Many Sidebar Gadgets let you keep an eye on critical system resources, including CPU, memory, hard drive, battery. The bottom two gadgets pictured in the Sidebar along the right side of the desktop let you power down or hibernate your system without having to go through the Start menu.
Caption:CNET Reviews staffPhoto:CNET Networks
If you believe someone is out to get you or your PC's data, this assortment of gadgets might appeal to you. From top to bottom: firewall status, current Homeland Security threat level, a completely useless "spirit detector" for keeping an eye on ghosts in your general vicinity, a clock for friends of 24's Jack Bauer, and a password manager.
Many Gadgets serve as news feeds, bringing you the latest headlines and videos from around the Internet. You can detach all Gadgets from the Sidebar, which in many cases expands the size of the gadget so that you can, for instance, watch a video in a window larger than a postage stamp.
There are many weather-related Gadgets that will give you the current conditions, forecast, live traffic conditions, and phases of the moon. Here we expanded the weather.com Gadget to display the Doppler Radar. Looks like the Northeast is getting some precipitation today.
Gadgets for gaming! Take a break from e-mail or that never-ending Excel sheet and get in a quick game of Asteroids. Or Pong, Tetris, or Sudoku. Vista Gadgets also let you keep your blackjack and poker skills sharp between Vegas trips.
Keep an eye on the market, the current prices of gold and silver, the dollar against the Euro, and--now for something completely different--the panda lair at the San Diego Zoo. That last Gadget pumps a live Webcam feed to your desktop. The pandas would seem to be a bit camera shy; the most exciting thing we saw was a zookeeper making his or her morning rounds with a hose.
There's a long list of calendar Gadgets, including those that will sync with your Outlook calendar. Get your daily dose of Calvin and Hobbes (not surprisingly, there's also a Dilbert
Gadget). A countdown Gadget lets you track the remaining time left before an important event so that you won't miss baseball's opening day, the wife's birthday, or your anniversary. There are many Google-related Gadgets, including a search bar and a Gmail checker.
There's a seemingly endless supply of Internet radio Gadgets for stations from all over the world that let you tune into everything from talk radio to classic rock to classical music. Likewise, many Gadgets give you a peek into your iTunes library so that you can see what's currently playing or skip to the next track.
Craigslist and eBay Gadgets mean you're never more than a click away from trolling those sites for their various wares. The Package Tracker lets you know the current location of your UPS, FedEx, DHL, and USPS shipments, while the Woot Gadget lets you get your daily discount on.
There are, of course, many Sidebar Gadgets that serve no practical purpose whatsoever. Like popping bubble wrap? Then the Bubble Wrap Gadget might be mildly entertaining. The Magic 8-ball Gadget can help guide you through important decisions, while the Voodoo Doll Gadget allows you to put a hex on your enemies. Click on the apple Gadget to take a bite out of it--that's all it does. Completely useless but somehow more satisfying than mousing over digital bubble wrap.
These Gadgets bring commonly used PC utilities to the desktop, including the Microsoft Live search bar, Remote Desktop access, and the Run command. Use the Domain finder Gadget to search for available URLs, while the application launcher let's you quickly shuffle through your active windows if you aren't a keyboard shortcut kind of person. At the bottom is a photo gallery Gadget that rolls through your My Pictures folder or any folder you designate.