One of the features that has been available since the Vista days and is also contained in the Windows 7 release is Microsoft’s Desktop Gadgets. Gadgets have become quite the popular set of little tools that lots of people like to completely litter their desktops with. You can think of them as mini-applications that run on your desktop for common tasks that you perform or common pieces of information that you need. Microsoft is in no way the first to the scene with this nor the most popular. Though that might change as it is now easier than before to build gadgets and it is a little more in the end user’s face in using them in the world’s most popular OS. Windows 7 makes it very easy to add some Microsoft Desktop Gadgets to your desktop.
To add some of the already installed Microsoft Desktop Gadgets, you simple right-click on the desktop and you will find the option Gadgets in the provided menu. This will bring up a dialog of your installed gadgets. An example of this dialog is shown above. There are some default gadgets you can add right away without doing much searching. One that I always add from this default collection is the Calendar gadget. This is a simple gadget and doesn’t have much in the way of settings.
You can easily hover over the gadget and you will see a few control buttons that you can work with.
The Calendar gadget has the following buttons that are the three shown on the top. Other gadgets might also have the wrench that allows for more custom options. Here are some of the gadgets I like:
- Digital Dutch Clock – Yeah, there is a default clock that is provided with the default install of Windows Vista or 7, but the Dutch Clock is better. It provides an additional digital time (with seconds) in the lower part of the face, as well as the day of the week and the date. It also allows you to name the clock – so you have multiple clocks on your desktop and you can name them for different cities or time zones. Like the default clock, there are multiple styles that you can use (the same ones).
- Weatherbug – I am a total weather nut. This is a good weather control. Clicking on the arrows will also show a three day forecast in the control as well as a web cam from the area.
- GMail Counter – If you have Gmail. Then this is a decent control and has a large list of custom sounds it can notify you with also when you get new mail.
- All CPU Meter – This works with eight, quad, triple, and dual core machines. I am running a quad core machine and you can see the representation in the image above. I like this control a lot.
- Wireless Network Meter – Like the All CPU Meter, but for the wireless world. I put this on my laptop. Show you the SSID, signal quality, IP address, external IP address, upload speed, download speed, and more. Not bad.
- Facebook Explorer – I want to see my facebook notifications without having to go to the site all the time, so I have been trying this control. Not the greatest, but I haven’t found anything better yet.
- Full Moon – I like this cause I’m a geek. It is cool to see how full the moon is on your computer desktop!
That’s all I really have. Let me know which ones you like in the comments. I’ll give them a try. Well that is the consumer end. You, as a developer can also build your own. Check out these resources:
- Build Your Own Windows Vista Sidebar Gadget – online MSDN article.
- MSDN Documentation Forum
- Wrox’s Windows Vista Gadgets Programming
Print | posted on Thursday, August 13, 2009 9:20 PM