Configuring Your Gadgets
Once you've added a gadget to the desktop, you can position it anywhere you want by dragging the gadget and dropping it in its new position. The gadget stays where you dropped it. To remove a gadget from your desktop, hover the mouse pointer over the gadget to display the Options bar; then click the Close (X) button. Gadget be gone!
Of course, many gadgets have options to control how they're displayed. For example, you can enter your own location into the Weather gadget to display your local weather conditions and forecast. To configure the options for a gadget, right-click the gadget and select Options. Alternatively, hover your mouse pointer over the gadget until the Options bar appears; then click the tool icon (see Figure 4). Naturally, the available options differ from gadget to gadget.
Figure 4 Displaying a gadget's Options bar.
Some gadgets have both a large and a small version; the larger version typically displays more information than the smaller one, as shown in Figure 5. To switch from one version to another, hover your mouse pointer over the gadget to display the Options bar; then click the Smaller Size or Larger Size icon.
Figure 5 Small and large versions of the Weather gadget; the large version displays more information.
You may want to change how clearly the Windows desktop shows through the gadget's background. Just right-click the gadget, select Opacity, and select a percentage. The larger the percentage, the less opaque (more solid) the gadget will be.
Some Favorite Gadgets
This article wouldn't be complete without a list of some of my favorite gadgets. These are gadgets I find particularly useful, or just entertaining. They can all be found online at Microsoft's Personalize Your PC website.
- Date & Time. This gadget not only displays time and date, but functions as a desktop calendar, events scheduler, and alarm clock (see Figure 6).
- Facebook Explorer. Check out status updates, incoming messages, and the like from the popular social network. If you're a Twitter user, try the similar Twitter Explorer gadget.
- Google Gadget. This simple but useful gadget lets you initiate Google searches directly from your desktop.
- iTunes Gadget. Use this gadget as a mini-player for your iTunes music library.
- Media Player. A gadget version of Windows Media Player (WMP); use it to play all the music in your WMP library (see Figure 7).
- Messenger Gadget. This gadget displays all your Windows Live Messenger contacts and lets you initiate one-on-one chat sessions.
- MSN Weather. Better than the default Weather gadget in Windows, this one displays current weather conditions and a five-day forecast; click the Details link to see more detailed conditions. This gadget is where I most often get my weather information!
- My Dictionary. This gadget lets you quickly and easily look up word definitions from the Dictionary.com website. Great for writersand students writing reports!
- Outlook Upcoming Appointments. If you use Microsoft Outlook, this gadget displays all your upcoming appointments directly on your desktop.
- Sidebar Pong. When it comes to gadget-based games, nothing beats this old-school classic (see Figure 8). As an alternative, check out SideTris, a neat version of the Tetris game.
- Slide Show. View a slideshow of your favorite photos within this handy gadget.
- Sudoku Puzzles. My wife is a big Sudoku fan, and this gadget lets her play the puzzle game directly from the gadget itself.
- Speed Test. A techie's dream gadget, this one lets you monitor your PC's CPU and RAM usage, as well as Internet bandwidth, hard drive space, battery charge status, and more (see Figure 9).
- Stocks. View the latest stock quotes in this handy gadget.
- Wireless Network. Displays information about your current wireless network, including wireless signal strength.
- YouTube. Watch YouTube videos within this popular desktop gadget.
Figure 6 The Date & Time, Facebook Explorer, Google Gadget, and iTunes Gadget gadgets.
Figure 7 The Media Player, Messenger Gadget, MSN Weather, and My Dictionary gadgets.
Figure 8 The Sidebar Pong, Slide Show, Sudoku Puzzles, and Outlook Upcoming Appointments gadgets.
Figure 9 The Speed Test, Stocks, Wireless Network, and YouTube gadgets.