What it is:
The preeminent information launchpad to the rest of the internet. Google has been tirelessly developing the most useful utilities to be found anywhere, at any price. Luckily, Google utilities are free. The Desktop not only allows you brilliantly fast search-indexing of your computer, but neatly encapsulates all variety of information for you in an optional Sidebar feature.
Desktop can be set as a Deskbar, floating Deskbar, or the indefatigeable Sidebar. Use it simply to search your computer and already it stands above any comparable utility. However, Desktop has two things going for it that shoot its usefulness into the stratosphere. The Sidebar allows for a constantly updated portal of a sorts, listing your most recent email, news, web clips, photos, URL history, stocks, and weather along the side of your screen. Combine this with the fact that it is fully configurable, and Desktop becomes user-X's Desktop. It runs best when combined with other Google utilities, like GMail and the Google personalized homepage. Navigate over to www.google.com/ig to get a hold of the personalized homepage, and shortly thereafter, make it your browser's homepage. On this homepage, you can designate sections of constantly updated information. If you don't like the selections that Google has to offer, simply Create a Section, and type in the URL of your favorite website or RSS feed. With the ease of drag-and-drop you can set up your very own portal without any nasty advertising intrusions.
Couple this with the Sidebar, and you have the internet and your desktop at your milli-beck and call. It is quite elegant in all its splendor.
A Rundown on Each Section
- Tied to your default email application.
- Cycles through your most recent inbox additions, much in the way Outlook does, so this is great news to Thunderbird users.
- The latest news cycles by in this section. It feels similar to an RSS feed. Click on any topic to have it accordian out to a larger summary with a link to the story itself.
- Cycles through the latest RSS and Atom feeds
- Again, you may see a larger summary by clicking the highlight, and then follow a link to the source if it catches your interest.
- Just what it is titled. A bit of screen area for you to type in notes as they come to you. Good ideas can be saved to file. Bad ideas can be reduced to binary chaos.
- Probably the most entertaining feature of all. Add directories where photos reside on your computer. They will cycle through this section at whatever speed you desire.
- Google gives you a rundown on just what everyone is looking at on the web. Decided by traffic, this section is going to make sure you don't miss out on anything obvious.
- Cycles through the stocks of your choice.
- A brief forecast of the city you live in, or any city you'd like to keep an eye on.
And then below all this is the all powerful search. It will give you Google's ranking system for pages as you are typing your query. It will also search your desktop in case that is what you were really interested in. About the desktop search: it is fast. Compared to it, Microsoft's integrated OS search feature is a crippled-sloth. Desktop also comes with an Outlook add-in to search just your email. Perfect for Outlook users, of which I am forced to be at work.
Did I mention that it's fully customizable? If the features listed so far aren't enough for you, then you may want to add a plugin or three. A list of the available plug-ins can be found at desktop.google.com/plugins/. Right now the top five most popular plugins are:
- Todo: Keep track of your to-do list
- gdTunes: Control ITunes from your Sidebar
- Time Warp: Keep track of the time with a unique, customizable clock
- System Monitor: Monitor your system status at all times
- Adsense Status: View all the earnings from your Adsense account
Beyond these, there a enough available plugins to entertain yourself with for months.
Every panel also sports the following panel features:
- Details Pane: Click once on an item in a panel and a window with more details will slide out of the panel. Only one details pane can be open at any given time in Sidebar.
- Expanded View: Click the title bar or "<" button in the panel to display a longer list of items
from that panel, including a scroll bar.
- Double-click to Open: Double-click an item in a panel to open it in a web browser.
- Panel Menu: Click the arrow button in a panel's title bar to display the panel's menu.
- Reorder: Change the order of the panels by dragging the title bar of the panel you want to move and dropping it into its new location.
- Resize: Change the height of a panel by dragging its top or bottom edge. The panel next to it will also change in height.
- Minimize: Compact a panel down to a single line by selecting the "Minimize" panel menu item.
- Restore: When a panel has been minimized, select the "Restore" panel menu item to have it pop back to its previous size.
- Options: Select the "Options" panel menu item to change a panel's settings.
- About: Select the "About" panel menu item to learn more about the panel.
- Remove: Select the "Remove" panel menu item to remove the panel from Sidebar. You can always add it back by select "Add/Remove Panels" in the Sidebar menu.
- Right-click menu: Right-click an item to open it, remove it, or take other actions.
- Tooltips: Tooltips are displayed to show additional information. For email, it includes the subject, from, to, and date. For other items, it generally shows the full title and source if the title is truncated.