I always thought that the Windows Sidebar feature, included with Windows Vista, was a waste of space – Well, it does take up valuable screen real estate – however recently I’ve started using the Sidebar on a secondary display. While I would probably still not use the Sidebar on a single screen, having dual screens gives me much more real estate and provides a great location for system information and supplementary windows. That’s where the Sidebar comes in…
Previously on my laptop; I used to use Yahoo! Widgets to display information, such as remaining battery power, WiFi signal reception, etc. I found these extremely useful in the circumstance because they were individual items which I could make just big enough to see, but small enough to be imperceptible while focusing on the main tasks on hand. When it came to the desktop, however, I found these to be too disorganised and ended up cluttering the screen – that’s where the Windows Sidebar comes in. Because of it’s dockable “Sidebar” the Gadgets are easily organised to one side of the screen. A great feature with this docking ability is that if you check the “Sidebar is always on top of others windows” option it will cause maximised windows to only open up as far as the Sidebar, allowing you to always be able to see you Gadgets.
Just like FireFox add-ons, there is a fairly decent array of Gadgets available (however there are a significantly less number of Sidebar Gadgets, 1453, available compared to Yahoo! Widgets, 3808 – *numbers are from the official download sites at the time of writing). So here is a list of Gadgets, with links, that I have found most helpful so far:
- Weather (included with the Sidebar by default) – Great for showing the current temperature. Or, if undocked, a three-day forecast.
- Calendar (included with the Sidebar by default) – Excellent in docked view as it shows the current date in large letter, with a nice orange background.
- Multi Sensor – A nice graphical display of system diagnostic information, such as temperature, memory usage, etc. However, you do need to be running Everest Ultimate.
- DriveInfo – Displays Free space and drive usage (in percent) of selected drives.
- Network Meter v2.1 – Monitors network traffic and displays the current download and upload speeds on two separate bars.
- NetGadget – Similar to the Network Meter, however, it displays the set and received speeds on a scrolling chart.