Go Go Gadget Modding!

Go Go Gadget Modding!

Windows XP brought us the Active Desktop and with it a number of HTMLify soft modding options – right down to using it as a poor boy touch screen interface or an active news reader. Alas, Active Desktop brought us Window Explorer instability and a few security issues. Thus with Vista, Active Desktop is gone and its functionality (or some of it) replaced with the Windows Sidebar and “Gadgets” (MS’s take on widgets).

The problem, as I see it here, is the lack of room for personalization. You can make your own gadgets of course. It requires a bit of programming and makes a nice self teaching project – if you have time. Or, you can just re-skin the ones you already have for that personal touch.

Skinning an existing gadget is pretty easy. All you need is an image editing piece of software (GIMP will work fine), the gadget file of what you want to mod, a few tricks (below), and of course you need MS Vista Premium or better.

The first thing you need to do is pick a candidate for modding. For me, I like the CPU meter gadget (shown at top of sidebar), but I’m not into the white gauge dials – dark colors suite me better. So, that’s my quick pick.

Next, you need to grab the gadget. On most Vista computers your gadgets will be in one of two places (you will need to have extentions and hidden files set to visible). Default gadgets that come with Windows are kept in:

C:\Program Files\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets

Local user gadgets are stored in:

C:\Users\YOUR_USER_NAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets\

Grab the file folder of the one you want to skin (it will have a “.gadget” extension – you need the entire folder), and copy (note that’s copy) it to the desktop. For my little mod, the gadget is in CPU.gadget of the default folder.

Once you have the gadget you want to mod copied to the desktop, open the local user gadget file folder (C:\Users\YOUR_USER_NAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets\). Create a new folder in it with the name of your new gadget (CPUSkinned.gadget for me). You have to give the folder the “.gadget “ extension. Then, open the gadget folder that you copied to the desktop and copy all the files within it – as is – to your new gadget folder. Yeah I know, why couldn’t you just copy the folder directly and rename it? Ask Microsoft. It has to do with how gadgets are made actually.

Now, you have a copy you can mod.

Open the images in your new gadget folder and change them to your little geek heart’s desire. When done, save the new images over the old ones (exact same file names). You are not changing the original gadget – just a copy of it. You can always start over and recopy the files from your desktop. When done you should be able to add your new gadget to the side bar. I’m pretty happy with my simply changes.

My new gadgets - and the original upper right.

You’ll “get it” after toying with the images for a bit, but certain parts of an image need to be preserved. In my example, the location of the dial hubs had to stay constant. If you get stuck or have questions, hit the Modder’s workshop - we’ll help you out.

For a real challenge, check out the code and toy with it a bit. You can cause all kinds of trouble! Just make sure you stick with modding copies.

Note: Um… This is for personal use only. You can’t publish these (someone else coded them after all)

Today’s bling comes from leetupload.com. Wine cooler / mini-fridge cooling mod.

Happy Moddin'




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Good call on showing this aspect of Vista. Another example of how, if you know what you're doing, you can really get into the guts of things and tweak it just how you like.

I've been doing this for a while, customizing the Gadgets i use to work with my desktop themes. It's actually pretty fun to browse through Gadgets and look for potential, not just functionality.



Yeah, The toughest part is understanding you can't just copy the folder. Getting into the code is something I might talk about later - if I can compress it enough to fit. Soft modding gets ignored all too often. In fact, it's typically easy, fun, and pretty fast. The little hurdles (like the trick with the folder), just make it more fun.

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