TO-Tech Blog Todd Ogasawara’s Tech Blog


Microsoft Vista Sidebar

Sidebar Opacity MenuOne of the big surpises I got from Vista was Sidebar. Why was it a surprise? I tried Konfabulator (now Yahoo! Widgets) and Apple Dashboard in Mac OS X. But, neither one caught my interest enough to keep using them. Apple Dashboard, in particular, really caught my interest before its release. But, I didn't like its forced mode switching. You are either using the Tiger desktop or you are in Dashboard mode. So, the inclusion of Vista's Sidebar did not interest me at first. In fact, it did not interest me the second time I looked at it during the late Beta-2 cycle because it didn't seem to work well even for a beta release component.

This all changed when I revisted it during the Release Candidate 2 stage though. For reasons I can't clearly identify enough to articulate, the simple single function gadgets became not just useful, but somehow indispensible. For me, one of the reasons to move from XP to Vista was to have Sidebar and its Gadgets available.

Sidebar Opacity at 40%

Here's a couple of tips to get you started. If the solid, sometimes brightly colored Gadgets, seem a bit visually intrusive, you can set opacity levels (transparency) for each individual Gadget. If you right click on a Gadget, a pop-up menu appears. If you select the Opacity option, you should see a side menu appear as in the screencap above that lets you set transparency. If you hover the mouse pointer over a gadget, it pops back to 100% opacity (solid) again. I have my Gadgets set to 40% opacity. You can see what it looks like in the second screencap.

Control Panel Windows Sidebar appletYou can find Sidebar global settings options in the Control Panel applet named Windows Sidebar. As you can see in the third screencap, it lets you decide where to place the Sidebar (left or right) and which monitor to display it on if you have more than one.

You can find more Sidebar Gadgets in the Windows Live Gallery. And, you can get in-depth information at

Comments (7) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Oh. So you don’t know this super cool trick about Dashboard. Widgets in Tiger can actually be untethered from the Dashboard and can as happily run out of that environment. Simply drag a widget out of the widget dock and press F12 before you release it. Et Voila! Your favourite widget right on the desktop. :)

  2. Thanks, Shashwat. I didn’t know that! But, doesn’t that clutter up the desktop if you have, say 10 or so widgets?

  3. Shashwat & Todd:

    The Vista Gadgets can also be easily dragged from the side bar, I hardly ever leave the bar open, and just drag my important gadgets to my desktop, and you don’t have to press F12 to do it, it is automatic. This is nice for weather and clocks, as you can still set their transparency and then blend into the desktop.

    Then I keep other less important gadgets on the sidebar itself and just open it when I want access to them. The sidebar and desktop act as two separate environments you can leave the gadgets running in.

    Back in the Windows98 days Windows had a seldom used but fun ability to display any html component or content on the desktop as well, so I have always had my weather and clock and live weather map on my desktop going back to 1998. This concept even started before MS technically, but Windows was doing this with web content before Konfabulator, OSX, or Vista. Which always gives me a laugh when Mac users say MS copied Apple’s Dashboard.

  4. I really like the sidebar and gadgets, and keeps the sidebar on top. But I miss an option for changing the opacity of the sidebar, not only the gadgets. This would maybe make it blend in more. I suggest a new windows update 😉

  5. Hello,

    I really like the sidebar, but I am having a situation. I am running Vista as a VM on an XP computer. It has 2 seperate profiles. In one, the sidebar is not visable, just the gadgets. In the other profile, it is a dull gray. Has anyone seen anything like this, or know how to change it?


  6. can anyone tell me how to move sidebar?

  7. Hello – We would like to present a new website – here you can upload your creations or download other gadgets to your desktop. I thought I would post this here, be cause of your discussion.

    all the best

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