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My six favorite Sidebar Gadgets


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.

SearchGadget

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.

Figure A

The SearchGadget makes accessing and taking advantage of the power of Google and real breeze.

Clip Collector

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.

Figure B

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.

Figure C

The Vista Orb Clock offers an eye candy version of the necessary Sidebar staple.

Bubble Wrap

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.

Figure D

With the Bubble Wrap Gadget, you can while away time while waiting on the phone.

Notes

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.

Calendar

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.

About

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.

23 comments
grisj
grisj

You might want to stop using your computer and get down the gym mark!!!! Comment made by: a man with a neck

bobjoesal
bobjoesal

I think. It is Ok but how do you get it to work but I can not get it to work. Pls tell me how to work the gadgets

adpg
adpg

Yeah, yeah...but what about us who do not have (at least at present) the time of going Vista??sh and spending a whole week to get accustomed to a bloated new OS that on my Dual Core Intel e6400+asus P5WD should look and feel fantastic and it didn??t? Please do save us sometime and next time when posting "news" tell us that this is only Vista related. That way I won??t be chasing things that are not for the xp users like me, who didn??t upgrade because it is not yet worth it. So that??s the downside to it and if you would like to make it up, then please also mention a similar product for XP and you will certainly just read my appreciating comment.

Fil0403
Fil0403

"As you can see, the Sidebar and these six Gadgets come in very handy in my computing lifestyle. How about you?" I totally agree with that statement. "Do you use Gadgets?" No, only because I'm running Vista (smoothly, actually) on a 3+ year old Toshiba Satellite A60-122 laptop and I (have to) value performance over usability. "What are your favorites?" If I'd use them, a Google gadget, a weather gadget and a CPU/RAM usage gadget would probably be among my favourites.

Grumpa777
Grumpa777

As a Windows Systems Administrator, my FAVORITE Gadget is the Remote Desktop by BrianLewis549@msn.com. It allows me to list the top 10 servers I normally connect to and then connect with a total of 3 clicks. It's a Geek's #1 Gadget! Then, #2 is the Simple Date and System Functions Gadget by ucfknight10. This one shows the date, time, day, and temp (I have it show my home data), PLUS it has the flyover options of running the Task Manager, or shutting down, hibernating, restarting or locking your computer. Cleaverly done and well behaved. #3 is Multi Meter (D) by SFKilla; shows CPU/Core and RAM usage. Simple and sweet. #4 is Driveinfo by thompsonkris because it's highly configurable and allows me to select only the drives I want to display. #5 is Jewlz by vinnivan. It's a complete time waster - like the bubble wrap gadget - but it's great to play while you're waiting on a page to load. #6 is overkill on the weather: AccuWeather.com's Mini-Forecast. I use it to show the temp where I work and when you click on the gadget it shows the next 5 day forecast; click on the 5 day forcast and it brings up the AccuWeather.com web page with more info. I'm beginning to love the VISTA OS and all it's gadgets! These tools really help to make my job easier.

jusovsky
jusovsky

I love the Remote Desktop shortcut gadget, the NetFlix queue gadget, and the Azureus monitor. There are various weather gadgets out there, too, that are better than the one that ships with Vista.

amj2010
amj2010

I have 3 clocks from 3 different places, the weather at my local town, calendar, cpu monitor, notesticker, and fast shut down/lock and restart gadget. the google you mentioned I have already when I start up my webbrowser... thera would be a lot more if somebody could spare to make them..

dogknees
dogknees

I really like the postit notes as well. It works even better when on the desktop. Try adding several copies of the gadget, set each to a different colour and arrange on your desktop. The really cool bit is that they stay put on the desktop when you re-start. Great for replacing the real ones attached to the monitor. The only complaint I've got about the Sidebar is I can't find where to change it's width to suit my screen res and dot pitch. Anyone found this yet?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

First, Mark host the blog. The article was posted by Greg Schultz. Second, this is a community of IT professionals. Rude remarks by new members are not well regarded. Comments about personal appearance say more about you than the subject. The membership here doesn't care about superficial external appearance. All we care about is your IT skills. Look up "meritocracy" when you get a chance. Then lurk a while and try contributing when you have something to say that's on-topic.

txnovotny
txnovotny

"Weather Pulse" is the best weather program I've found.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Two people have listed CPU and drive monitor gadgets as among their favorites. Except for troubleshooting, why would you want to lose screen space to monitor this activity on a full-time basis?

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

taken to the heart...strike a chord did he? I wasn't aware that these forums (asking for user comments) were moderated by you. I'll check next time.

OldER Mycroft
OldER Mycroft

Whatever it was, its delivery was perfect. Well done! [Post-It notes are not the sole ownership of Vista - I've run with them on XP for 4 years. Mind you , mine are called 'Stickies' but they come in a rainbow of choices!]

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

Ummm, some people ENJOY the sidebar and don't mind releasing 1 inch of their 22" monitors so the screen space is a non issue. Personally I monitor network drives and user shares so thay don't fill up too quick and I like to know what my CPU is up to anytime I like, so that's why I use them full-time. Tell me do you use the sidebar? If so - you are a hypocrite, and if not...what are you doing in this discussion?

Grumpa777
Grumpa777

Palmetto, I accidentally clicked on the link to your profile and found we have similar backgrounds - punching cards and compiling Cobol. To honestly answer your question: 1) It's a personal preference, and 2) Because I could. (The usual answer to "Why did you climb that mountain?") A more technical, defensive answer would be 1) To see what my new Dell Precision 690, DualCore, 2TB, yada, yada, yada... will do under loads and normal usage. 2) Because I map our user's home drive areas to my S: and T: drives to tell me when they get too full - we have other programs that do the same thing but are a little slower, and 3) Because I have 2 each 20 inch, 1280x1024 screens to spread my RDP windows over. Gluttony!

pwright2
pwright2

and being continuously both disappointed and horrified is part of the experience.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Tell me do you use the sidebar?" I'm running Vista in virtual machine as a test and training ground for possible future deployment. Turning off the sidebar is one of the first things I did. I didn't see any benefit it provided that was worth to me the trade-off of the loss of screen space. "if not...what are you doing in this discussion?" Just because it annoyed me initially doesn't mean I'm not open to additional information about it. Someone else may have found a use for it that I missed, or have a suggestion to use it more effectively than my first attempt. So far that hasn't been the case, but I don't think the TR terms of use require me to justify my continued participation in this forum to you.

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

M$ marketing hype...and the fact that it IS the most advanced OS (so far) in the world. The mere fact that you CAN virtually pop bubblewrap or whatever on a computer is Fn mind boggling - ever played solitaire? Oh BTW my favourite is the CPU and mem displays, but that's just me. Are you trying to tell me that I can't have a favourite gadget? Or if I do have a favourite, that I should be ashamed of that? The article ASKED for users favourites, he gave his and you're screaming "CHRIST!" about it...well if you are not that interested in Vista and it's related articles, perhaps you shouldn't read and get upset by them. In fact go away altogether, and you won't be offended, and we won't have to put up with your BS.

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

And you are listed as Networking/LAN admin, so what qualifies YOU to comment on desktop gadgets??? Leave the boy alone, and pick on someone with your own skill set. We're all not as erudite and just plain brainy like you there. You were a noob once too, remember?

geckomikeg
geckomikeg

It is a sad and humorous at the same time when the tired worn out smug fanboy approach is taken, but when it is slaughtered with a quick witted factual synopsis in the form of a reality check as was done here it makes it all worth it. Simply put if you can not back it up don't claim to be the best because when it comes down to it you will end up looking pathetic.

Synthetic
Synthetic

You state, so smugly, that this is the most advanced OS on the market, by what qualification do you make this statement? I have to ask as this is highly debatable and even then the debate needs to be framed on the outcome of the environment and the specific factors being judged. Since you came off so smarmy, I will treat you in kind, my assumption is that you can't make a ration basis for this, or even a substantive observation on the whole, of the Vista OS since your running yours on a Toshiba Satellite A60-122 laptop and can't even take advantage of many of the advanced features due to the maximum hardware profile of this unit. Also since you go onto to provide everyone your opinion of what gadgets you would be using, even though you can't run them in a normal environment and haven't. This means your providing a baseless opinion with no actual experience to back it up. This is not take a position that states my OPINION of the Vista OS, but more my opinion of new TR users whose world experience is not measurable and take a tact that is somehow both aggressive and banal. You are listed as a student so learn. Learn to provide something to the conversation as members who help, coach, provide insight based on their working and theoretical knowledge, and are honest when dealing with what they do not know, are respected. Those that place the spark of a flame job are often quickly picked apart. I would like to see pwright, who posted before, expand on his experience. Unfortunately, both your attitude and S. Warrens article are par for the course of most Windows users, smug without reason or explanation, comfortable in an OS that dumbs down the users interaction and removes or makes difficult advanced administration (something moving the neophyte, low level hobbyist, basic user, and therefore the industry back instead of forward), for Christ sake, one of the favorites is a clock, the other is VIRTUAL BUBBLE WRAP. That to me does not whisper, let alone scream "Most Advanced OS on the market". For a good post, look at Grumpa777, he should have written this article.

Fil0403
Fil0403

...and being continuously both amused and entertained by jealous comments of ignorants like you is part of the joy.