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Take advantage of Windows 7 Gadgets to create room on the Taskbar

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, Greg Shultz shows you some of the ways that he is taking advantage of Gadgets in Microsoft Windows 7.

As you may know, Microsoft first introduced Gadgets in Windows Vista, where they existed in a docked container called the Sidebar. In Windows 7, Microsoft did away with the Sidebar, and now Gadgets are free to be positioned anywhere on your desktop. I love this feature and have used it to move to the next level and am now really taking advantage of Gadgets.

In my case, I have a multiple-monitor configuration with three monitors, and I use one monitor almost exclusively for displaying Gadgets, as shown in Figure A. Of course, I use several of Windows 7's native Gadgets and a handful of other gadgets that I have either developed myself or found on Microsoft's Desktop and Sideshow Gadgets site.

Figure A

I use one monitor almost exclusively for displaying Gadgets.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show some of the ways that I am taking advantage of Gadgets in Microsoft Windows 7.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

No Sidebar

As I mentioned in the introduction, the disappearance of the Sidebar is what really got me into using Gadgets more extensively. My guess is that Microsoft did away with the Sidebar container because it got in the way of the Aero Snap feature, which relies on the edge of the desktop to be a snapping point, so to speak.

Being able to place Gadgets anywhere on the desktop and dedicating a monitor to display Gadgets is the first way that I am now taking full advantage of Gadgets.

Removing Clock and Calendar

Because I have Windows 7's Clock and Calendar Gadgets on my third monitor where I can see them all the time, I began thinking that I really didn't need to have the Clock and Calendar in the Notification Area of the Taskbar. That space could be put to better use for displaying icons for my running application. So I decided to see if I could hack into the registry to disable them. However, I discovered that there is a much easier way to disable the Clock and Calendar in the Notification Area.

To begin, right-click on the clock and select the Customize Notification Icons command, as shown in Figure B. When you see the Notification Area Icons window, shown in Figure C, click the Turn System Icons On or Off option.

Figure B

To begin, right-click on the clock and select the Customize Notification Icons command.

Figure C

Select the Turn System Icons On or Off link.
You'll then see the System Icons window. When you do, select Off from the drop-down list adjacent to Clock, as shown in Figure D. Then click OK twice -- once to close the System Icons window and once to close the Notification Area Icons window.

Figure D

Set the Clock to Off.
Now, without the Clock and Calendar in the Notification Area, as shown in Figure E, I have more room on the Taskbar for my application icons.

Figure E

With the Clock and Calendar removed from the Notification Area, there is more room on the Taskbar.
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Better Meters

I usually keep Windows Task Manager minimized to the Notification Area so that I can keep tabs on CPU usage, and with a couple of clicks I can expand Windows Task Manager and see memory and network usage. By having the Network icon in the Notification Area, I can keep tabs on my network connection.

However, by using three Gadget meters from the folks at AddGadget.com -- All CPU Meter, Network Meter, and Drives Meter -- I get everything those tools in the Notification Area provide and much more!

The All CPU Meter Gadget identifies your CPU brand, tracks CPU usage by core, and also displays the total amount of memory in your system as well as how much is being used and how much is free. The Network Meter Gadget monitors both wired and wireless connections and shows a host of valuable information, including signal quality, bandwidth usage, download speeds, IP addresses, and more. The Drives Meter displays free space, used space, read speed, write speed for up to four drives. Furthermore all three of these meters offer many configuration options. Each one of these meters is free of charge and available on Microsoft's Desktop and Sideshow Gadgets site.

With these meter Gadgets running on my desktop, I no longer need to have Windows Task Manager and the Network icon in the Notification Area. To remove them, I just close Windows Task Manager. Then I return to the System Icons window, shown in Figure D and set the Network icon to Off.

While I was there, I set the Volume icon to Off. I use the volume controls on my Microsoft keyboard anyway. There are also a couple of volume control gadgets on Microsoft's Desktop and Sideshow Gadgets site.

After removing them, I have even more room on the Taskbar for my application icons.

What's your take?

Of course, all the settings I changed on my system to better take advantage of Gadgets won't work for everyone, but you can customize these techniques to your situation as you see fit. The question is, will you? Do you like to use Gadgets? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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.

34 comments
Bruss044
Bruss044

Just installed Windows 7 today.  And not even sure where to start. no solution windows help.  The clock in task bar is correct, but the gadget clock is incorrect.  Both of them is at set at same time zone.  So how can this be corrected?

XtianApi
XtianApi

I was dying to leave the CPU/Memory meter on my laptop desktop there so I can look at my CPU as a smooth rev style gauge like the one in a car. I loved watching it zoom upwards as I lay into a resource intensive application. However, I was crushed to find that it uses anywhere from three to TWENTY TWO percent of my CPU. For an i5 processor, that is too much. My laptop would actually run hotter because of the one gadget. On my desktop with two i7s and a ton of cooling, no problem. I made it as big as possible, but it still bugs me when I need a lot of juice, to know that its back there, sucking amps.

ElijahKam
ElijahKam

I don't have Windows 7 so I am perhaps speaking from ignorance. But from what I have read, Windows 7 adds stuff to the Taskbar which Vista does not. So now that the Taskbar is all stuffed up, we need Gadgets to take care of business. Wouldn't it be better to retain the old Taskbar which usually had enough space.

TuneUp Utilities
TuneUp Utilities

Thanks for the tip on using Windows gadgets to make some room on the Taskbar. I was actually getting frustrated that all of my icons were to the left on the Taskbar, so I looked into finding a way to move them to the center. If you???d like to try this out, you can check out this blog post I put together that explains how to make the change: http://bit.ly/fu5Sjv

rps6568
rps6568

My gadgets have disappeared and I can't get them back.

netsecuritypro
netsecuritypro

You do realize you gave the world your external ip address right?

frank_s
frank_s

You can move gadgets to the desktop in Vista. Here's a quote from the "Customize Windows Sidebar" item in Vista help: You can customize Windows Sidebar by hiding it, keeping it on top of other windows, adding and removing gadgets from it, detaching gadgets to place them on the desktop, and more." When Gadgets are detached from the Sidebar in Vista they can be placed anywhere on the desktop or even on another monitor.

rublejim2
rublejim2

I have been using Desktop Sidebar ( http://download.cnet.com/Desktop-Sidebar/3004-2072_4-11319892.html?tag=mncol ) for several years and am lost without it. I also use Windows Sysinternals Process Explorer ( http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653.aspx )in lieu of Task Manager. One other program that I use rather than the Window Start Menu is Vista Start Menu ( http://www.vistastartmenu.com/index.html ). I am running Windows 7 on both the PC and Laptop. Also on an older computer on dial-up running XP that I use in the event of sat dish failure.

The Joat
The Joat

The first thing I do when setting up a new windows 7 system is put the Quick Launch Bar back on the task bar and get rid of the "pinned" icons. This frees up lots of space and puts my often used programs(20 or more)back where I can get to them easily.

michaelwilkinson22
michaelwilkinson22

I would like to see a method of setting up a SSD and moving the user accounts to the hard disk. i have searched the web, but there are lots of solutions but none that i have found work satisfactory. michaelwilkinson22@yahoo.co.uk this would be very useful to lots of your readers, MS say don't do it?

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

I've been doing things like that since Win XP. All my bar has is a Start button, 4 common used tasks shown of the 8 in the one click. and the size is compressed by dragging it to a smaller with, the rest are a popup bar when you click on the double arrow icon that ends the display box. To do this right click on the bar and unlock the taskbar. then the right side of the bar it only shows the clock and all the other icons are hidden by right clicking the bar and going into the properties area. then go to the notification tab and click the Customize box,. A new small window appears and all the Icon names in the scroll box just click on each one and click on the Hide Text. When done just click the OK box and each box closes. These icons can still be reached or viewed by clicking on the less than character and the bar expands to show all. This lets you hold more active window Icon boxes before Windows starts shrinking the text labels. Hope this ten year old secret helps you make better use of the task bar.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

I like the idea of these gadgets but there is certainly a desire to create my own. You mentioned that you dabbled in such alchemy. Do you have any advise for someone who wanted to start programming custom gadgets?

BGT_DieNoMite
BGT_DieNoMite

Yeah I guess if I had 3 monitors, I'd fill them up with something...

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Where did you get the command prompt gadget?

muraliabsalom
muraliabsalom

does sound good as the putting on all the gadgets will anyways consume more mem & cpu which will hit the performance of sys! thats my view point but will look good for appearance

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I haven't found one I like yet. On the other hand, I haven't looked much. When I wanted more space on my Taskbar, I dragged it from the bottom to the side. There's more space on a vertical task bar because each application takes up less space. I've never understood why people would want to monitor drive, CPU, etc. on a daily ongoing basis. For troubleshooting purposes, sure. Otherwise, what's to gain? I run four virtual desktops over two physical monitors, and most are occupied by maximized or tiled apps. I've even quit changing wallpaper since I rarely see it. I haven't see a gadget yet that was worth its footprint, but I'd be happy to entertain suggestions.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Are you using gadgets in Windows 7? Which ones do you find useful?

pweegar
pweegar

As far as windows doing away with the sidebar, no they did not. Sidebar may act differerntly, but it is there (and on my pc, with 6 gadgets running) and running. The program itself is located in the folder C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar. And under Task Manager->Process, sidebar.exe is running. I am running Windows 7, Ultimate 64. I like to keep them on the side, as they are organixzed, and away from all the other stuff I have on my desktop. Ya, it would be nice to have 3 monitors, but I don't. It is what it is.

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

I do not remember id the quick start box on the Windows Vista home has it turned on or off. I did not know if it could until I gotten and played with a 3rd party Windows Tweak program. I have also dragged the task bar to all four sides of the main window, but I still like it at the bottom of the screen. And I've tried many different faced clocks, but still the standard clock it comes with is what I use.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If you want replies, then enable 'Peer Messaging'. Never post your e-mail address on a web site; it's just an invitation to spammers. Try reposting this using the 'Ask a Question' button. The 'Discussion' forum is for matters of general discussion, not specific problems in search of a solution. There are TR members who specifically seek out problems in need of a solution. Although there is some overlap between the two forums, you'll find more of those members in 'Questions' than here in 'Discussions'. Additional benefits to the membership include: 1) The "Questions" forum provides for your feedback, by way of your being able to mark "helpful" responses as such. This does not necessarily mean that a given response contained the complete solution to your problem, but only that it served to guide you toward it. This is intended to serve as an aid to those who may in the future have a problem similar to yours, so that they might have a ready source of reference available, thereby perhaps obviating the need for them to repeat questions previously asked and answered. 2) The TR search function makes it difficult to find a particular "Discussion" or "Question" if it has not had a recent post; the two types get mingled in the listings. By keeping each type in their respective forums, it is easier for all to find what they are looking for.

BMcCaig2026
BMcCaig2026

Yes, running lots of gadgets will consume memory and cpu ... but on a modern enough machine, you'll never notice the difference. I run 6 gadgets on the deskop of my little notebook (running a dual core ULV cpu at 1.3 Ghz) and I don't notice any performance impact at all.

robert.stanley
robert.stanley

I am with you. Nothing to gain from havin that gadget up. In fact I would bet the increase in cpu usage is a direct result of the gadget being active.

Jeffery1wi
Jeffery1wi

I use Gadgets. The ones I find useful are the weather and the time. Those are the ones I find the most useful.

ffulton
ffulton

I copied the old Sidebar from Vista to my WIn7 system and it works flawlessly with Aero, Snap, etc.. I am using 64bit so I don't know about x86. But after 12 hours of up-time Sidebar has used a total of 18 minutes of CPU time and consumed 74MB - I use Weather, NetMon, CPUMOn, Clock and 2 Sideshows. I love the Sidebar and would not want to ever give it up

clare.smith
clare.smith

WeatherBug (I just found out wunderground.com has 1 but I haven't tried it yet) Google Gadget kit-cat clock (originally for Vista, but works well on my 7 desktop, but not on the laptop)

The Joat
The Joat

Quick launch is still there, but buried pretty deep. Right click on the taskbar and go to "Toolbars/New Toolbar". Then browse to: Local disk /users /"user" /AppData /Roaming /Microsoft /Internet Explorer /Quick Launch Its in the same place in Vista and 7. Then you can drag and drop whatever you want in there.

Radar1751
Radar1751

My sidebar gadgets just recently stopped working. Everything else seems to be fine (MS Office programs, internet, email). Is there any way to reinstall or restore just the sidebar function? I really miss some of my gadgets . . .

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

I wouldn't have guessed they were little web-apps but I guess that makes sense.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

It looks like you have a gadget for the command prompt. That one isn't in the list. [although I guess I can just create a short cut link as well. :-) ]

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Wouldn't some use more resources than others? One that monitors the use of local resources would have no impact on your bandwidth usage. One that's more web-interactive may not weigh as heavily on the local processor.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...Command Prompt icons? I used them because each one of my Gadgets automates a Command Line tool.