The University of Washington may be overstating things a just a tad with a headline like "what if all software was open source," but the so-called "Prefab" software tool developed by some researchers at the university does indeed manage to pull of some fairly impressive tricks. The short of it is that the tool promises to you let you (or developers) modify any application without actually modifying it. To do that, the software constantly looks for easily identifiable elements of an application (dialog boxes, scroll bars, buttons, etc.) and then "alters their behavior" by effectively taking over your display, leaving the actual program running in the background and displaying the augmented version instead. According to the researchers, the possibilities from there on out are virtually endless, and include things like adding iTunes buttons to your Word toolbar and tweaking Photoshop to display previews for a whole range of effects at once. Head on past the break for a quick demo video, and look for more to be unveiled at the CHI 2010 conference in Atlanta next month.

[Thanks, Keith]


University of Washington's Prefab tool promises to 'unlock the desktop'