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Top 10 Windows 7 desktop gadgets / Vista Sidebar gadgets

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Windows Vista introduced the Sidebar, which is a panel on the right that can display mini applications. There are lots of these applications and Windows 7 takes them a step further than Vista. In Vista you could choose whether to run the Windows Sidebar, but in Windows 7 it has been integrated into the desktop. You don't have to run any program to get gadgets on the desktop and there's no Sidebar panel on the right. It's a useful improvement.

There are hundreds of gadgets available, but which ones are the best? Do they all work with Windows 7? And what about 64-bit Windows 7, which is becoming increasingly popular? Of course, everyone will have their own favourite gadgets, so any top 10 list will be purely personal. However, it is a useful place to start when you are looking for gadgets for your own desktop.

There are my top 10 gadgets and they all work in 64-bit Windows 7. Download them, install them, and see if you agree. To uninstall gadgets, right click the desktop and select Gadgets, then right click a gadget and select Uninstall. It's easy.

Systometer Windows 7 desktop gadgetSystometer: The CPU Meter that comes with Windows 7 (and Vista) is a handy gadget, but Systometer takes it a step further. Not only does it show the CPU and RAM usage, it also adds a third dial that shows the current upload and download speeds over the internet/network. Click the wrench icon to access the options and choose one of several different colour schemes. This type of gadget is useful for detecting buggy programs that run the processor at 100% and slow everything else down to a crawl.

Wired Network Meter Windows 7 desktop gadgetWired Network Meter: Windows 7 doesn't give you any feedabck as to whether the internet is working. Is the web browser fetching the next page or has something gone wrong? Is that file downloading or has it stalled? How fast is that file downloading? Have I hit my bandwidth limit? All these questions are answered by this gadget and you can see the up and download speeds and the up and download bandwidth totals. You can also see your PC's IP address and the IP address that is assigned by your ISP - your external IP address. If you use a wireless network, then you should install Wireless Network Meter instead.

Network Traffic Windows 7 desktop gadgetNetwork Traffic: This is similar in function to the previous gadget and you won't want both. Some people might prefer Wired/Wireless Network Meter and others might prefer this Network Traffic gadget. You can see the upload and download speeds and there is a scrolling history chart in the lower half. Click the wrench icon to access the settings. You can choose the scaling options, display horizontal up and download bars, and select the network interface to monitor. You might prefer the simpler and easier to read design.

Computer Status Windows 7 desktop gadgetComputer Status: This is a multi-function gadget that packs in quite a lot of useful information. It has a CPU meter and it displays single, dual and quad core usage. It shows the amount of memory used and the amount free. It shows each disk drive and the amount of space that is in use. It has a Recycle Bin shortcut, size and an option to empty it. An interesting feature is the ability to play a wide range of radio stations and it will stream these over the internet and play them live. You can choose from a long list of UK radio stations, but maybe because I'm in the UK. Try it and see what stations you get. You can start Task Manager and open Explorer to show the contents of disk drive by clicking the icons. The day and day number is displayed too.

All CPU Meter Windows 7 desktop gadgetAll CPU Meter: This is a gadget to display the processor activity so you can see how hard the computer is being worked by the software you are running. It shows each core separately and it works fine with dual and quad core processors. There is a live scrolling history chart, a bar and a percentage display. A really interesting feature is the ability to display the temprature of each processor core too. You do need to install additional software, such as Speedfan, Everest, CoreTemp or HWMonTray, but if you already have this software then All CPU Meter is excellent.

Top 5 Windows 7 desktop gadgetTop 5: This has two functions and it displays either the top five processes that are using the most processor time or the most memory. You can easily see applications that are memory hogs or buggy programs that use a lot of CPU power. You can actually add a gadget to the desktop more than once and it is useful to run Top 5 twice and to show both the CPU and memory usage at the same time.

Dictionary Windows 7 desktop gadgetDictionary: Although word processors like Word have a spelling checker that corrects your typing mistakes, it does not tell you the meaning of words, so when you want to know what something means you can use this gadget. Just type in the word and click Dictionary to see a comprehensive description and examples of its use. Clicking the Thesaurus button instead will generate a list of alternatives of the word and this has its uses too. It is a simple, but effective gadget.

File Shredder Windows 7 desktop gadgetFile Shredder Utility: When a file is deleted, it is not really deleted and it is simply moved to the Recycle Bin. Anyone that has access to your computer could recover the file and see the contents. Even if you empty the Recycle Bin or delete the file and bypass the Recycle Bin, a file isn't really deleted from the disk, instead the space it occupies is merely marked as free. Until that space is reused, the file can be recovered. To really delete a file you need a file shredder and here is one in gadget form. Just drag a file from an Explorer window and drop it on the icon to securely overwrite it before deleting it. It then can't be recovered.

Clipboard Manager Windows 7 desktop gadgetClipboard Manager: The clipboard is a handy tool and you can copy text and images to it and then paste them into the same application or another one. The only snag is that you can only copy and paste one item at a time. Clipboard Manager removes that limitation by storing a list of items copied to the clipboard. This enabels you to select any recent clipboard item from the history list and then paste it in somewhere else. Once you get used to using multiple clipboards you will wonder how you managed without it.

The Magic Folder Windows 7 desktop gadgetThe Magic Folder: The folder gadget that is added to the desktop becomes a drop spot. You can drag a file from any Explorer window or the desktop and drop it on The Magic Folder. You are then asked to choose the folder to move it to. It might not sound exciting, but you can create your own list of folders or use the selected ones, such as documents, music, pictures and so on. A really exciting feature is the ability to move files to the appropriate folders based on the file extention. So if you drop a .doc file on The Magic Folder, it is automatically moved to the Documents folder.

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