Note: In September 2011, Google announced it would discontinue a number of its products, including Google Desktop. Although Desktop could do several cool things, TBYB! was primarily interested in the Photos gadget, which was a handy way to display a small photo slideshow in the corner of your computer’s screen while working on something else. We also used The Quote gadget, which did the same thing with text. Slideshows are one of the very best ways to advertise to yourself, so we’re sad to see Google Desktop go. Fortunately there are several other ways to automatically deliver a rotating collection of pictures or text.
In the last article in this series I showed you how to install Google Desktop so we could get the very cool Google Sidebar, which is the container for the even cooler Google Gadgets. This article describes how to configure the Sidebar, how to use Gadgets, and how to customize your Sidebar by getting more Gadgets.
First let’s get familiar with the Sidebar as a whole. It defaults to a column about 1-1/2″ wide at the right side of your screen. You can make that wider or narrower by dragging the left edge of the Sidebar. You can also display it on the left side of the screen if you prefer. I love how I can just glance over to see the information I need and then right back to what I’m doing.
If you roll your mouse over the top of the Sidebar three buttons will appear: Add+, Options, and minimize (-). These are the controls for the sidebar itself. (Each gadget in your sidebar also has its own control bar at the top. We’ll talk about those later.)
Minimize and restore
Most of the time I find it convenient to keep the Sidebar docked on the right side of my screen, but sometimes I need all of the real estate for a project I’m working on. You can minimize the Sidebar by clicking the minimize button (-) in the upper right-hand corner. The minimized Sidebar goes into either Deskbar or Floating Deskbar mode. Restore it to Sidebar mode by clicking its icon (swirly Google symbol) on the Task Bar in the lower right corner of your screen, and then choosing Sidebar from the menu.
Note the drop-down Options menu at the top of the Sidebar. There are a number of useful setting here:
- Add gadgets – get new Gadgets from Google’s website.
- Configure gadgets – Remove Gadgets you don’t want. Feel free to remove anything except the Photos gadget. We’ll be using that in the next article.
- Preferences – Mostly relates to search features of Google Desktop, but there is one setting you might care about: Save my Google Gadget content and settings on the Google Account Features tab lets you save data from some Gadgets on Google’s servers so it is available to you on other computers.
- Sidebar – This is the display mode you want.
- Stay on top of other windows – Check this, it’s very handy. It causes other windows to adjust themselves to fill the rest of the screen.
- Dock sidebar – Choose whether to display the Sidebar on the left or right side of the screen.
The Gadgets installed with Sidebar are Email, News, Scratch Pad, Photos, Web Clips, Weather, To Do, Quick View, and a search box. Note that you can move them around by dragging them with the little textured handle just to the left of the title. You can also resize them by dragging the bottom edge up or down.
There are two tools in the upper right-hand corner of each Gadget:
- << – expands the content of that gadget into a larger fly-out box to the left of the Sidebar. Depending on the Gadget, it usually shows you a bit more of the content in that box.
- Triangle – drops down a menu that contains the configuration Options for that gadget, as well as the ability to Expand and Collapse it or Remove it from the Sidebar. Collapsed mode is convenient for gadgets you don’t use very much.
Drag things around and get comfortable with the Sidebar. Change the order. For example, try moving the Photos gadget to the top. Drag the bottom edge of a gadget to make it bigger. Use the drop-down menu to Collapse and Expand a couple of gadgets. Remove any that you don’t think you want (you can always get them back later).
Add new Gadgets
Click the Add+ button at the top of your Sidebar. It will open an Add/Remove Gadgets window. You can search the Gadget collection or browse by category. Go ahead and explore – there is some really cool stuff here, and developers are adding more all the time. To add a new Gadget to your Sidebar just click on the Add button next to it.
It’s not necessary to have a Google account to use Gadgets, but if you have one you can monitor your Google Calendar and Gmail in the Sidebar. The Google Notebook, Scratch Pad and Todo List are kind of cool because you can choose to save your data on the Google server and share it between your Gadgets on multiple computers.
OK, we’re finished laying the groundwork for Google Gadgets. It’s been a bit of work but you only have to do it once. I promise, everything about using Gadgets from here on is dead easy and they’re really great for advertising. In the next two articles I’ll show you how to use my two favorite Gadgets for your personal marketing campaign: Photos and The Quote.
Other articles in the Google Gadget series
- Widgets and gadgets and klips (oh my!)
- How to install Google Desktop
- How to use Google Sidebar and Gadgets (you are here)
- How to rotate picture ads with the Google Photos gadget
- How to rotate text ads with The Quote gadget