Now playing–Windows 7 gadget that works with Winamp

Yesterday I discovered a Windows 7 gadget that I had been wishing for months someone would write. It turns out that it has been around since 2007, I’d just not found it yet.

The gadget is called Now Playing – With Lyrics by Lawrence and it shows in a small window the song you are currently listening to, including album art and, on hover, track details and player controls:

20110605-windows7gadgets20110605-windows7gadgets-hover

Compatible media players

The gadget works with a number of media players:

using custom plugins, but it would appear that the website where the plugins were all hosted has been taken down and so on first-run the gadget now returns an error.

Plugins

This is the point where I uninstalled the gadget the first time I looked at it a few months ago. This time I went to investigate and discovered that they’ve been moved to this basic site: Now Playing plugins.

Once downloaded, and with the gadget installed, place them in this Windows folder:

%HOMEPATH%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets\nowplaying.gadget\plugins

Then open your media player and click on the gadget. When I did that with Winamp  5.61 I was prompted to install the plugin. And then, as if by magic, I could see the album art in the gadget.

It’s really handy to, at a glance, see what track/album/artist is currently playing. I wish I’d found this before.

Since Microsoft have taken down the gadget gallery, I’ve had some folks asking me where they can download the gadget. So I’ve uploaded it here:

Download gadget and plugins (2.85 MB)

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.

Updating Outlook Appointments gadget for Outlook 2010

Outlook appointments gadget for Windows 7
Outlook appointments gadget for Windows 7

One of my favourite Windows 7 gadgets is the Outlook Appointments gadget. As gadgets go it’s pretty simple: it shows me  upcoming appointments. From Outlook.

But oddly, only when Outlook is open.

Anyhow, when I upgraded Microsoft Office from 2007 to 2010 a couple of weeks ago I discovered that it no longer worked … it just complained that it didn’t have the correct version of Outlook installed.

The hack

But there is a simple hack:

  1. Make sure that you can view hidden and system files (Control Panel > Folder Options > under View tab select “Show hidden files, folders, or drives”).
  2. Close the Outlook upcoming appointments gadget.
  3. In Windows Explorer navigate to C:\Users\YOURNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets\OutlookAppointmentsGadget.gadget\en-US\js\” where YOURNAME is the name of your user account.
  4. Open the file “outlook.vbs” with Notepad (or other text editor; personally I wouldn’t use WordPad).
  5. On lines 22 and 42 change the two occurrences of the number “12” to “14”.
  6. Save the file.
  7. Open the Outlook  Appointments gadget again.

Outlook Tasks gadget

The same hack also works for the “Outlook Tasks” gadget.

Update

It looks like someone has released pre-hacked versions of Appointments and Tasks called iOutlook which work with Outlook 2010.  The iOutlook Appointments one now offers 3, 5 or 10 appointments.