This nearly slipped by our radar last week, but in the latest build of the upcoming chat client Trillian Astra, Cerulean Studios has snuck in desktop versions of its widgets. Users can now place widgets in their Trillian buddy list or right on their desktop, similar to what you'd get with the Yahoo Widget engine, or other desktop widget tools. Users are also able to send them between the buddy list and desktop via right clicking, or they can simply drag and drop.
For now there are just five sample widgets, but assuming Cerulean Studios opens things up a bit, or goes with universal widget coding, Trillian users could get what is typically two applications in one, along with a wide array of desktop widgets.
Customizing the widgets is a little harder than it should be, as you can't just configure each one once it's on your desktop. Everything is handled through a preferences menu, although I'm assuming this will be changed as the application gets closer to release. Some sample widgets do look neat; the weather widget in particular is easy to read and fully animated. And the world-time widget shows when the sun is hitting your current location, which is totally nerd eye-candy.
Similar to other widget tools, Astra has a hot key that let users pull up all the running widgets at the same time. Pressing the Windows key and space bar accomplishes this easily, although it doesn't have nearly the same effect you get with OS X's Dashboard widget.
I wouldn't recommend you ditch your current widget engine just yet, since this is a brand-new feature on an application that's still in private alpha. I am, however, excited to see if this feature will be integrated into the forthcoming browser-free version of the app.
For more shots of the new widget runtime environment, keep reading.