Anybody who's worked with Windows Vista can't help but have noticed the area on the right edge of the default desktop...
display known as the sidebar. No sooner is a new Vista installation brought up than this area gets populated with small visual programs known as Gadgets, usually including slideshow, a news feed and a clock.
Once users get familiar with Vista, they learn about the Gadget Gallery, where they can browse among other Gadgets for their desktops. More enterprising users often turn to the Microsoft Personalize Windows Vista Sidebar page where Gadgets galore are available for download and installation. (Note: you must log in with administrative privileges to install a gadget, though anyone can download a Gadget installer file.)
What's probably not as well understood is that Gadgets are incredibly easy to build -- and that many developers argue that they're both satisfying and fun. Just as a petit four is basically a bite-sized version of a full-blown decorated layer cake, so is a Gadget a single-sitting coding project that does in miniature what more serious and sizable development projects do on an everyday basis.
Microsoft offers a very nice -- and yes, given the nature of Gadgets, little -- developer center for those interested in Gadget development. There you can browse a large collection of ideas and implementations for all kinds of Gadgets, ranging from Web gadgets to custom toolbar buttons, to a plethora of Vista Sidebar Gadgets.
Because the Sidebar section of the Gadget Galaxy is what seems to pique most developers' interests, they'll want to check out the following resources as well.
- Sidebar Gadget Developer Center, with pointers to a whole slew of Gadget development resources, information, and forums
- Sidebar Gadget Development Overview
- Gadget Corner is Microsoft's Sidebar Gadget blog, where one can find a so-called Swiss Gadget Competition (a virtual analog to the Swiss Army knife), and where the developers who work on the Sidebar Gadget environment regularly hold forth
- Live Gadget SDK version 0.5 (Beta), which provides a work-in-progress developer kit for Live Gadget development
- Windows Live Gadget Resources, which offers additional blogs, links, and examples
Gadgets make for a short, sweet and satisfying development experience. Take a look around to see what's already there, then turn your imagination loose to create a tasty confection of your very own.
Ed Tittel is a writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review. Cool tools rule!