Gadgets in Vista and Windows 7

December 3, 2010

A Windows gadget is something you can place on your desktop that performs a special function. A gadget can give you weather information, show a clock, display the date, or show you information about your computer. The things that a gadget can be created to do are endless. You can get one that always shows the items you are following on eBay. There’s also one that shows the latest status updates on Facebook.

Looking forward to a particular event? There are loads of countdown gadgets that count down to Christmas, New Years, game releases, TV show premiers, movie premiers, and lots more. I could go on and on about all of the different types of gadgets available.

Gadgets were something introduced in Vista, so XP doesn’t have gadgets built-in to it. There are lots of utilities that let you add gadgets to XP; Yahoo Gadgets and Google Gadgets for example. But before you use either of these, make sure your system can handle it. They will slow your computer down a little.

In Vista, you had something called a sidebar. Be default, the sidebar was turned on and you had several gadgets including the date, time, picture slideshow, and a headline viewer that showed headlines from Microsoft. By default, Vista gadgets are displayed on the sidebar which is normally placed on the right side of your monitor.
In vista you can drag gadgets off the sidebar and place them anywhere on your desktop, but I always liked them on the sidebar. With a widescreen monitor, I would set the sidebar to always be on top. By doing that, the right side of my monitor would always show my gadgets even if I had a Window maximized, and I still had plenty of room to do what I wanted to do.

Windows 7, however, works a little differently. Be default, Windows 7 doesn’t show any gadgets. Many people don’t even realize Windows 7 has gadgets because of this. If you want to add a gadget, right click on an area of your desktop where there are no icons and choose “Gadgets”. You can then add and manage your gadgets. You can place gadgets anywhere on your desktop, but there is no sidebar anymore.

Only a small number of gadgets are installed on Windows so when you go to add a gadget, you will only see a few. You can download more by clicking on “Get more gadgets online”. When you do, your browser will open and show you a gallery of gadgets you can download and install. When you download and install a gadget, it will appear on your desktop. If you hold the mouse pointer over it, a little toolbar will appear to the right of the gadget. If your gadget has options, one of the buttons on the toolbar will be a wrench. Click on that to change the options for the gadget. Another button on the gadget toolbar is looks like a bunch of dots in a rectangle. If you click on this and drag the mouse, it allows you to move the gadget on your desktop.

As I mentioned, with Windows Vista, you could set the sidebar to always be on top and the whole sidebar would always be on top and always be visible. When you maximized a window, it would not go over the side bar and the sidebar would simply be next to your maximized window. With Windows 7,  you can set a particular gadget to always be on top, but it doesn’t work very well. Half the time a program will cover it up anyway.

One Response to “Gadgets in Vista and Windows 7”

  1. I really enjoy reading your news letter Drew. Sometime we need to correct my gmail loading problem. Also thanks for hooking up ter TV.

    Jim Wielenga

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