Windows GadgetsWindows Vista brought a great new feature to the desktop: sidebar gadgets, little programs that offer information, entertainment or just plain eye-candy to a dockable bar to the right of the screen. Now Windows 7, Vista’s successor, has improved it even more: doing away with the sidebar, it lets you reorganize you gadgets however you want, in either small “sidebar” size or full size anywhere on your desktop.

The huge problem with gadgets, though, is finding functional, interesting and good looking ones. The official gadget repository, Windows Live Gallery, is not very useful, as the screenshots have a very low resolution and an incorrect aspect ratio, and ratings are usually unrepresentative of a gadget’s quality. However, after navigating a while through the Live Gallery I’ve found very useful and aesthetic gadgets. To celebrate the upcoming version of Windows, here are my seven favorite. Note: These gadgets are also compatible with Vista.

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1. Currency


Where to get it: Included with Windows

What it does: It shows exchange rates for virtually every currency in the world. You can also change the numbers in the boxes to convert one currency value to another. In small view, it shows two currencies, but in full view you can add more. As an international student, I find this information invaluable in my daily life.

2. Weather


Where to get it: Included with Windows

What is does: It shows the current weather and temperature in a very eye-pleasing way. At night, it also shows the phases of the moon. In full view, it shows a three-day forecast. Handy to know if you should carry an umbrella or not.

3. All CPU Meter

All CPU Meter

Where to get it: Windows Live Gallery

What it does: Displays your CPU and memory usage, detailing cores and graphing through time. Much better than the included CPU Meter hands down. Also, it’s small and very unobtrusive, yet easily available with a simple Win+Space. Invaluable when running all my CPU intensive applications.

4. Wireless Network Meter

Wirless Network Meter

Where to get it: Windows Live Gallery

What it does: All CPU Meter’s networking sister, this handy gadget shows you the status of your current Internet connection, including wireless status, transfer rates, and again, a handy graph.

5. Battery Meter

Battery Meter

Where to get it: Windows Live Gallery

What it does: This gadget is dead simple: it shows your current battery level with a beautiful, customizable graphic. There are nine slick skins to choose from, and you can also customize the size. If you’re running on battery power, it will also show the amount of time left before your battery dies. Very useful for notebook users who find the battery indicator in the system tray too small or bland.

6. I Forgot the Milk

I Forgot the Milk

Where to get it: Windows Live Gallery

What it does: Shows your Remember the Milk tasks from the lists you specify. You can add, complete and postpone tasks, but for most complex modifications you’ll have to resort to the web app. This gadget will let you customize everything from colors to size to time format. Unfortunately, it only work correctly when connected (it likes to spit out red error boxes every time it disconnects) and it doesn’t have any notifications. However, it it the best RTM gadget out there, with loads of functions and a slick interface.

7. Google Calendar Agenda

Google Calendar Agenda

Where to get it: Windows Live Gallery

What it does: I Forgot the Milk’s calendar sister, this is the best choice if you want to have you Google Calendar on your desktop. If you plan your life GCal as much as I do, you’ll appreciate functions such as the ability to choose which calendars are displayed. It boasts nearly the same functions as the RTM gadget, but it also suffers from the same problems, such as connectivity and no notifications. However, it’s dead useful and no doubt the best GCal gadget out there.