One of the things I miss about Windows Vista--okay, the only thing I miss about Vista--is the Sidebar. Much as I applaud Microsoft's decision to liberate its desktop gadgets, to make it so you can position them anywhere you like, did it have to be at the expense of the Sidebar itself?
Hear me out. You see, like most users these days, I have a widescreen monitor (two of them, in fact), and a lot of that extra width goes to waste. I liked the Sidebar because it filled that unused space with useful tools and information. And it was omnipresent, staying visible alongside other open programs. (Windows 7's desktop gadgets can be set to stay "always on top," but that's not the same thing.)
There's no easy way to revive the old Sidebar in Windows 7, but you can replace it with something similar. Desktop Sidebar is a freeware utility that--you guessed it--adds a Vista-like sidebar to Windows 7 (and, for the record, Windows XP).
The program comes with over a dozen "panels" (its lingo for gadgets) preloaded, but you can choose from about 75 more (including some skins) in the Extras library. All the essentials are here, everything from a clock/calendar and weather display to a photo slideshow and Outlook shortcuts (for things like your calendar, task list, etc.). And you can customize the sidebar in nearly every way imaginable
In an ideal world, Desktop Sidebar would support existing Windows gadgets, but beggars can't be choosers. Bottom line: if you miss the Sidebar, Desktop Sidebar is the next best thing.