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Windows Vista Tips and Tricks - The Vista Sidebar

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 6/14/2009

The desktop Windows Sidebar offers up-to-date information on the weather, news, and current time, as well as access to your contacts, PC productivity tools, and CPU usage. You can even access games and have an ongoing slideshow of your favorite pictures. Learn more with these Vista tips and tricks.

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    Windows Sidebar is a new feature to Windows, and comes bundled with all editions of Windows Vista. You've likely seen it; it's the bar that sits on the right side of your desktop, offering up-to-the minute information on everything from the weather to stock prices. [See Image 1] (Well, stock prices are technically 15 minutes behind, but if you're trading stocks online, you're likely using something besides the Sidebar to track stock prices!) The Sidebar is configurable, allowing you to add and remove gadgets, and configure them for your zip code or other preferences.

    You can do a lot more with Sidebar if you know a few basic Vista tips and tricks. For instance, because your computer doesn't know what the weather is like outside or what's happening in the world, you need to have an always-on Internet connection to keep Sidebar up-to-date. With this, you can be sure that the information on your desktop is always accurate. Weather information is automatically retrieved and updated regularly, as are news headlines. If you're not always connected to the Internet, you won't always have up-to-date information.

    Add additional (and often innovative) gadgets by clicking get more gadgets online in the Gadget Gallery. [See Image 2] If you're connected to the Internet, you'll be transported to the Windows Vista Sidebar web page, where you can evaluate, choose, download, and install a gadget for just about any purpose. In the Windows online Gadget Gallery, search Top Downloads or Top Rated. That's where you'll fine the coolest gadgets. Here you can see a Remote Desktop gadget, Outlook Info gadget, Mini Google Search gadget, and an All Search gadget. These are all extremely useful gadgets. [See Image 3] Also, if you stay with the top rated and most downloaded gadgets, you can read user reviews of the gadgets, and avoid harmful gadgets or gadgets that don't work.

    Here's a Vista tip those new to this Windows version may not realize. You can also drag any gadget from the Sidebar to the Desktop! Look at the weather gadget here. It's docked on the Sidebar. [See Image 4]. Now look what happens to the gadget when you drag it from the Sidebar to the Desktop. [See Image 5]. There's a lot more information available now.

    Click the wrench next to any gadget (docked or not) to configure it. Again, the weather gadget is used as an example. Here you can change from Fahrenheit to Celcius, or search for a new location. [See Image 6].

    Finally, right-click the Sidebar and click Properties to configure the Sidebar to:

    * Start when Windows starts

    * Stay on top of other windows

    * Display on the left side of the screen

    * Display on a second monitor

    * View a list of running gadgets

    * Restore gadgets installed with Windows

    Whatever you suppose you think of the Sidebar now, use it for a while and see if you like it. Even it it's just a clock or the weather, you'll get used to it quickly. Having up-to-the-minute data regarding headlines will help you keep in touch with reality while you're on the computer, watching a slideshow of your kids for a few minutes can calm you down, and having a game to play can keep you sane during stressful situations!

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    The SidebarThe Gadget Gallery (on the PC)The Gadget Gallery (online)The Weather gadget, dockedThe Weather gadget, undockedConfiguring a gadget
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