Downloads for Getting the Most out of Vista

The first downloads for Windows Vista have arrived. Here are the best of the bunch

Microsoft unleashed Windows Vista on a complaisant world several months ago, and already 20 million people have installed it (according to the company). If you're one of those 20 million, you're undoubtedly wondering, "Where are all the Vista downloads?"

Well, they've finally started to arrive. Since the operating system is still relatively new, the flow of downloadable tools and programs designed specifically for it has hardly reached flood proportions. But the first items have appeared, and some of them are very good indeed.

This month I'll describe four of my favorite Windows Vista downloads, which let you do things such as easily create your own Sidebar gadgets, power up the Start menu's search box, and tweak and hack Windows Vista in myriad ways.

Amnesty Generator

Use Amnesty Generator to create a Windows Vista gadget from any of a multitude of Web-based gadgets and widgets.

Among Windows Vista's best new features are the Sidebar and the gadgets that live on it. The gadgets are useful or playful mini-applications that perform all kinds of neat tasks for you--display your RSS feeds, get the latest stock quotes and weather reports, tell you how much of your processor is in use at a given moment, and so on.

Gadgets aren't exclusive to Windows Vista, of course. The Web contains thousands of them on such sites as Google and Yahoo. But these gadgets were designed to live on Web pages, and couldn't run on your Sidebar in Windows Vista.

Until now, that is. The free program Amnesty Generator lets you take a gadget that you find on the Web, and (as if by magic) transform it into a gadget that can live on the Windows Vista sidebar. You don't have to know a lick of code to perform this trick either; all you have to do is click a few buttons, and cut and paste.

Install Amnesty Generator. Then, when you come across a Web gadget you'd like to turn into a Vista gadget, click a few buttons to display the gadget's underlying HTML code. Copy and paste that code into Amnesty Generator, change a few settings (such as the gadget's name or size) if you wish, and tell Amnesty Generator to turn it into a Windows Vista gadget. The gadget will appear in the Windows Vista Gadget Gallery; from there you can move it to the Sidebar, and it will work just like any other Windows Vista gadget.

One caveat: This tool can't convert and run every gadget you find on the Web, and there's no way to know ahead of time which will work and which won't, so you'll have to find out by trial and error.

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Preston Gralla

Preston Gralla

PC World
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