Unfortunately, there are few good options for sidebars in Linux. With the advent of the Vista sidebar on Windows Vista, I find myself missing those nifty widgets when using other operating systems.
I am slowly moving toward using Linux Mint more than I am using Vista, so I went in search of a good sidebar for Mint. After trying a few things that failed miserably, I happened upon Google Gadgets for Linux (GGL). It is important, at this point, to mention that Google Gadgets is also available for Windows and Mac. For purposes of this article, though, I will be referring exclusively to GGL, as I have not tested the application on any other operating systems.
While GGL is a very nice application, and is about the best alternative I can find to the Vista sidebar, it’s not quite up to par, yet. However, the majority of the complaints I have about GGL relate to the widgets available, rather than the application itself.
Here are the widgets I would like to see created for GGL:
- A better weather widget – There are actually about ten different weather widgets available for GGL, but none of them are perfect. Weather Ball is close, but the information is crowded in the widget and some of it actually overflows.
- A good RSS widget – There are three or four generic RSS widgets, along with about 25 widgets that display RSS feeds for specific Web sites. The best RSS widget I’ve been able to find is Web Clips. The widget works nicely, but when compared to the feed widget for the Vista sidebar, it falls a bit short. The Vista feed widget shows five headlines at a time, for about ten seconds, then goes to the next set of five headlines. I’m sure it’s configurable, but by default, my Vista feed widget shows a total of 100 headlines from the various feeds I have installed. WebClips, however, shows all of the feeds and headlines at once in a scrollable window. While I think that could certainly be handy for some, I’d like to see the option to show five at a time like the Vista widget does.
- ICHC widget – I really enjoy getting my feed of I Can Haz Cheezburger? lolcats on my Vista sidebar. Apparently there is an ICHC widget available for Yahoo! widgets, but not for Google Gadgets.
Still, it’s nice to have my calendar, my analog clock and my weather always displayed on the side of my monitor. What’s even better is that GGL-gtk (there are actually two different versions of GGL) creates a properly docking side panel, so that maximized windows do not cover it up or slip behind it when you have it set to stay on top. With a widescreen monitor, it’s not a big sacrifice to set my sidebar up on the side of my screen and dock all of my maximized windows against it. Since my monitor is widescreen, most of my maximized applications still show at basically a 4:3 (non-widescreen) aspect ratio, which is fine with me.
It is also really nice to have such a diverse collection of widgets available for GGL. If you are using Linux, Windows XP or Mac OS, you really should try Google Gadgets and see what you think. If you are using Google Gadgets, let me know what some of your favorite widgets are.