As you know, the Sidebar is essentially a toolbar that provides you with a place to store and organize information that you regularly need, or want, to access quickly. The information is presented via little tools called Gadgets, which are actually mini programs that run the gamut from goofy little games to extremely useful and powerful tools. Gadgets can display continuously updated information or allow you to perform common tasks without opening a separate application or window.In this blog, I'll tell you about my six favorite gadgets, describing the features that make these particular gadgets useful or amusing.
I begin just about every excursion on the World Wide Web at Google, so it's not surprising that my first favorite Gadget would be one that allows me to quickly and easily launch a search on Google. Now, there are quite a few of these types of Gadgets out there and I've tried a bunch of them. While most of them are very good, I recently discovered SearchGadget and found it to be efficient, versatile, and easy to use.
SearchGadget provides you with a simple interface consisting of a text box and a button. A magnifying glass graphic appears in the background but can be disabled to make the gadget more compact on the Sidebar. Once you type your search term and click the button, the first page of results instantly appears in a fly-out window, as shown in Figure A. I found that if this first page of results contains exactly what I'm looking for, I can click the link and the fly-out window disappears, a browser tab opens, and takes me directly to the site. If, on the other hand, the first page of doesn't contain what I'm looking for and I click either the Next page link or the Search Within Results link, the fly-out window disappears and the browser tab opens containing the results and allows me to easily pursue a more extensive search. If you prefer, you can configure the SearchGadget to bypass the fly-out window altogether and just display the results in your browser.
The SearchGadget makes accessing and taking advantage of the power of Google and real breeze.
I love the Office Clipboard in Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007 because it automatically maintains a collection of all the text that I've cut or copied while working on a particular document. This makes it easy to move text blocks from one part of a document to another without having to worry about losing it as well as being able to paste exact words and phrases multiple times in a document. Since I regularly copy information off the Internet while researching various topics, I've often wished that Internet Explorer had a feature like the Office Clipboard. So I was very pleased with the Clip Collector Gadget. It provides me with the same functionality as the Office Clipboard, but from any application.
Using Clip Collector is as simple as copying items to the clipboard. When you do, Clip Collector stores them in its collection, which can range from 15 to 120 items. You can then click on the Clip Collector gadget to display the full clipboard interface and easily cycle through the collected items, as shown in Figure B. Once you find the item that you want, you click the Copy button to copy the back to the clipboard. You can then paste the item wherever you wish. Admittedly, this is a few more steps than when using the Office Clipboard, but it's very slick. Keep in mind that Clip Collector only works with plain text and the collection will be wiped clean when you log off or restart.
ClipCollector mirrors the functionality of the Microsoft Office Clipboard.
Vista Orb Clock
Having the clock in the Sidebar is a really nice feature and the default Gadget clock in Windows Vista is very nice. However, I really like the new Start button in Vista and so when I saw the Vista Orb Clock I knew right away that this was going to replace the default Gadget clock. This Gadget provides you with 12 different clock faces, as shown in Figure C, based on Windows Vista's icons and orb logo.
The Vista Orb Clock offers an eye candy version of the necessary Sidebar staple.
Not all Gadgets are designed for productivity and that's definitely the category that the Bubble Wrap Gadget falls into. However, there's just something about bubble wrap that makes it hard to resist squeezing and popping the little bubbles-it's almost soothing in a way. That's why the Bubble Wrap Gadget made it into my Sidebar. A do a lot of work on the phone and inevitably I end up sitting in a phone queue waiting for the next available operator. This is when I break into the Bubble Wrap Gadget, as shown in Figure D. Just point to a bubble and it pops along with a realistic sound effect. And, there are eight different colors to choose from. Of course, I keep this Gadget on the second page of the Sidebar.
With the Bubble Wrap Gadget, you can while away time while waiting on the phone.
At one time I was a hard core sticky note user, but my affection for the paper version kind of tapered off when I began using Outlook and discovered the Notes feature-an electronic equivalent. While I still use Outlook's Notes, I now use the default Notes Gadget in the Sidebar quite a bit more because it's close at hand. You can choose from six different colors and also choose from three font styles and a variety of font sizes.
Having the Calendar Gadget on the Sidebar is a necessity and the default version is functional when it comes to checking dates. Simply by clicking on the calendar you can switch between a day, month, and year views. You can also check calendars in the past and future should the need arise.
What's your take?
As you can see, the Sidebar and these six Gadgets come in very handy in my computing lifestyle. How about you? Do you use Gadgets? What are your favorites? Click here to respond.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.