Windows

Five Windows 7 gadgets worth sharing with your users

Gadgets offer a simple, friendly way to execute all sorts of tasks -- perfect for nontechnical users (and often handy for power users, too).

If you support Windows 7 users, they may appreciate learning to take advantage of gadgets. Here's a little basic info on where to find gadgets, along with a few good ones to get them started. Just be sure they know to be careful when downloading gadgets. Some sites obscure the actual gadget link and promote download links for other products. The placement of these links is often deceptive. Also keep in mind that Microsoft doesn't support third-party gadgets.

Overview

Windows gadgets are specialized tools you can use without opening a separate program or browser. For instance, there are gadgets that let you track the weather or keep up with current events. Windows 7 comes with a small collection of gadgets. Just right-click on the desktop and choose Gadgets (or choose Desktop Gadget Gallery from the Start menu) to open the gallery. If you don't see anything you like there, click the Get More Gadgets Online link at the bottom to go to Microsoft's Desktop Gadgets page. Or just run an Internet search on Windows 7 gadgets. In fact, there's a gadget for that!

1: SearchBud

Thanks to this gadget, searching the Internet is a few clicks quicker. After you download it from Microsoft's Desktop Gadgets page and install it, this little tool sits on the desktop. Simply enter a search string and click the Search button to display a page of links, as shown in Figure A. To change the search engine, click the drop-down arrow (circled in the figure) and choose the one you want.

Figure A

A quick search is as near as your desktop.

2: Homemade world clock

In our shrinking world, many of us interact with people all over the globe, so knowing what time it is in other locations is a must. You don't need a gadget to know world times --the Windows clock will let you configure three time zones. But if you need more than three, you can use the Clock gadget to create as many as you like.

First, open the Gadgets gallery, right-click on the clock, and choose Add to place it on your desktop. Then, right-click on that clock, choose Add Gadgets to reopen the gallery, and add a second clock. Do this as many times as necessary. Now, set the time zone for each one (via the Options) and group them, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Using the Clock gadget, you can display as many time zones as you want.

3: Countdown!

Figure C shows the simple Countdown gadget: 15 days until vacation! What user doesn't need this gadget? Seriously though, the uses are limitless. Anytime you need to keep an eye on an important deadline, you'll be glad you have this gadget on your desktop.

Figure C

Use Countdown when deadlines are too important to let slip.

4: Network Meter

You can download the Network Meter (Figure D) from Microsoft's Desktop Gadgets page. It has a definite IT flavor, but even nontechnical folks will appreciate its wealth of information on wireless and wired networks. For instance, you can use this gadget to track network availability and upload and download usage. Unlike other gadgets, this one has a ton of options, so you'll want to spend a little time getting to know it.

Figure D

Use this gadget to monitor network activity.

5: StopWatch

If you need to track time spent on short tasks, you might benefit from StopWatch. This gadget lets you start and stop a simple timer, the way you would an actual stopwatch. It doesn't have many options. You just click Start to begin the count and click Stop to display the elapsed time, as shown in Figure E. With an hour limit, this particular gadget isn't adequate for serious project management, but it will help you track quick tasks (or time the lengthy orations of colleagues during meetings).

Figure E

Time those quick projects using StopWatch.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

31 comments
chdchan
chdchan

There should be sort of handy supermarket/shopping gadgets or apps around to push me flyers or offers matching my needs, expedite placing orders and keep track of my patron history thereof.

n4aof
n4aof

Apparently no one at Tech Republic bothers checking their articles before sending out emails with links to old badly out-dated information. This is their second email with links about Gadgets this year -- the previous one had comments over a year old still attached to the article. For all their claims about keeping up with technology, no one at Tech Republic knows that Microsoft all but abandoned Gadgets months ago -- there is NO support for Gadgets -- just a small handful on one webpage and they don't even pretend to support even those few.

Mark Lagendijk
Mark Lagendijk

I am the author of CalendarMark: "CalendarMark is a complete and useful Windows desktop gadget, enabling full Google Calandar access, keeping your agenda up-to-date with ease." CalendarMark is currently available for an introduction price or even for free (well, for a tweet about CalendarMark). Go to http://calendarmark.com to get it!

brent3600
brent3600

Unfortunately, the links provided don't work, and Microsoft doesn't provide the ability to search for particular gadgets on their website. They do provide a handful on their gadget page, but if the one you want isn't there, you're out of luck. What am I missing here?

pam101
pam101

This is driving me nuts, the gadgets that I would like to try aren't there anymore. Couldn't find Stopwatch, the link didn't work, then when I went to MS's page, it wasn't there. I clicked on the link for more gadgets, searched for Stopwatch and there is no current release. I had this same issue with the network meter on the last article about gadgets.

techrepubliclist
techrepubliclist

Just one more reason to opt out of TechRepublic (TR): providing links that don't work to things that may no longer exist. Of the five (5) mentioned, I could get three (3). That's a forty (40) percent failure rate, and that's a failing grade. I would expect a bit more of TR.

kelly.jacobson
kelly.jacobson

Most Windows-offered Gadgets are no longer available, including the Countdown timer. If you could post sources that create their own Gadgets, THAT would be helpful.

yooper
yooper

I wen t to the gadget galley awhile back and was shocked that they would yank all the pre-exisiting gadgets from the galley and state that they wanted to focus on the "exciting new product" or some crap like that. That's almost akin to going out to dinner with your new love and ditching them mid way through to go meet up with your new flame. Let's face it, MS needs to stop thinking that people are going to drop whatever OS their using and upgrade right to the next "great" release you put out. Come on people, is Windows 8 really raising your eyebrows? I didn't think so.

The Joat
The Joat

Too bad you didn't include a link.

firstaborean
firstaborean

Another very useful Gadget is the Drives Meter, made by the same outfit as makes the Network Meter. For anybody whose computer lacks an indicator LED for the hard drive or uses multiple drives, this Gadget does the job -- and more. It indicates when a drive is in use, gives an idea of how much data is being accessed, monitors writes and reads separately, and monitors logical drives separately. Like the Network Meter, it has lots of useful settings.

rickhal
rickhal

I was setting up my new pc last night and went to get some gadgets from MS. There are still gadgets there, but only a few by comparison to how many there used to be. Anyone know why MS would cut down on the number of gadgets available? Just curious. I did get the ones I use mostly: clock, calendar, weather, and system guages. But what happened to the many others that used to reside there?

YehudaV
YehudaV

Not really, but the uploads only. Downloads are still there and also the gadgets which are in the blog.

shamshad_malik
shamshad_malik

Can you please share any gadget capable to tell me that how many people are connected to my wifi-internet connetion.

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

I was really disappointed when they shut that down. I found several interesting gadgets out there. Pretty bizarre that they gave us something handy like that then axed it. My must have gadgets are the basic clock, weather, and the CPU and Network meters.

mbloemer
mbloemer

You are aware that Microsoft shut down the gadget gallery in October 2011????

ssharkins
ssharkins

The world clock is just multiple Clock gadgets, which is available via your system link -- right-click the Desktop, choose Gadgets.

rtshort
rtshort

Try logging into your Router. You can see it there.

N4AOF
N4AOF

Apparently TechRepublic has run out of technically competent writers and whatever staff they have left are so totally clueless that they just keep recycling old articles hoping that subscribers won't notice that some of the items in the so-called NEWS letters are two and three years old. Occasionally part of the information is partly updated from the original article, but even then, the information may still not be up to date. TechRepublic has recycled this three year old "Gadgets" article three times in the past year -- each time highlight a few different gadgets, but most of the the gadgets being mentioned do not actually exist on microsoft's abandoned legacy gadget website.

Jody Gilbert
Jody Gilbert

Hi mbloemer, Yep, we're aware that Microsoft closed its Windows Live Gallery last fall. In its place is the page we link to at the beginning of this article, where a limited number of gadgets are available for download. Old links to the Windows Live Gallery redirect to this page as well. --Jody

jfuller05
jfuller05

Actual words from Microsoft: Because we want to focus on the exciting possibilities of the newest version of Windows, Microsoft no longer supports uploading new gadgets. But that doesn't mean you can't still get gadgets. The most popular and highest-rated gadgets are still available on this page. Some info for gadget developers: You can now use your HTML5 and CSS3 skills to build Metro-style apps for Windows 8 Developer Preview. To get started developing Metro style apps, go to Windows Dev Center. If you're interested in building gadgets for the Windows 7 Gadget Platform or the Windows Vista Sidebar, we recommend you have a look at the Gadgets developer documentation on MSDN. Want to share a gadget that you???ve already created? CodePlex is a great option for hosting your gadgets.

rkendsley
rkendsley

It's best to check things out before you make declarations such as this. Just connected to it and downloaded a gadget.

ssharkins
ssharkins

You're not the only reader and believe it or not, we write to a broad audience, from folks who are new to Windows 7 and gadgets to developers of all ilk.

N4AOF
N4AOF

Go to the website that you claim has these gadgets and see if those gadgets are actually there. I will admit that I did not bother going to the website this time because this is the third time you have recycled this three-year-old article in just the past year. I have given up expecting TechRepublic to have valid information because you have demonstrated that you don't have either the expertise or the common business sense. It is bad enough that you constantly repost the same articles over and over in multiple versions of your newsletters, but recycling old garbage articles just to fill up space in the newsletters is not going to do you any good - it won't take long for your target audience to realize that you are no longer a reliable source of material worth reading.

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

There's about 25 or 30 gadgets there compared to hundreds (or more) that used to be there. I can understand MS moving away from gadgets, but to make all those pre-existing ones unavailable now just seems wrong. Does anyone know their reasoning? Were they getting abusive gadgets in there or something?

SKDTech
SKDTech

How they are trying to force gadget developers over to supporting their new platform which doesn't even have a firm release date yet? I mean this Windows 7 they are trying to force them off of when most companies have only just begun to transition from XP. Kind of a pendulum move, after working so hard to recover from the Vista PR debacle by concentrating on getting people to migrate to 7.

N4AOF
N4AOF

I'm sure I'm not your only reader -- but I have to wonder how many readers actually want to re-read the same "news" several times a month -- and how many 2012 readers want to read a "news" article that was written in 2010 (or earlier), not updated, and has been incorrect for many months before you reposted it for the third or fourth time. The basic problem centers on two facts: 1. "Tech" information is only valuable if it is accurate and 2. "Newsletters" are only valuable if they contain NEW material. (That is what the NEW in NEWS means) Lately Tech Republic has been scoring rather low on both counts.

N4AOF
N4AOF

If this is a fresh article, why are readers complaining about the same faults that other readers complained about IN THIS SAME THREAD over two years ago?!? I've read this REHASHED article at least four times in the last year -- sometimes it gets tweaked a little when you recycle it but everything about it seems to have come from the original notes for the original article written way back when Microsoft actually had a Win 7 Gadgets website, not just a legacy webpage to keep the link buried in the OS from going dead.

ssharkins
ssharkins

This is a fresh article, not recycled, and the gadgets are in deed there, and available. It's Okay if you don't find the article useful -- that's just the nature of things. A number of readers have sent private emails asking for information on other possible gadgets, so it's a viable topic, even if it isn't right for you, just now.