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Stupid Pet Tricks with the Vista Sidebar

written by: Lamar Stonecypher•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 11/13/2008

Love the Vista sidebar with your wide screen monitor or hate it with your standard monitor, here are some common-sense tips and tricks for making the most of your experiences with the Vista Sidebar.

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    Vista’s Sidebar probably did more for the sale of wide-screen monitors than high definition video ever did (but that’s a guess). Forgive me for guessing. This article is an experiment – it’s to find out if readers respond when the author is having fun writing the article. I expect that I can come up with more Stupid Pet Tricks for Vista if encouraged. (So don’t encourage me.)

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    The Sidebar has Panes!

    What happens when you put more gadgets in the Sidebar than the Sidebar can display? Ever note this little icon at the top of the Sidebar?

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    It’s a pointer. Here’s it’s pointing to the right, indicating that more is that way.

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    When you add an extra gadget to the sidebar that it can’t display, the bottom item rolls over into a new, invisible pane that’s off the screen. Here we’ve clicked the right arrow.

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    Now will we need a mini-viewer to show us what we have in the second pane? Is there any other solution to clicking back and forth, back and forth? I’m glad you asked!

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    Gadgets are Un-Dockable!

    That’s right. Let’s see how many I can undock.

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    All of them!

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    The secret is the little grid below the “X.” Hover the mouse over the gadget and click that little grid to undock the gadget to the Vista desktop. Use the grid icon to drag it back to the sidebar, too.

    Update: I've been advised that the icon I'm calling a "little grid" is actually a highly stylized Windows logo. I suspect this is about as related to a logo as the Blackberry button that looks like a flock of "Bs" to me! For consistency, however, we'll continue to call it a little grid here.

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    Some Gadgets Have a Settings Icon!

    If you’re one of the many folks concerned that your PC’s mouse has only so many right-clicks left in it, I have good news for you. If you hover the mouse over a gadget and it displays a little wrench above the little Windows (oops!) little grid icon, then you can access the gadget’s settings dialog without having to right-click. Of course, it does take a conventional right-click to accomplish, and they may be numbered, too. (Entropy is always increasing.)

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    Gadget Selection is Navigable!

    Yes. Pressing Windows (Start) + G tabs among the visible gadgets. Why? I don’t know! Something like, well, TAB would have seemed a more logical choice. (But then again, if Windows contained more logical choices, I might be out of a job.)

    To bring the sidebar to the forefront if it’s covered, press the Windows (Start) key + Spacebar.

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    You Can Make the Sidebar Stay on Top!

    Press the Windows (Start) key and type in “sidebar properties.” Select the “Sidebar is always on top of other windows” radio button and click OK. When you select this, your sidebar becomes more menacing looking.

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    To test this, I started Power DVD playing “Trancers” and deliberately tried to ram it into the sidebar. I was expecting an unlimited force and immovable object scenario, but Power DVD won quite handily. In fairness to Vista, the sidebar covered everything else I then gently scooted under it.

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    And for our final Stupid Pet Trick with the Vista Sidebar . . .

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    Stupid Pet Tricks With The Windows Vista Sidebar - What to Do If The Sidebar Freezes In this second page of Bright Hub Windows article "Stupid Pet Tricks With the Vista Sidebar," we look at what, specifically to do if the Vista Sidebar crashes or freezes. Basically, this is to stop any running processes of sidebar.exe, delete the configuration file, and restart the computer. The user can then add his gadgets back one-by-one until he can identify which gadget is causing the problem. vista sidebar freeze, sidebar crash vista
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    The Vista Sidebar can Freeze Up!

    Sure. And if this happens to you, right-click a clear spot in your Vista task bar and select “Task Manager.” Look under the “Processes” tab and click the sidebar.exe process. Then click “End Task” button. Do this for all the copies you find running.

    When you’re sure it’s dead, double-click “Computer “on your desktop and select your user name. Navigate to AppData, Local, Microsoft, Windows Sidebar. It should look like this.

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    Right-click the Settings.ini file and rename it to Settings.ini.bak or similar.

    Then restart Vista. The sidebar should restart with the default gadgets. One-by-one, you can add a gadget and test, add a gadget and test until you find the culprit causing the instability.


    Congratulations. You've survived a Vista Stupid Pet Trick. Thank you for reading this article. I hope you are enjoying learning and reading (everything else) at the new Bright Hub.

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    Further Reading:

    How to Block Third-Part Tracking Cookies in Internet Explorer and Firefox - Are you leaving tracks everywhere you go online? If your browser is sharing cookies with a website you're not even (knowingly) visiting, you've got third-party tracking cookies on your PC. This article defines cookies and looks at blocking a certain type.

    How to Track a Stolen Laptop - It's a jungle out there. According to a recent report, 672,000 notebooks are lost in airports every year in the US and more than half are never recovered. It makes sense to assume eventual loss and take precautions before the loss or theft happens. Free tracking application Adeona can help.

    Turn Your Vista Laptop into a Mobile Hotspot - Need to share your wireless Internet connection with your friends or colleagues? If they've got WIFI, the solution is easy and free. This article tells you how.

    Is Using Vista's Hybrid Sleep Good for My Notebook - Curious about whether the new power saving modes in Vista are actually better for use on the desktop than on your laptop? Here we look at Vista's hybrid sleep mode and how hibernation and sleep are different from Windows XP.

    How to Deauthorize ALL Computers in iTunes - If you go through computers the way I do, you've probably encountered the problem of running out of authorizations in iTunes.It's no longer the hassle it once was. Now it is possible to de-authorize ALL the computers at once, instead of doing them one at a time.