Tip

Vista Gadgets: Petits Fours for your programming menu

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.)

More on Windows Vista Gadgets
Article: Developer Swag: 10 Sidebar Gadgets for Developers

Case study: AOL turns to Silverlight for mail gadget in Vista 

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.

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 etittel@techtarget.com with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review. Cool tools rule!

This was first published in November 2007

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