Windows 7 sidebar

Windows 7 dual-monitor with gadgets
Windows 7 dual-monitor with gadgets

Back in October 2006 I wrote about how to create a new toolbar in Windows XP. For the last year I’ve been using Windows 7 Professional and for some inexplicable reason, in their wisdom the Microsoft boffins removed the ability to create new toolbars that can be docked apart from the main taskbar.

They must have thought that the new Windows 7 toolbar was enough. It’s not. While you can still create new toolbars, you just can’t separate them from the main Windows 7 taskbar.

What I liked about the XP toolbar I wrote in my original post four years ago:

The toolbar is always on top, meaning that when I’m running a maximized application (that is, full-screen), such as Outlook, the toolbar is still visible on the right-hand side of my screen.

No alternative

But to date I have not yet found an alternative that does what I want.  I’ve tried ObjectDock, OrbitDock, RocketDock, Google Desktop and a bunch of others and none of them worked the way I wanted them to: a toolbar of shortcuts that always sits on top, reserving its own space so that maximized applications don’t obscure it.

7 Sidebar

While I was looking for an alternative shortcuts toolbar I stumbled across the 7 Sidebar gadget for Windows 7.

One of the genuinely cool things about Windows Vista, in my opinion, was the sidebar: an always-on-top area of the screen onto which you could add gadgets. While Windows 7 kept the gadgets it ditched the dockable sidebar.  Again … come on boffins! Couldn’t you just have made it an option?

So, some genius from Germany has written a Windows 7 gadget that emulates the original Windows Vista sidebar: a gadget that will allow you to install gadgets within it. And the great thing is that it has a “Show sidebar always on top” option.

Which got me thinking: what if I could use the 7 Sidebar gadget to both

  1. Hold my Windows 7 gadgets so that I can see them even when I have an application maximized.
  2. Reserve the right-hand screen space and use RocketDock to manage my shortcuts above the 7 Sidebar.  Like this:
RocketDock shortcuts over 7 gadget sidebar
RocketDock shortcuts over Windows 7 “7 Sidebar” gadget

So that’s what I did and it’s working great, both at work (Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, 3 monitors) and home (Windows 7 Professional, 32-bit, 2 monitors).

Update

In response to a comment: the desktop clock featured on my desktop and in the Sidebar is called Transparent Customisable Desktop Clock.

Update 2: Fix

Sometimes when I start up my PC the gadgets are not working. There are a couple of things I’ve had to do in the past to fix these.

Simple fix

Most of the time this simple fix works:

  1. Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to bring up the Windows Task Manager.
  2. On the Processes tab locate and select “sidebar.exe”.
  3. Click on End Process.
  4. Wait for the process to end and disappear from the list.
  5. Right-click an empty point on the Windows desktop and select Gadgets from the context-menu. Your gadgets should now reappear.

Complex fix

Occasionally the above fix doesn’t work and I have to do the following:

  1. Click Start, and then click All Programs.
  2. Click Accessories, right-click Command Prompt, and select Run as administrator. If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. At the command prompt, type the following commands. Press ENTER after each command.Regsvr32 atl.dll
    Regsvr32 "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Sidebar\sbdrop.dll"
    Regsvr32 "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Sidebar\wlsrvc.dll"
    exit
  4. Restart the computer.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 46 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Currently on sabbatical. I am a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir.

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