript

Widgets for Übersicht can be written in either Javascript or Coffeescript. Continuing on the example monitoring your hard drive space, I wrote two widgets as an example in Javascript and Coffeescript. Both widgets were written to display the same information from the following shell command:

df -Hl | grep 'disk1' | awk '{print $4"/"$2" free ("$5" used)"}';

Coffeescript verson: Gist link

Pure Javascript version: Gist link

Here’s a comparison of the output of the two scripts:

Widget Gallery

The makers of Übersicht also have a gallery of widgets other users have created and were willing to share.

Some other widgetsI’m looking at:

  • Sysmon Set: a whole set of widgets to monitor your system.
  • Pretty Weather: a stripped down version of the weather widget I’m currently using. Looking at replacing the predicted high temperature with the current temperature. [1]

Work in progress

I’ve moved over all my core GeekTool widgets to Übersicht and have started looking at some new ones too. Some progress pictures of my desktop as I’ve developed new or updated widgets for Übersicht.

Progress screenshot:

Additional progress screenshot:

  1. This has caused me to learn more about the forecast.io API than I ever thought possible.  ↩

Comments from original WP Post:

Jason.Verly: You'll need to make some adjustments to the widget placement in the "Style" section. For some reason all the widget creators liked the bottom right corner.

Jason.Verly: I have some screencasts set for later this fall.

CrazedLeper: Ok, I installed the app and the widgets but, is there a way to customize them? I can't find a way to move those that are overlapping and some are just plopped in the middle of my screen.

Jose Duran: Hi, Would it be possible to get a quick explanation as to how to customize in youtube ???? also what is the program should we use to make adjustments in style ???? as long as it is impossible to do it via Debug Console. Thanks a lot