Executive Summary: Gadgets for the Windows Sidebar are popping up everywhere and some of them can be useful additions to your toolkit. PowerShell Gadget provides the functionality of PowerShell in a convenient package. Other gadgets can monitor the use of your system resources. Gadgets to display weather, a remote webcam feed, Windows Live Messenger contacts, and even eBay auctions are also available.

Although I’m a bit dismayed at their insistence on taking over the right side of my screen, some of Windows Vista’s gadgets for Windows Sidebar can be rather handy. Like mushrooms in the fall, gadgets are beginning to pop up everywhere, but there’s only so much room in the Sidebar. To help you populate your Sidebar with only the best tools, here are my top 10 favorite Sidebar gadgets. The gadgets here (other than numbers 1 and 10) are available from Microsoft Live Gallery at gallery.live.com. Just type the name of the gadget into the search box near the top of the page. Live Gallery also provides hundreds of other gadgets, so if none of these interest you, you can surely find something that does.

10. Weather—Yeah, it’s just the weather, but it’s kind of handy to have a couple of Weather gadgets for remote locations where your friends are located. On the Sidebar, the gadget shows your chosen city’s name, a weather graphic, and the temperature. The Weather gadget comes with Vista and you can add it by using the Sidebar’s Add Gadgets option.

9. Auction Sidebar Tool for eBay—If you’re addicted to eBay— and who isn’t?—this should be right up your alley. The gadget lets you search for and monitor auctions and place bids. It’s certified by eBay, which should quell worries about a security breakdown hurting your seller or buyer rating.

8. Wikipedia Search—Admit it: You use Wikipedia. So do I. Wikipedia is a regular stop for research on many topics. Although it’s a bit big for the sidebar, the Wikipedia Search gadget lets you quickly enter Wikipedia searches from your desktop. The Wikipedia search results are displayed in your browser window. There are two gadgets with this name on Live Gallery. I recommend the one by “fredeq.”

7. messenger—If you use Windows Live Messenger for instant messaging, you might want to check out the messenger gadget. It shows which of your contacts are online, any alerts, and your Windows Live email status.

6. IP Webcam Gadget—I have a remote IP webcam in the office, and the IP Webcam Gadget gives me a handy window to the webcam right on my laptop’s desktop when I’m travelling from office to office. It took a bit of manual editing to put the address of the webcam in the included .htm file, but after that it worked well.

5. miniIP—The miniIP gadget gives you a quick display of your external IP information. It reports your IP address and hostname, as well as location information, including your current city and county.

4. Vista Shutdown Control—Vista Shutdown Control gives you a convenient way to shut down your Vista system. The gadget also has buttons that let you restart the system and lock the desktop. This gadget could be just what you’re looking for if you don’t like Vista’s process for powering off your computer or if you often need to lock it manually.

3. Speed Test—Speed Test is a system performance monitor. Unlike some of the other performance gadgets out there, Speed Test displays all of its system information in a graph. The gadget can monitor a wide variety of system statistics, including CPU, RAM, and bandwidth usage; ping response time; Wi-Fi signal strength; and battery charge.

2. ((System Monitor))—If you’re running one of today’s quadcore processors, you’ve got to wonder exactly how much each of those cores is really being used. The ((System Monitor)) gadget gives you a quick look at your system’s IP address and the status of its CPU, RAM, and battery in bar graph form. The gadget supports monitoring up to four cores.

1. PowerShell Gadget—My favorite Sidebar utility is PowerShell Gadget. This gadget is just as good as a “PowerShell Here” prompt—like the Command Here add-on for Windows XP. PowerShell Gadget lets you enter PowerShell commands right into the collapsed gadget. You can also expand it into a complete PowerShell console window. You can find PowerShell Gadget at andrewpeters.net/powershell-gadget.