Where is the Sidebar in Windows 7?

Some people loved it and some people hated it. Wherever you land on that spectrum, Microsoft introduced us to the Sidebar in Windows Vista.

However, many users who upgraded to Windows 7 were surprised that the Sidebar was not a part of the Aero Desktop. Learn what happened to the Sidebar in Windows 7 and how to use your gadgets in Windows 7 without it.

The Windows Vista Sidebar

Introduced in Windows Vista, the Sidebar was a place where another new feature of the new operating system resided. Gadgets are small programs created from XML, HTML, and image files that you can place on the Sidebar in Windows Vista.

Windows Vista Sidebar

Unfortunately, many people did not find the sidebar or the gadgets that resided on it to be too useful. This was especially true because when Vista was released, many home users did not have widescreen monitors and the Sidebar took up too much valuable real estate on the desktop.

Having the Sidebar disappear when not in use kind of defeated the purpose of having the gadgets on the desktop in the first place because they weren’t easily visible when needed.

Windows 7 and the Sidebar

Recognizing that it wasn’t well received in Vista, Microsoft gave the Sidebar a major overhaul in Windows 7. Gadgets now reside on the desktop where users can float them anywhere on the screen, not unlike other windows such as Windows Explorer.

Gadgets Floating on the Windows 7 Desktop

One reason for the overhaul was to make room for another new feature in Windows 7. As its name implies, Aero Snap is a feature of the Aero Desktop that allows users to snap windows and programs to the left and right of the screen by pulling the window to the outer edges. Pulling a window to the top of the screen allows the user to instantly maximize any window.

It is likely that the Sidebar, with its ability to auto-hide, would interfere with Aero Snap. Consequently, gadgets now reside anywhere the user wants as floatable objects rather than statically fastened to a special container.

The Sidebar Gadgets in Windows 7

Truthfully, Microsoft did not drop the Sidebar from Windows 7. It’s there, it just is no longer a static container. The gadgets you have on your computer reside in one of two folder. This one is for all users:

C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets\

and this one is for each individual user of the computer:

C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets\

where <username> is the name of the individual Windows 7 account. Notice that in both cases the gadgets reside in a Windows Sidebar folder.

How Does the Windows Sidebar Work in Windows 7?

As stated above, the Sidebar does exist in Windows 7; it just operates differently to make possible the Aero Snap feature. Placing gadgets on the desktop means having floating applications rather than having them confined to one special area.

However, if you place a gadget on the Windows 7 desktop, you can snap them to the sides and corners. In fact, you can line them up just as if they were in the Sidebar container like in Windows Vista and they will snap to each other as well.

Gadgets Lined Up

Notice that if you line up your gadgets and snap them to the right hand side of the screen and to each other, you end up creating a virtual Sidebar just like in Windows Vista without the hassle of having them statically confined to a Sidebar container.

Not a major revelation, but given the power and popularity of the Aero Snap feature, losing the Sidebar container to how Windows 7 handles gadgets is an excellent trade-off.

Comments [8]

  1. catester says:

    In Windows Vista, simply click and drag a gadget off the sidebar and put it anywhere you want on the desktop. This is like "floating" the gadgets in Win7. Then, close the sidebar. The gadgets remain where you put them, even when you reboot — provided you let sidebar start up along with Windows.

  2. vivek says:

    Hey, guys.

    I have created a Windows gadget and stored that in the required folder. But, it's not being added to the gadget menu.

    What can I do to add that? Please make suggestions.

  3. rmoore says:

    Hi Vivek,

    As far as I know, after creating your gadget, all you should have to do is to make sure it is named properly and put in the correct folder. Once that's done, you can just right-click anywhere on your desktop, go to Gadgets on the popup menu and your Gadget should show up there for you to pick from. When you spot it, double-click on it and it should install for you. Any Gadget you create should have a file extension of .gadget and the folder Windows expects to find it in is c:Program FilesWindows SidebarGadgets Try that out. If you don't see your gadget at all, its probably because it doesn't have the .gadget file extension or it may be in a different folder.

  4. BlackHawke says:

    "Truthfully, Microsoft did not drop the Sidebar from Windows 7."

    Um… This is flatly wrong. They didn't drop Gadgets from windows 7, that's true. But, the sidebar was the static container for gadgets, and they most certainly did drop it. And I think you're missing many of the benefits of that container for people with multiple screens (like being able to be in full screen mode in one and still see your gadgets in the other), but, I'm not sure there's any point in arguing with someone who thinks that "Truthfully" Microsoft didn't drop the sidebar. That's exactly what they did. The gadgets are still there, and they're now compatible with Aero Snap (which has its own host of problems with multiple monitors that makes it unusable), but that old gadget container, the one on the side of the screen, that one called "Sidebar" – doesn't exist anymore. They dropped it. PERIOD.

  5. Chris says:

    I came here for the answer to 'where is the sidebar in windows 7?' My question now is: Where is the answer? It doesn't tell me where the sidebar is.

  6. Wrestlerofeast says:

    I am actually having a problem finding how to turn on my gadgets. I right click on my desktop and do not see the option for gadgets. I've gone through the windows features list to check to see if i turned it off by accident. Naturally, I failed. Any suggestions?

  7. Lac says:

    “Notice that if you line up your gadgets and snap them to the right hand side of the screen and to each other…”

    This misses the best feature of the sidebar, which is that windows respects it when maximizing – even windows that don’t allow custom sizing. So I can use full size windows and still see my gadgets.

  8. Alexis says:

    @BlackHawke

    It will be always in our hearts.

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