Using the Vista Sidebar and Gadgets

January 26, 2009

in Vista

by David Hakala

“Gadgets” are small programs that do useful things like tell you the weather at a glance; remind you of appointments or tasks to do; or quickly add up a few numbers like a pocket calculator. The cool thing about gadgets is that you don’t have to remember where they are or take time to open them. They are right there at your fingertips all the time, in the Windows Vista Sidebar.

The Sidebar is a pane at the side of the Vista screen where gadgets are kept and organized. The Sidebar makes great use of wide-screen monitors and also looks good on standard monitors. You can easily customize the Sidebar’s location and whether it is “always on top” of other applications or hides beneath a maximized application.

You don’t have to keep your gadgets in the Sidebar. They can be placed anywhere on your desktop and you can hide the Sidebar. But neatness is a virtue.
Another useful trait of gadgets, in addition to handiness, is their connectivity. A gadget can connect to the Internet to pull in stock quotes, weather data, sports scores, and more real-time data. A gadget can link into your Outlook calendar to pull out just today’s appointments and tasks for display, or show an abbreviated list of your instant-messaging contacts and who’s online now.

Vista comes with a number of gadgets already installed. Microsoft and third-party developers are releasing new gadgets constantly. A favorite source of gadgets is Microsoft’s Windows Vista Gadget Gallery. A look at the three most downloaded gadgets gives us some insight into the characters of gadget lovers.

Weatherbug: everybody loves to talk about the weather, right? “Receive live weather conditions for anywhere in the world on your Sidebar. Get detailed forecasts, radar, weather cameras, and severe weather alerts from any of WeatherBug’s 8,000 Tracking Stations.”

Auction Sidebar Tool for eBay: no eBay password entry required because this gadget is an eBay Certified Application. Manage your selling listings, bids, and watched items.

Speed Test: monitor CPU, RAM, Internet connection, and more. Tells you your Internet connection’s maximum speed; ping latency time; any Web site’s download speed, response time, and errors; hard drive capacity and activity; WiFi signal strength; and much more.

David Hakala has written technology tutorials since 1988, in addition to tech journalism, profitable content, documentation, and marketing collateral.