Desktop gadgets first appeared on Windows computers with Vista, but they have been updated and improved for Windows 7. Here are some of the best ones for having fun, staying informed, or for increasing your productivity. All of them are available to download free from the Windows Live Gadget Gallery.
1. Ultimate Explorer – This multi-functional tool can help you bypass your browser with a quick internet search right from your desktop. You can search Google, Amazon, Yahoo, EBay, YouTube, Wikipedia and more.
You can choose to have Ultimate Explorer search in your default browser, but I like to have it appear as a gadget flyout window, (as above). Searching the web is the default setting, but you can also search for videos, images, news, blogs and more. If you set the size of Ultimate Explorer large enough, you can even have it display the time, date and weather conditions for your area.
2. The Magic Folder – This great little gadget is for everyone who has a messy desktop that is packed full of documents, images, videos and more. With the Magic Folder, any file you drag and drop over it will be instantly moved to one of your home library folders. It reads the file extension of each file and ensures that office documents go to your Documents library, audio files end up in your Music library, image files go to your Pictures library and videos go to the Video library.
If you want more control, you change the folder redirection path to whatever you want, and you can set up rules for how it deals with a specific file type. All in all, this is a great productivity app that could save you a lot of time.
3. Weather – The default Windows 7 weather gadget, ‘Weather’, is actually a pretty stylish and straightforward gadget. It gives a useful three day forecast, includes the low and high temperatures for the day, and has a nice background image for the time of day.
However, AccuWeather.com has a nice weather gadget, and many people also like using WeatherBug as their default forecasting tool. Both of these are generally pretty accurate and look good on your desktop.
4. Fb Explorer – Catch up on all the latest Facebook news with Fb Explorer. It sits right on your desktop and can show updates when and as they happen. You can even update your own status from the desktop to save opening your browser.
Social media fans may also like Twadget. This gadget does much the same as Fb Explorer, but with Twitter.
5. Feed Reader – Although it will not replace your default RSS reader, Feed Reader is great to have on your desktop, if you want to keep updated with a few of your favorite RSS feeds.
You can add your own feeds manually, or import your feeds from Internet Explorer. There are 3 skins to choose from, up to 8 feeds per page, and a regular refresh for new content. Clicking on the headlines will take you to the full story online.
6. Slide Show – Slide Show is a default Windows 7 gadget so you shouldn’t need to download it from the online gallery. This handy app allows you to select a folder of images from your computer that you would like to display as a slideshow.
You can set the time limit for each picture, and adjust the type of transition you would like to see between slides. Think of it like a mini-screensaver for your desktop.
7. Sudoku – With this addictive number game on your desktop, you may not want to get online until you finish.
Start with a simple puzzle or go straight for the expert ones by choosing the level you want, and check for errors as you go with the ‘check’ button. If you get stuck, click on a square and then click hint to reveal the number you need. It is good, clean fun, and something you can come back to time and time again.