In my previous article, I have shown ow to work with Desktop Gadgets. Now it is time to continue this subject and share a list with the top 7 desktop gadgets you should install on your Windows 7 computer. They cover different functionality and I'm certain many of them will prove to be useful. In this article I will present each gadget in detail and also share some good locations for downloading gadgets and how to install them once downloaded to your computer.
UPDATE: Unfortunately Microsoft decided to discontinue the support it offered for gadgets. Therefore, some of our recommendations below are no longer available. For a new, up-to-date list of gadgets, please check this roundup: The Best Remaining Desktop Gadgets for Windows 7.
Where to Find New Desktop Gadgets
The best spot where you can find new desktop gadgets for your computer is Microsoft's Windows Live Gallery. To access it, you can either open your browser and navigate to this link or, open the Desktop Gadget Gallery and click on the 'Get more gadgets online' link, found on the lower side of the window.
The link from Desktop Gadget Gallery will take you to your country's specific gallery, and this will include a limited set of gadgets. However, the Windows Live Gallery shows all available gadgets, for all countries and languages.
Another good destination for gadgets, with a pretty good selection, is thoosje.com's Windows 7 Gadget Gallery.
How to Install New Desktop Gadgets
To download and install a gadget which interests you, click the Download button under it.
You will be asked to confirm if you want to install it or not. Click on Install.
After this you'll choose whether you want to open the gadget or save it. Choose to open it and click on OK.
Then confirm the installation once again, click on Install.
When done, the gadget should start automatically after the installation.
This process was shown using Firefox as the internet browser. On other browsers, the windows will be slightly different. However, the process remains the same: you need to confirm to the Windows Live Gallery that you want to install the gadget, then open it in your browser and confirm once again the install on your computer.
Top 7 Desktop Gadgets!
In order to select the top 7 desktop gadgets, I've spent a few days of testing. Here are the best ones I've found:
- Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor - this is one of the best gadgets around if you're using a laptop. It allows you to manage wireless networks around you. You can use it to see what networks are available, as well as how strong their signal is. The gadget uses a sonar-like graph to show this. Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor can even be used to disable your wireless network adapter. Clicking the 'Show Details' button will get you into a window that's filled with lots of interesting stats. Also, the look of the gadget can be customized.
- Twadget - is aimed at a category of Internet users that keeps on growing these days - Twitter users. It allows you to post to your Twitter account and receive updates in a very easy to use interface, straight to your desktop. You just type in the e-mail/account name you used to sign up on Twitter and you're all set and ready to tweet.
- Atom / RSS News Reader - this gadget keeps you up-to-date with all of your favorite feeds. Adding a feed to monitor is very simple: click the wrench settings icon of the gadget, insert the feed name its address, as you can see below. You can also import your feeds from Internet Explorer.
It's also possible to modify the gadget's appearance in order for it to match your Windows 7 theme, as well as how often you want the gadget to refresh your feeds. Switching between your feeds is done by clicking the arrows on the upper side of the gadget.
- Facebook Explorer - everybody uses Facebook these days (more than 350 million people, actually). Even if you're an avid Facebook user, maybe you don't want to keep a browser tab open on Facebook all the time. In that case, Facebook Explorer is perfect for you. You just have to install it and click on Connect. You'll have to allow the gadget to work with Facebook and, after that, you're all set. The gadget allows you to update your Facebook status, see any events on your profile (friend requests, event invites and others). It also keeps you updated on your friends' Facebook activity, including their shared pictures. If you like something they have posted, you can hit the Like button straight from the gadget. Even more, you can also comment on your friends' statuses or posted items.
- Weather Center - if you want to be kept updated on the forecast in an elegant and very detailed fashion, this is the weather desktop gadget you want. Weather Center automatically updates data from six weather sources and lets you decide on what data/ parameters to show: humidity, pressure, precipitation, etc.
Another nice thing is that the gadget updates its look according to the weather and time of day at the set location. You also have a couple of arrows (as seen below) that allow you to add or remove a day from the forecast. It can show the forecast for up to nine days at a time.
- Activity Tracker - is a gadget that provides a very simple, but sometimes extremely necessary solution: tracks the time you spend performing a certain activity. It acts as a punch card-like system, in the form of a desktop gadget. You just create a new activity, name it and then, whenever you work on it, you click IN. When you're finished, click OUT. The gadget will keep track of the time spent and you can even generate activity graphs (you can also export them as Microsoft Excel files). Another interesting thing is that the gadget can alarm you when a certain amount of time has passed.
- System Control - this is a great gadget to perform a lot of important system commands from the same panel. It has buttons for a lot of things: from shutting down, restarting and putting your computer into sleep mode, to switching users and accessing the Control Panel. System Control is very customizable and you can set it to confirm all the commands, so you don't hit them by mistake. You can also customize the theme of the gadget, as well as the color and size of the buttons, so it matches your desktop theme. It's an excellent gadget if you want to have lots of system controls on your desktop.
Windows Live Gallery has plenty of gadgets, with very diverse functionality. I hope I've managed to share a list which is both interesting and useful. If you know other good gadgets, don't hesitate to share their link in a comment below.