Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Google Sidebar vs Desktop Sidebar

This post has been a long time coming. I had used Desktop sidebar for a while, then switched to Google Sidebar. There are different things that I like about each one. Both have a lot of plugins available, Desktop sidebar has more plugins than Google, strangely. Also the plugins for DS seem to be more windows specific, while the GS is more Linux specific. I have a small subset of plugins that I used, and I'll compare them.

1. Appearance
The DS can be skinned to be a lot of different colors and match pretty much any scheme imaginable on the desktop. I've switched my scheme several times and they are all very sharp.

GS not skinnable, you can change the font to larger, but that's not very useful.
Winner DS.

2. Location
DS can be docked left or right, or be floating, It could also have auto-hide turned on, which allows it to slide off the screen until the mouse moves over the edge of the screen. DS can also change monitors, which is great for anyone (like me) working on more than one monitor. I can move it to the right hand side of my second monitor. DS can also be made to be partially or completely transparent. The transparency annoys my to no end, but some users may really like that feature.

GS can be doced right or left and have aut0-hide turned on. None of the other options are available.
Winner DS

3. Clock
A clock is a small feature, it's one of the first apps that we used to write when learning C. A cool feature was being able to put a clock on the application we were using to make it easy for anyone to know what time it is. On both apps, the clock still seems to be a prominent feature.

DS has a clocks that are either analog or digital. The analog clocks are awesome. No matter what kind of clock displays when the mouse hovers over the clock a window pops up with todays date, and a 2 month calendar view (this and next) with today hi-lighted.

GS has several clock options also, with digital and analog. An option is to have the calendar visible. GS does not have a popup window, everything must be visible in the Sidebar pane, which is very limiting and makes the clock feature almost useless. I ended up turning it off on mine because I couldn't read it.

Winner - DS

4. Weather
I'm not a big weather buff. Some people I know like weather apps to pop up and tell them the current weather every 30 minutes. I want to see the forecast, and know the current temp before I go out, that's it.

DS has a weather panel that uses the Weather Channel and can be configured to my own town. I It shows me the current temp, hovering over the panel pops up a window with a 5 day forecast and links into

GS has a weather panel that displays today and tomorrow's low, high and the current temp. Clicking on it will do a Google search for weather in the configured city.

Winner - Even

5. Music
I don't have lots of music on my computer, but I sit with my headphones on most of the day. I like to be able to quickly change the music based on my mood.

DS has a panel that works with Windows Media Player. I love this. I know and am comfortable with it. It has a huge benefit though. There is a button on the panel that will display Windows Media Player and hide it. It does not minimize it to the taskbar, it hides it completely. With normally having 15-30 open windows, My taskbar space is important to me, and this is a huge benefit. The standard play, pause, stop, last and next buttons are available in the panel.

GS has several panels for music. One can play any song that you drag into it. I don't want to drag my music to a panel everytime I want to play it. I want it managed for me. The one that I use will play any music that has been indexed by Google Desktop, however, you have to add which artists you want to listen to, so I can't listen to an album at a time if the album is a compliation. Plus if I have more than one album by an artist, I have to listen to all of the artists music. It was very limiting. I did end up eventually getting a list of music that I could handle, but the tool was not what I was looking for.

Winner - DS

6. ToDo
DS has a ToDo panel that can take free form text and it's like having a quick list right in the sidebar. I love it for quick tasks. However, there is a problem and it does not save to the hard drive, so sometimes after restarting, the items that that I've added are completely gone and tasks that I had deleted are still there.

GS has a ToDo panel that works the same as DS, but I have never had a problem with it recovering after a shutdown or even a blue screen of death, which I have had on Windows XP.

Winner - GS

7. Quick Launch
DS has a quick launch panel which shows the same items that are in quick launch toolbar for Windows. It displays the icons and they can be reordered independently of their order in the windows quick launch.

GS has a quick launch panel which shows the same list. However, all icons tool tip text shows the filename.lnk. Making custom shortcut names useless. They are not in the same order as the windows quick launch, nor can they be reordered.

Winner - DS

8. Notes
DS has a free form text notes panel that works just like having notepad open, it's nice for small quick notes. It has had similar poblems as the ToDo list.

GS has a notes panel the same as DS. It does not have a problem saving the notes.

Winner - GS

Those are the features that I use consistently, there are two more that I did use from time to time, but I have found other tools that I like more.
9. Email.
DS has a panel that can display Outlook emails and popup a notification when a new mail comes. All folders are accessible through the panel and new mail can be written. Basically all of Outlooks navigation features have been put into the panel with the ability to open Outlook emails and compose them available. My favorite feature was the popup notification of the email with the sender, subject and first line of the email. However, since upgrading to Outlook 2003, I no longer need that because Outlook now has that feature available. Having it on in DS just shows me two popups which becomes annoying.

GS has the same feature for Outlook, plus it can show your GMail account as well. This is nice, but my GMail account is a personal account, and I'm using this at work, so I don't want my personal email distracting me from work.

Winner - GS, but for me Outlook works best now.

9. RSS
DS has several different options of plugins for RSS readers. Some are tied to specific sites, some are configurable. The configurable ones are nice, but don't allow you to mark things as read, so they continue to show up in the list even after you have read them.

GS has an RSS reader that shows you items as well. I did not test this at all because I have found other tools that work for me.

Winner - Even

For RSS I use Google Reader now for all of my RSS Feeds. In the past I have used Bloglines and Newsgator. I like Newsgator a lot and if you don't want to get a Google account then I suggest Newsgator. Google Reader has the same feel as GMail and can use tags on blog posts. I have only just started to use this to keep the posts that I want to be able to refer back to, but I love the interface and ease of use. For work related RSS Feeds I use Attensa, which is a plugin for Outlook. It's also free, which is another huge bonus.

Outcome: Desktop Sidebar: 5 - Google Sidebar: 2 - Tie: 2

Winner Desktop Sidebar.


Anonymous said...

I have created a Google gadget that displays my quicklaunch shortcuts, and any other directory you want to point at. One user reported 5 instances worked OK.

you can also just hit the add gadget button in the Google Deskbar, and search for quick or shortcut

Anonymous said...

I should mention that when it comes to sizing for more or less desktop view, which I often require, GS wins. DS is of fixed size