Saturday, 30 June 2007

Now Playing Update - 3.2.8

  • New: Menu system for docked layout - check it out
  • New: Double click lyrics to highlight/copy them - this is quite cool if you want a bit of a lyric in your Live Messenger name for example
  • New: Two new skins
  • New: There's now a button in the MISC page in the settings to open the nowplaying.gadget folder, if you want to change anything like a CSS sheet or a background you can do it here. Note: This will get wiped after every update to backup the individual files if you change them.
  • Change: Lyrics now auto update when flyout is still open

I was hoping to test this for a little longer incase I may have broken anything with these updates but I'll be away on holiday in Austria for a week so I thought I'd get this update out before I go away.

Btw things such as keeping the flyout constantly open (for the lyrics for example) or dragging the gadget around when it's open aren't possible, this is a limitation of the Sidebar.

Got any issues or suggestions? Drop me an email

Vista Gadget deploying problem

You have created a Vista Sidebar Gadget, but when you try to install the gadget on your system nothing happens and in your directory(C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets) there's a folder named : mygadget.gadget.~0000

2 possible problems :

- The Zip package: don't zip your gadget root folder directly, instead go inside it and zip up all its contents (files and folders) with right-click / Sent To / Compressed (zipped) Folder.

- Special chars in manifest file: you must encode special chars like accents in gadget.xml.

Sample chars to replace:
é by é
è by è
, (comma) by ,
! by !
? by ?
@ by @

You can find a good list of special chars codes there:


Steve Nagys' Tips and Tricks

Steve Nagy has some great tips and tricks posted on his blog after creating his Vista Gadget called SurfWatch. I'm now downloading Orcas to see if that's any use with making Gadgets as the current Visual Studio doesn't provide much help at all.

1. Use Visual Studio Codename 'Orcas'. The intellisense on JavaScript makes it extremely useful.
2. When using flyouts, set the style of the page body tags to remove the padding and margin, otherwise your flyout doesn't line up with your gadget.

3. You can also use the g:background tag for your flyout window to ensure transparency.

4. You can set data and call functions in the flyout from your main gadget window by calling against it's DOM. For example, if you had a textbox in your flyout, you would access it like this:

var flyoutDOM = System.Gadget.Flyout.document;
var myText = flyoutDOM.getElementById('myText');

Likewise, if you have registered functions in your DOM in your flyout, they can be called the same way. This allows for a form of communication between your two gadget windows.

5. Docked and undocked versions of your gadget actually run under the same html file. If you want them to look different and have different contents, keep this in mind when designing your gadget.

6. Emailing gadgets is tricky! Since they are essentially a zip file, most email servers will detect that the attachment contains items with JavaScript, and may zap it. Not sure how to get around this yet!

7. There is a mime-type for gadgets:

Friday, 29 June 2007

Skins + Docked layout

First thing, if anyone can make skins or has any that they would like included, please let me know as I can't actually use Photoshop myself - all the current skins bar one are done by users.

Secondly, I'm working on putting more into the docked layout, ive decided upon a menu system (shown below) is there anything else I should include in this? Should it automatically close after a certain amount of time? Should there be less there? What should the button look like? Comment to give me your ideas :)


Ultimate Explorer 1.2 Updated

Normally I only do posts about my gadgets but I'd like to try and be a bit more diverse and mention some of the other great gadgets out there on this blog. One that I really think epitomises what a "gadget" should be is the Ultimate Explorer gadget.

This is basically your standard simple search gadget taken right to the extreme allowing you to conduct searches on 10 of the big Websites including Amazon, eBay, Google, Youtube, Pirate Bay, Digg, Wiki etc right in the sidebar. Once you conduct a search results are displayed within the gadget in an easily digestible form, no massive flyouts, just compact product or search information. Every search engine also has it's own customisation options for things like how many results you want returned or what locality to use.

I personally really like this gadget because at first glance it looks very simple, but there is a large opportunity to customise it to do what you need and at over 3500 lines of code it's obvious a lot of work has gone into this. 

GadgetOverview3-1 GadgetOverview2

Download -

Live Gallery

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Now Playing Lyrics

Some people have been emailing me to say the new feature in Now Playing that lets you view lyrics for the current song is quite inaccurate and often doesn't have the correct lyrics for the song.

The system is using the database as as basically this is the first site I found with a real API. If anyone knows of a better lyrics website that has an API I can use I want to know about it!


Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Now Playing Update - 3.2.7


  • New: Lyrics viewer for current track - Click the L button
  • New: Skin 21 - Jewel case
  • New: Special characters in track details now supported such as ampersands or slashes - may also work with Unicode
  • New: When WMP is open but no song is playing, click gadget to open playlist list, click a playlist to play it.


Got any issues or suggestions? Drop me an email

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Do you want to win a 40" LCD HD TV?

To all gadget developers in Canada; There is a contest being held on Windows Live Gallery to build the greatest Vista Sidebar gadget.

1st prize is a 40" widescreen LCD HD TV.

Unfortunately the contest is only available for Canadian residents.

Here is the link to the contest page:

Monday, 25 June 2007

Now Playing Readme Updated

Check it out here. I've updated the feature list among other things and added a compatibility to chart so you can see which features work with which players.

Take a look, there's probably some features you didn't even realise existed!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Azureus localisation issue

To any of you whom may be in a non EN-US locality and have previously tried using my Azureus gadget and had issues - I have semi-solution. Because other localities often don't use decimals in the IP address the gadget will break if you enter To get around this simply type 'localhost' and this will sort it.

Thanks to Daniel in Germany for helping me with this :)

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Now Playing Update - 3.2.6


  • New: Drag and drop a file onto the gadget and WMP or iTunes will play it
  • New: Ability to enlarge gadget when undocked
  • New: Fifth layout where text is always visible in the sidebar
  • New: Different button styles for shuffle, playlist, covers etc
  • Change: Editing track data now occurs on DOUBLE click, not single click
  • Fix: Non-jpeg album art now working for iTunes
  • Fix: Album art was lost when docking or undocking in normal mode
  • Fix: Ignoring updates is more reliable
  • Tooltips updated
  • Removed some of the not-so-great skins

Note: If you're looking for the "change player" or update links on the settings page, they're on the "Misc" tab now to save space.

Got any suggestions? Drop me an email

Friday, 22 June 2007

The Hobby Lounge

TheHobbyLounge is a great Vista Sidebar gadget forum I stumbled upon the other day, in fact I believe it is the ONLY vista sidebar gadget forum. It's got a large community of over 10,000 members and is the home to some very good gadgets that I use such as "Simple Date", the hobby lounge gadget, and the various CPU and memory usage meters.

My favorite gadget from there is Simple Date which is actually - not very simple. It is very configurable with options ranging from text size to skins and colours used. This gadget made by ucfknight10 shows the date, time, day, calendar, weather, and any upcoming events in the sidebar - it shows more detail then a clock, calendar, and weather gadget put together making it a great space saver

As I browse the forums a lot this is another good gadget they make appropriately named The Hobby Lounge. It shows all the recent posts either on your sidebar or in a larger mode on your desktop and has links to different parts of the forum. Another handy feature is also the ability to notify you of PM's. I was also thinking, seeing as the groundwork has already been done, this would be a great gadget to adapt to be compatible with other forums whereby the user could select the forum type and enter the recent post feed URL to view all the new posts.

On another note SFKilla's Multi Meter gadget has now surpassed a massive one million downloads! So a very well done to him. Now I just need to work out how to get Now Playing adopted by that many people...

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Azureus Gadget Update - 3.0


After several months of no changes the Azureus gadget has now received a much needed update to make it much more advanced. For those of you who don't know, Azureus is a popular bit torrent client with many advanced features including a web interface which this gadget uses.

New Stuff:

  • Graphics to display the past download and upload speed - this updates at the same speed as the rest of the gadget
  • Improved update speed - the code for the flyout is quicker
  • Flyout now handles more gadgets and re-sizes on the fly
  • Flyout handles longer torrent names by just cutting the end off instead of cutting it off in between words
  • Update code so if I release an update you'll automatically get it

To open the flyout, click on the first line of text. To open the graphs, double click anywhere else and then double click to go back

Wakoopa Top 10 gadget

Wakoopa is a little know Web2.0 type website that tracks your software usage in a very similar way to how Last.Fm does. You get a profile which you can view yourself and share which gives details like how long you've used a price of software for, what you've used recently, and what you use most. It also has recommendation features that work by comparing what software you use against that of other people

Anyway I made a gadget for this service that shows your top used software (you can select how many to show) along with a link to the software info page.



Mouse Pointer Locator Gadget

View the X Y co-ordinates for your mouse pointer in this simple gadget. That's literally all it does, every time you move your mouse it shows you the co-ordinates. It's pretty handy with doing the layouts on gadget and probably for web development and CSS sheets too.



Now Playing Update - 3.2.5


  • Feature: Editing of track info for WMP and iTunes
  • Fix: "No art" images not appearing on covers flyout
  • Localisation fix disabled, it made the issue worse
  • Fix: Close button was appearing on the wrong skins
  • Fix: Sometimes you would just get a black rectangle with no info on it

To edit track details:

  1. Go into larger skin mode
  2. Click on track name, track album, or track artist
  3. Change the data to whatever you want
  4. Hit enter
  5. If you want to cancel your changes, click anywhere or press escape

Got any suggestions? Drop me an email

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

"Are you a top gadget developer?" Yes I am

Dear Lawrence,

We are excited to tell you that you have been selected to be part of the Windows Live Gallery Silver tier of publishers. This is a distinction we give to those who have consistently published popular high quality items.

On Gallery, the Silver Tier badge will be shown next to your username to distinguish you from other publishers. Please stay tuned for more benefits for Silver tier members.

Source: Are you a top gadget developer?

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Now Playing Update - 3.2.4


  • Feature: Close button for iTunes so you don't get that annoying message asking if you want to quit.
  • Fix: Play/Pause for Winamp wont restart Winamp

Refer to the earlier post for the rest


If you are having problems with the gadget just saying "Play a song" (on WMP), it used to work but doesn't anymore

1) Start WMP11
2) Click on Tools>Plug-Ins>Options
3) Choose Background
4) Tick/Select uICE WMP Plug-in
6) Apply the changes

Every time WMP crashes it will disabled all the plug-ins, that's probably what happened.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Prestos 7 Hard Drive Monitor

At the request of a few people I'm posting my modified version of presto's hard drive monitor that shows free space for 7 hard disks in a small space that i mentioned a previous post.


Now Playing Update - 3.2.3

Download it here

Here's a list of changes:

  • Fix: After the sidebar has been restarted the gadget shrinks to about 10x30 size - also any other similar occurrences of this
  • Feature: On the covers fly out, if you click a cover you can see it full size, then click to return back to the covers
  • Fix: When new covers are added to the covers fly out they cycle through, so after you play 10 songs it doesn't clear all the covers, it just replaces the oldest cover with the cover from the 10th song.
  • Fix: With audioscrobbler cd art was re-downloaded every 25 seconds, now it waits till the next track
  • Fix: After ignoring an update, in big mode, after clicking line 2 the gadget would close.
  • Possible Fix: Comma/decimal localisation issues when setting docked zoom level
  • Fix: Half height issues where persistent settings file was deleted
  • Fix: Zooming code required restart of gadget to work

If you are having issues with the gadget not recognising your player, like you just get a black rectangle. Try deleting this file:

C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets\NowPlayingPersistentSettings.txt

Still to do:

  • Make custom buttons for: shuffle, playlist, covers
  • Look into a bit more foobar support

Javascript errors are enabled on this version, so if you do get any script errors that give a line number please let me know.

If you still have any issues with this release email me, I've had a lot of interesting feedback since the last update which has helped fix a few things i was totally unaware of and the suggestions are very welcome so thanks to all the feedback

Friday, 15 June 2007

Now Playing Update - 3.2

Download here

Here's a list of changes:

  • Feature: Updating is now optional - you can ignore an update for 3 hours
  • Feature: Readability of text in the sidebar layout is greatly improved, Danny Vargas did all the code for that.
  • Improved: Album art finding on your machine is now much improved, it will now search for any image files in the current music files location as well as in a folder you specify. Again Danny Vargas did all the code for that. Currently it goes:
                  • Check for WMP saved art
                  • Check iTunes for current art
                  • Check for another type of WMP art
                  • Check for folder.jpg
                  • Check for any image file in music location
                  • Check for any image file in music subfolder
                  • Check Amazon
                  • Check Google
                  • God help you if there's still no art!
  • Improved: Settings pages is a bit clearer - changed the layout option
  • Fixed: After changing the settings the gadget would sometimes die

Still to fix:

  • After the sidebar has been restarted the gadget shrinks to about 10x30 size, as a workaround open and close the settings page
  • Some people can't use the gadget with WMP. If this is the case email me. I can't work out what the issue is I need a bit more info :)
  • Make custom shuffle, playlist, covers buttons
  • Look into a bit more foobar support

My Vista Sidebar


So I’ve been using Windows Vista for a while now since it was released and the Sidebar has to be one of my favorite features. I have it enabled all the time on my third screen so I can always see the gadgets as I'm one of those people who likes to know the status of everything. Gadgets are a good way of giving me lots of information at a glance.

I don't have any opacity set and the sidebar is always on top as I rarely have anything on the third screen (a 19" Widescreen)

The blue glow around the edge is

Windows Sidebar Styler which allows you to set custom backgrounds and buttons etc.

Here are some of the Sidebar Gadgets that I use.


Twenty Four Clock - This is just a nice compact clock that, I like it because the numbers really stand out unlike some of the other clocks or analogue ones which choose form over function.


CPU Utilization - This is quite a good gadget by Jonathan Abbot, it gives you a bar graph for each core which you can change the refresh speeds for as well as a bar to tell you how much the cores are currently being used. You can drag it off the sidebar to enlarge it too


Network Utilization - Similar to above this shows you network usage from a network adapter you specify

sidebar2Azureus Stats - This is one of my gadgets, it interfaces with the torrent client Azureus through the plugin Web UI. I can quickly see my total torrents download speed and individual speeds. Its handy as sometimes they leech the connection so I need to slow them down.


My T-Mobile - Another one my gadgets, this simply shows the current details for my T-Mobile Flext mobile account - telling me how much of my allowance I have left to spend


Recycle bin - This gadget is really useful, it shows you how many items are in the recycle bin and their size, it lets you drop trash onto it and also has links to empty it or open the control panel. I use this all the time and don't have the recycle bin icon on my desktop anymore.


Presto's Hard Drive Monitor - This gadget shows you your hard drive usage without being un-necessarily large like some. I modified it to support 7 drives (I think it supports 3 normally). You can set the drive letters manually in the options and it supports network drives too.


Image Gadget - This simply displays the image from a URL to specify and you can set it to auto update at a rate you want. I have it setup to show the CCTV camera on the front of my house. I don't have a link to this as I found it on the AeroXP forums a while ago.


Now Playing Gadget - Chances are if you're on this blog you already know what this gadget does. It shows you what you're listening to in most media players + a tone of other features. If you don't have it, get it!


Skins.Be Gadget - This is a custom feed viewer I just released today that takes the newest uploads from and puts them in your sidebar. Great for anyone who regularly visits

Skins.Be Gadget

EDIT: This has now been superceded by a better gadget here

skins.betaflyoutSkins.Be feed viewer is the newest gadget I've just released, it  periodically checks the latest skins feed on Skins.Beta and displays the results in the gadget. When you click on one of the names it opens a flyout where you can preview the wallpaper, and select which size to download.

Download it here

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Drive Info - memory leak fix


Drive Info is a very nice gadget made by Kris Thompson, it's been on the gallery since before Vista was released and has racked up a massive 164 thousand downloads. Yet the author has never updated it or fixed the memory leak/cpu issue.

Basically what was happening, every 5 seconds the gadget would update, but it would create a second refresh timer. So after a minute of usage it would have update 105 times, after 2 minutes 390 times, and it was exponentially increasing.

So all I did was just replace the timeout code with the refresh code I use in all my gadgets so the timer is cleared before it is created - no memory leaks. Hopefully this should make the gadget usable now

Download it

Original DriveInfo

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

T-Mobile Gadget Update - 1.2

Well after T-Mobile revamped their system for logging into your "My T-mobile" account it broke the gadget, so the new update fixes this. I've also changed the background to look nicer (sort of) it's still a bit ugly unfortunately - function over form.

I've also added support for US accounts, well one type anyway, so give it a go and see how it goes for you.

If the automatic update system doesn't kick in or you haven't already got the gadget you can download it here.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Now Playing Update - 3.1.1

In the past 3 days there's been 3 updates, 3.0.5, 3.1, and 3.1.1. This update is really just refining the last two, the icons that appear when no player is opened are now centered, playlist support for WMP opens quicker and there's also iTunes support on that. Shuffle is now supported by most of the players (iTunes, WMP, Winamp, Media Monkey) foobar and QMP just don't have support for it.

As usual, any suggestions, send me an e-mail.

If you do have a problem, please, really please, don't put it on the Gallery, having an anonymous person post "No longer works, waste of space" is not only annoying but there's no hope if me knowing what is broke so i can't fix it.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Ten Must-Have Gadgets for Windows Vista Sidebar

"10 Must Have Gadgets for Windows Vista Sidebar,” by Joel Durham of, gives a brief description of the Vista Sidebar’s functionality and suggests ten gadgets from Microsoft’s Gadget Gallery including the App Launcher quick start bar, Clipboard History display, Multi Meter CPU usage display, Package Tracker, Google and Wikipedia desktop search, AccuWeather Forecast and Radar, Sphere Time clock application, Panda Cam from the San Diego Zoo, and Piano gadget.  

Ten Must-Have Gadgets for Windows Vista Sidebar

A couple of tips for Gadget Development

One tip which is very useful for your Gadget development is to wire up script debugging so you can debug into your Gadget JS from Visual Studio and work out whats going on.

To enable script debugging you need to set the options in Internet Explorer - untick the following two boxes and close off all instances of IE and the Sidebar, and then fire up the Sidebar.


To work with breakpoints you can just set a breakpoint in your JS file and then attach the debugger to the instance of sidebar.exe which is hosting your Gadget. The Sidebar will start up a number of instances of sidebar.exe, so initially you will have nothing to attach to.

A tip here is that you can inject a statement "debugger;" into your Javascript (at an appropriate point) to force it to raise a Script Breakpoint exception that will allow you to attach a debugger at that point to get things going. Very useful for catching the Gadget earlier in the load cycle.

Once your debugger is attached your breakpoints and watches will all operate as expected.

A couple of tips for Gadget Development

Now Playing Update - 3.0.5

Another smallish update has been made to the gadget after i received a few suggestions. People didn't seem to like it when the gadget displayed "Notice: Open player" as it's a bit ugly so now instead you just get the icon of the media player which also takes up less space. To open your player just click on the icon.

You should get this update automatically but if you haven't - go into the settings and click "Check Now" at the bottom.

Friday, 8 June 2007

10 Vista Sidebar Gadget Development Tips

Some great tips on creating Vista gadgets, I've made use of pretty much 80% of them. My favourite, the one I'm always explaining to people when they want something built or they're giving feature suggestions is "DO NOT build full applications inside a Gadget. A Gadget should be a mini-application."

Linky here

Now Playing Update

After about a month with no updates I finally had an idea for a new feature to put in, a "Guess That Song" game. Basically when enabled the song details are hidden (I know, kinda takes away the point of the gadget) until you guess the title of the song, once you take a guess the song details will re-appear and you will get a score of how well you're doing.


You can access the game first by enabling it in the options and then by clicking on the "G" icon


You will also notice there's now a "C" icon for covers, you may or may not have realised this was already a feature but basically a flyout will open showing the album art of the last listened to tracks.


I hope these new features are fun/useful for someone, I just felt now playing needed another release.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Now Playing Gadget

The now playing gadget is definitely one of my favourites and one of my most popular gadgets. It basically shows you what you're listening to in almost any media player but has tonnes of features for a gadget including fetching album art and lyrics; see below.

It has compatibility with almost all media players, displaying the current playing track and album art. It has some cool features that compensate for issues such as having no album art or having no album name by looking on various databases for the required info. It also checks a lyrics database for the song lyrics and shows them on a flyout.

Download Here

np2 txtskin2

Below is a feature list with what I can remember

  • Compatible with Windows Media Player, Winamp, MediaMonkey, iTunes, foobar, QMP, QCD, J. River Media Center etc via the AudioScrobbler plug-in

  • Fetches lyrics automatically

  • Play/Pause, Next track, previous track buttons

  • Multiple layouts and skins with many customisation options

  • Fetches album art from Amazon, google, local album art from the folder or from the player or even from ID3 tags (X86 only)

  • Auto-save album art

  • Set and view track ratings

  • If no album name is available, it will search for one

  • Provides a link to the album on Amazon localised to your country

  • Change volume with mouse scroll, click the bottom of the gadget when it is at full size to highlight it, then use scroll wheel to set volume

Creating Gadgets With Silverlight

Charles Sterling writes the steps required to use Silverlight in a Microsoft Gadget in a Silverlight application. He’s also got a seperate article on including Gadgets in regular WPF, but putting creating Gadgets in with Silverlight has got my mind swimming with cool possibilities for putting creating Gadgets in webapps with rich interfaces. Me like.

UPDATE: I completely misunderstood Charles’ post, but the reality is even better than I thought. How cool are Silverlight Gadgets gonna look? Pretty cool, that’s how much!

Source: Inside Microsoft

Silver Partners Create Popular Items

I was just updating the AI Engine gadget on Live Galley and noticed a new little icon next to my name, the alternate text says "Silver partners create popular items". It looks like this is part of the Live Gallery partner tiers that was recently talked about in an interview with I haven't received an email about this but it looks like maybe I'm being recognized for submitting (I think) the most gadgets on Live Gallery. If you have any suggestions for more gadgets id be happy to hear them