Friday, October 8, 2010

Snippage User Manual

Windows 7 Active Desktop

Snippage is written and offered at no cost by Gabo Mendoza. It's a cool little program that can display a web page, or (better yet) a portion of a web page on the desktop. That web page can be active, such as a web cam which refreshes, and you can select just the camera image. You can watch weather radar, the stock market, twitter, anything you'd like to keep an eye on. Other applications will run right on top of it, when you need the desktop space, but the Snippage window will keep up to date in the background.

It's a replacement for the Active Desktop of Windows XP, and it runs on XP, Vista, and Windows 7. I was unable to find a help file or a manual, and I did learn a few lessons the hard way, so here is my little "manual" with apologies to Gabo Mendoza.

First: Install Adobe AIR from get.adobe.air. The current version (Oct 8, 2010) is 2.04. Snippage was written for AIR 1.0, though, and it still works with AIR 2.04, so the version may not matter much.
Second: Visit to download the file snippage.air. As of Oct 8, 2010, the current version is 1.0 R 12.
Third: Run snippage.air. Click past the dire warnings. Snippage is used by lots of people so I doubt it's a spy. Allow the installer to put a shortcut icon on the desktop for now because you may need to restart Snippage a few times. You can delete that later.

Snippage will open with a little window showing a pointer "click me," see below. Move the mouse pointer up past that and click "Expand to browser view."

Enter the URL of the web page that you want to snip (or cut and paste from another browser) and click the red "go."

You can re-size the browser view of your page, if necessary, by dragging the bottom right corner. Then move the snip window over the part of the web page that you want to snip with the upper left corner, re-size it with the lower right.

Snip it by clicking the upper right corner. Now all you have left is the part of the page that you want, called the snip. Drag on the top and put it wherever you want on the desktop.

Once you have let go of the snip, your ability to control it may disappear. It does for me. To regain control:
  • Right-click on the AIR icon in the system notification area (tray), click "Exit." Then,
  • Restart Snippage by clicking on the desktop icon, then quickly move the mouse to the top of the Snippage window.
Do what you need to do:
  • To move the snip, drag the top as before.
  • To delete the snip, click "Expand to browser view" and then click the "X" in the upper right corner of that larger window.
  • There are other options too.
To make Snippage start every time the computer boots up, place a shortcut to the executable (copy the one on the desktop) in your startup folder.

Here's nice page that I have used in Snippage tests: It is the Duluth, Minnesota ship canal camera at the Lake Superior Marine Museum. The image updates every 30 seconds and will occasionally display an iron-ore carrier or a "salty" ocean-going vessel. For boat watchers, the web site even has a schedule of expected arrivals and departures.

I've tried Snippage on Windows XP SP3, Vista, and Windows 7 - they all work about the same. On competent dual-CPU Vista and Win 7 machines, Snippage needs less than 1% of the CPU time. On an old single-CPU XP system it may be over 1% but not 2%. I suspect this would depend on the number of snips displayed and the rates of update.

I'm grateful to Gabo Mendoza for giving us this cute tool. One of my users is upgrading from XP to Win 7 and wants to keep the active desktop.

Saturday, Oct 9, 2010:

Oops - I just noticed an issue. When I have two snips running, and delete one, it doesn't really go away. The next time I run Snippage it comes back. You can work around that problem by editing a text file, not pretty but it it works:
  • Stop Snippage.
  • Locate the "snipset" file.
    • On my Vista and Win 7 systems it is C:\Users\Don\AppData\Roaming\Snippage.B28F...B29B.1\Local Store\current.snipset.
    • On an XP system it's C:\Documents and Settings\Don\Application Data\Snippage.B28F...B29B.1\Local Store\current.snipset.
  • You may wish to make a backup copy of that file somewhere just in case.
  • Open the file with a plain text editor such as Notepad.
  • Snips are defined between <snip...> and </snip> tags. Within each snip you will find the URL of the web page that the snip displays, along with positioning and "snipping" information.
  • Find the snip that contains the web page you want to delete, and remove it completely, including the <snip...> at the front and the </snip> at the end. Save the changes.
  • Run Snippage. If it doesn't work correctly, try again - something is wrong in the edit.