For those of you ‘lucky’ enough to have already updated to the new Windows 7 then you have probably already noticed the major changes to the task bar. Good or bad, you decide. Personally, I like some of the new functionality that it provides but I also enjoy a slim taskbar — similar to that of Vista. Fortunately Microsoft provided a “Use small icons” option in the taskbar properties (right-click the taskbar and select properties) which makes the task bar a similar size to that of Vista.
Changing the taskbar to use small icons, however, does not fix the fact that Windows Live Messenger likes to constantly take up a space in the taskbar even when the window is not open. Since there does not currently appear to be an option in Windows Live Messenger to display the program in the system tray, instead of on the taskbar, we need to use a simple work around.
First, close any current Windows Live Messenger instances. Then open your start menu and locate the Windows Live Messenger shortcut. Right-click the shortcut and select properties. Switch to the Compatibility tab and check “Run this program in compatibility mode for:” and select Window Vista (Service Pack 2)”. Now start Windows Live Messenger and problem solved. You should now see the Windows Live Messenger icon in the system tray. As you would on Vista, XP, etc.
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 the desktop, however, I found these to be too disorganized 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 maximized 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 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.