|March 16, 2006||Posted by Martin Ralya (TT)|
This is a guest post by Patrick Waddingham (Patrick on TT’s GMing Q&A Forum). Patrick offered to write a post about online desktops for TT, and I was more than happy to take him up on it.
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While “chaotic” is a fun word to describe an NPC vigilante or demon prince, it loses its allure when used with “organization of gaming material.” The internet promotes organization as much as it seems to fight it.
The trick to organizing game material is to make sure that all of your resources are quickly and conveniently available to you. Online desktops are a great way to organize game notes and provide access to your favorite internet resources.
Online desktops are places on the web that emulate the interface of your home computer — and they work practically the same way. You can drag and resize windows and open new windows with information in them, just like you can on your home PC’s desktop.
(Here’s a sample online desktop.)
You can store lists of links and open web pages for quick and easy access during a gaming session. Most often they are personal — just for you — but you can also allow others (or authorized viewers) to access your customized online desktop. These types of online desktops are great for collaborative GMing efforts, as you can leave notes for one another and all involved will have access to the same in-game material.
I have created a new online desktop themed for a d20 game, and have opened it to be viewed by others so that you can see an example of what you can do with online desktops.
Here are a few other examples of online desktops for you to look at. This is by no means a comprehensive list, especially since there are a few promising ones nearing completion:
- Protopage — An easy and flexible design that lets others view your desktop if you so choose
- eyeOS (Downloadable version available; requires web server with PHP)
- TXN (Requires FireFox 1.5 web browser)
- Pageflakes — Newer online desktop
Not all online desktops are as flexible as others — it is up to you to determine which style you like and want to work with. Some shared common features are:
- RSS Feeds — News feeds to web sites like EN World and Treasure Tables.
- Links — A list of hyperlinks.
- Sticky Notes — Small blurbs of text that you make yourself.
Some desktops, like Protopages, let you enter HTML into the sticky notes. This lets you include personal web pages in your online desktop and gives you a wide range of flexibility.
One useful HTML tag to know, called iframe, lets you display another web page within the desktop. The height field after the style property in this tag can be adjusted if you need to make sure the iframe field stretches to the height of your window. (This is the trick used to display the web pages within the sample online desktop.)
One website that isn’t an online desktop that non-the-less compliments other desktops is Writely. Writely is an online document management system that offers the ability to collaborate with others on creating a document.
For our purposes, Writely is a great place to store typed game notes; once typed they can be exported to HTML for a web page or to a Word document. As with the collaborative online desktops, opening your Writely documents to other GMs in a group-GM environment is beneficial, as everyone involved then has access to the same source material and will always have the most recent version of whatever you are working with.
(Here’s a sample Writely screenshot.)
Since Google purchased it, Writely hasn’t been accepting new members. It should remain a free tool, though, and will reopen registration soon.
If you are a GM-on-the-go or a tech-savvy GM, I’m sure you will find great value in being able to have immediate access to your library of online gaming resources. Groups who do co-GMed games can also keep organized and the flow going at and away from the table.
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Have you ever used an online desktop for your game? It strikes me that these might work well in conjunction with (or, for some GMs, in place of) a GMing wiki (covered on TT in Wikis for GMs, Part 1 and Part 2, and TiddlyWiki as a GMing Tool) — what do you think?