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i've been playing around with the vista sidebar gadget lately and trying to dabble in developing some gadgets.  i must tell you, i feel with ajax, gadgets, wpf/e event handling, that i'm taking a step back to the good ol' days of 1998.  javascript everywhere.  in part 1 i created some helper templates for the structure...i should modify these a bit on some learnings i had (mainly localization and referencing), but they'll work in most instances.

gadgets are no different.  in fact, a sidebar gadget is really nothing more than DHTML content with some flair.  i also must admin, the sidebar is the first thing i turned OFF in vista when i installed it.  why?  well, the default gadgets aren't of any value to me personally.  a clock?  already got that in the system tray.  pictures? kinda distracting to me.  stock?  trust me, i know what my stock is doing and it isn't moving enough for me to care at this point.  i told myself that i wouldn't use the sidebar unless i saw some real value.

some colleagues have challenged me to create that value and i've started on that path -- part for providing some value, and part learning.  the learning has taken more time than i'd like.  this isn't necessarily because of the gadget infrastructure, but because i suck at good design/html.  and even though i suck, my bar for decency in design has increased. (note: i'm still saying i suck, but i've gotten a lot better than stick figures).

so in my list of gadgets i'm working on, one of the simpler ones was an msdn search gadget.  so here it is.  add it to the sidebar and you get:

sidebar-msdn

type in some search text and click the arrow and you'll get what the gadget structure calls a "flyout" with the results like this:

sidebar-msdn-search

the links go directly to the topics and there is a link at the bottom for the full results if the first 4 results don't seem to entice you.  it's simple enough, and basically is all javascript (not basically, it is).

i must say that there isn't great support for a rich debugging and development environment for gadgets right now (debugging can be a challenge because you use some of the sidebar-specific host functions).  i was able to create my graphics using expression design, which was another experience, but relatively simple to do simple things.

anyhow, here it is: MSDN Search Sidebar Gadget



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