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Stattoo: An Alternative Dock for Information Feeds

Published October 30th, 2006

Stattoo - Info that blends in with your Mac OS X Desktop!

Stattoo Dock-Like Info StripOriginally downloaded 5/4/06. Stattoo is a cool-looking application that defines a horizontal strip along the bottom of your monitor, into which you can drag a variety of widget-like elements that display information. You get the feeling that Panic, the developer, will be adding more “stattoos” to your choices as time goes by, but at the moment, you have date, time, weather, email, RSS feeds, iCal info, and some others as your choices. The concept is cool enough that I’ll definitely have to check it out. Too bad it ain’t free, though. (Panic wants $10 for Stattoo.)

Update 10/30/06. I’ve tried Stattoo a couple of times now, and I just don’t think this will work (for me). Problem #1 is that the Stattoo information strip can’t be relocated, enlarged, re-colored, or any other customizations, so if it clashes with other page elements you may have in that portion of your screen, you’re out of luck.

Stattoo's Information Strip

Problem #2 is that the information density of Stattoo’s “widgets” is just too low. Anyone who’s read or heard Edward Tufte’s theories on information presentation will recognize that Stattoos like this will only be useful at much higher densities. Stattoos are like the much-criticized “PowerPoint bullet points”. An example of what I mean here is that Stattoo displays the last 3 unread email subject lines, the next 3 to-do items for a given calendar, the last 3 headlines for a given news feed, and so on. You can’t modify this behavior, so if the magic 3 isn’t enough for you, again you’re just out of luck. (For example, I’m running the equally interesting iCalViewer, which also wants to claim space on that low row of your monitor screen, and the two clash. iCalViewer, though, does have some alternative display possibilities.)

This also feeds into a related problem, which is that there just isn’t enough room in the Stattoo strip for everything you might want to display. If you want to monitor 5 or 6 news feeds, as well as 2 or 3 mail boxes and 2 or more to-do lists, you’re already out of room and can’t show things that make sense in Stattoo like the date, time, and current temperature.

Finally, something like Stattoo needs to be more or less always visible… otherwise, why wouldn’t you just use Dashboard for this kind of thing. As it is, Stattoo can’t be set to remain visible if you change and hide applications, which means you have another hot key to learn to get it to reappear.

Aside from its “cool”, “haven’t done this before” factor, Stattoo is a somewhat flawed concept at this point. Add to that assessment the fact that Panic hasn’t added any new Stattoos or otherwise updated the software since March 2006, and you’ve got an application that’s probably on a dead-end street at this point. If it were open source, you’d might see some developers who’d be interested in fixing some of Stattoo’s flaws and building the concept out. As it is, it’s just an interesting curiosity… a mutation of the Mac OS X Dock concept that probably won’t survive for the long haul.

Version as tested: 1.5.

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