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Put Google gadgets on your Windows desktop

What?

Google logo

Put individual, "standalone" Google gadgets directly on your Windows desktop using built-in Active Desktop. No web server required.

Google just opened up their inventory of gadgets that were previously available only on your Google Personalized Homepage. Now you can put Google gadgets on any web page, which makes it possible to use them in a wider variety of places and ways than before. One example is to put Google gadgets right on your Windows desktop. This is easy to do using Windows' built-in Active Desktop feature.

SCREENSHOT: Google gadget on Windows desktop

Google said they made the gadgets available for "webpage owners everywhere to browse and select gadgets for their own pages". That's great, but in fact, you don't have to be a webpage owner; you can use gadgets on your Windows desktop without a web server.

Why?

This is an easy way to use gadgets in "standalone" mode, without hosting them on a web server, browsing to a web page, or installing additional software.

The concept of gadgets/widgets on the desktop isn't new, but this variation allows you to:

  • Use gadgets without a web server. You can store the code for a gadget right on your computer.
  • Use gadgets without manually opening a browser and visiting a web page. Technically, you are using a web browser -- Internet Explorer -- when you use Active Desktop, but it's embedded in the desktop, and always visible.
  • Have a consistent set of gadgets. Now you can use the same gadgets on your desktop as you use on your Google homepage. (NOTE: Not all gadgets available for Google Homepage are available for webpage use.)
  • Use gadgets without installing any additional software. Other widget/gadget frameworks that use an installed "engine" -- such as Yahoo Widgets/Konfabulator -- might provide richer functionality and look & feel in some cases, but there's a certain appeal to avoiding yet another piece of software to install and update.

How?

Add Google gadgets to your Windows Active Desktop just like any other webpage.

  1. Find a gadget in the directory of Google gadgets for your webpage and click the "Add to your webpage" button to configure it.
  2. Click the "Get the Code" button, and copy the HTML.
  3. Create a new HTML document (e.g. "gadget-name.html") on your computer or web server, paste in the code for the gadget, and save it.
  4. Right-click on your Windows desktop and select Properties.
  5. Click on the Desktop tab, and the Customize Desktop button.
  6. Click on the Web tab, and the New button.
  7. Click the Browse button, and find & select the HTML document you created to hold your gadget code. If you saved it on a web server, enter its URL in the Location field.
  8. Click OK 3 times, and you should see the gadget on your Desktop!

Tips & Tricks

  • Repeat the steps above to add more gadgets to your desktop.
  • Finishing touch: By default, there's a white background surrounding the gadget (even larger than in the screenshot above). You can add
    <body bgcolor="your_desktop_background_color">
    above your gadget code to make it blend seamlessly with your desktop background color.

Beyond Windows?

Does this work on other platforms? If so, blog it, and link to this article!

I haven't looked at Linux or MacOS in a long time, so I'm not sure if either (or any other platform) has an equivalent to Windows' Active Desktop. If you get this to work on something other than Windows, please blog about it and link to this article. I've disabled comments due to spam, but one of the search engines will pick up the link, and I'll see it & link back.