Desktop Sidebar

If you have upgraded to Vista, one of the more noticeable immediate changes is the addition of the desktop components which allows you to view an analog clock, RSS feeds, weather, etc. While this ships with Vista, Windows 2000 and XP users can get a similar tool via the free Desktop Sidebar program.

This tool allows you add many of the same components available in Vista plus more, including:

  • Search
  • Media Player / WinAmp Controls
  • Performance Monitors
  • Inbox
  • Todo List

I have really found the Vista component useful, so I have no doubt this tool will be a good edition to 2000/XP installation.

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Desktop Sidebar

One of the neater things about the computer industry is that programmers think of more innovative and efficient programs that we, the mainstream users, can make use of. The computer offers a lot of power to the user, but as they say, the computer is as smart and versatile as the person using it. In many cases, an average user would fail to use the power of modern systems effectively. That is where the program Desktop Sidebar comes in – a neat easy-to-use versatile program that boasts a lot of features and room for expansion.

Desktop sidebar is basically a side panel that resides on either the left or right hand side of your screen, much like the sidebar on your internet window.  Within the panel, it provides information that is important for the users day to day. Individual plug-in/programs run within the desktop sidebar space, ready when your computer loads Windows. Without it, for the news for example, you would open your trusty browser and type in in order to get your news. Here, it’s right within site when you open your computer.

Like Mozilla Firefox, I found that the program provides users with the ability to customize what shows up in the sidebar. Plugins, Skins, content – almost everything can be suited to your liking. It’s not a dead-end project – there are two hundred skins and numerous plugins to suit your every technological preference and needs. I was surprised at how easy it was to customize – I can just drag and drop the plugins to change their orientation. To add or remove plugins, I just go to panel properties.

I was able to have Desktop Sidebar orient itself in many ways – left right, docked, hidden, transparent to name a few. The default is the sidebar to the right, locked – so any application that layers over the desktop will have the window shrunk to accommodate the sidebar. It’s much like the Windows taskbar you see everyday usually at the bottom of the screen. I have my Sidebar oriented to the left and unlocked to accommodate my Trillian IM client on the right.

Here are some of the panels that I have found useful:

“Newsroom” – RSS Reader: Ever see the orange RSS logo on any news Web Pages? Those are RSS feeds – using this feature, you can read the same news you would regularly see when accessing the webpage (take for instance but within the desktop. When Windows starts up, news feeds comes right into the sidebar with an internet connection. Comes stock with the Desktop Sidebar installation.

System Performance: Ever wonder how much memory or how much of the processor is being used at any given moment? Ever wonder why your computer is sometimes slow? This sidebar shows the amount of CPU being used, memory being occupied, how much of the hard drive is being used, among others. Not needed, but I found it to be a neat tool to have. Like the RSS Reader, it comes stock with the Desktop Sidebar installation. 

Weather: Fairly self-explanatory – the current weather and forecast are ready right away from the Weather Channel Online. This is another stock sidebar.

Simple Calendar: A very simple but useful tool. I find myself scrambling to find a calendar when a date is mentioned. And now all I have to do is look at my desktop instead of spending those precious minutes looking for an updated calendar on my messy desk.

The latest build, build 1.04, is fairly CPU independent and does not hog down on system resources. However, whenever I play games (take for example Valve’s Half-Life 2), the desktop sidebar seems to make the game skip – as if it’s stealing a noticeable cycle. Fixing it was easy – I just closed out of Desktop Sidebar while playing games. That is the most annoying quirk I’ve found – otherwise, it doesn’t have many downsides. In all, Desktop Sidebar is one of the more convenient but not necessary type freeware. I would give it a seven out of a ten point rating for the customizability and convenience it offers. But that’s just my opinion – try it out – free as always. You can get the Sidebar from DesktopSidebar.

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