Vista tricks and treats

Windows Vista may not have inspired a fan following because of its size and operational problems, but on standalone machines it can be stable, even fun.

Harpreet Singh | Print Edition: May 28, 2009

Windows Vista may not have inspired a fan following because of its size and operational problems, but on standalone machines it can be stable, even fun. So even as the tech-aware prefer to wait for the promising Windows 7, we've tracked down some interesting applications, Gadgets (on the Windows desktop side panel), that you can install on Vista. All of these can be accessed at http://gallery.live.com/home.aspx.

Outlook Info
Even after you minimise the Outlook Info application to the system tray, you can see how many e-mails are waiting for you. It also shows the upcoming appointments and tasks. And if you want to track a non-default inbox folder, you have the option to do so.

To-Do List with Maps
With the Maps' to-do list, you don't have an excuse to forget another call or appointment. It tracks daily tasks and sub-tasks, gives you a print option and even lets you rearrange the tasks in order of priority. The handy map lets you organise your errands in a geographically sensible way.

India Radio
With India Radio on your sidebar, you can have access to high quality streams of online radio stations without the hassle and clutter of advertisements. Simply click on the radio station that you want and play. This gadget uses Windows Media Player and Real Player for audio broadcasts.

RSS to Speech
This is a nifty app that downloads RSS feeds from any Website and reads them aloud. Choose feed addresses, set speech volume and speed of speech, pause, links to the full story… It's perfect for those who are heavily into multi-tasking.

The SearchBud app makes Internet searches a breeze. It sits on the sidebar and lets you access Google, Live Search, Yahoo, Ask, YouTube, Amazon, eBay, Wikipedia, and more. If you're interested in aesthetics as well, it comes with several skins and you can also change the background opacity.

With the iTunes MP3 Music Search app, you can search and buy MP3s from the iTunes store. To feed your Facebook addiction, the myFacebook app brings the networking site to your desktop. You can change your status, check those of your friends, groups, notifications, albums and events.

The zCalendar is a useful version of the existing Vista calendar. Yes, it's the same design, but the functionality is vastly improved. For example, you can change colours, highlight days that have appointments, see appointment details on mouse-over and set it to play a sound file when the event takes place.

How much is it costing the company to let you surf the Net during office hours? Cashometer lets you calculate the money you make per week, per day, even in an hour. This exercise won't make you more productive, but is a great help when it comes to bargaining for a bigger bonus or raise.

It's the ultimate ‘time-pass' game, and now Tic-Tac-Toe comes to the Vista sidebar. It comes with two modes of play and three levels of difficulty. Play a leisurely game with a friend, or if you are feeling adventurous, switch the level of difficulty to ‘hard' and match your wits with the computer.

Get the YouTube Video Downloader app, enter the URL of a YouTube video and download it. It's really that simple. The videos are saved in the .flv format and you'll need VLC Media Player or FLV Player to watch them.

Never again will you have to go hunting through the Met Department sites to know if your city (or wherever you are travelling to) is going to have good weather. The ProWeather Gadget gives you detailed forecasts for the next 10 days by default. The graphics are excellent, you can choose two destinations to update regularly, even get moon phases, 30-hour forecasts, etc.

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