Most internet service providers offer some form of tracking service to see how much data you've used in a month, but that's usually browser-based. If you'd prefer to keep track of your usage via a desktop gadget and you're running Windows, then the Unique Windows Gadgets site probably has a tool that will fit the bill.
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Windows 7/Vista only: Sidebar gadget gCalTasks tracks your time with a couldn't-be-easier start/stop timer that saves your current task directly to Google Calendar. Installing the gadget is easy—just double-click on the downloaded file to add it to your sidebar, and use the wrench icon to add in your Google account details (works with Apps too). Once you've authenticated you can choose which calendar you want to send your time tracking data to. (It's probably best to create a new one to keep from cluttering your regular schedule.) At this point you can start tracking your time by simply typing what you are working on and clicking Start; when you're done, hit Stop to save your data up to Google. At the end of the day you can check the Agenda view in Google Calendar to see a nice list of everything you worked on throughout the day. The gadget has a few issues—most noticeably it's too wide to fit in the sidebar so you really have to use it on the desktop, but the bigger problem is the lack of automatic sync, requiring you to remember to use the Stop button to save. The benefits of being able to easily track what you are working on and save to the accessible-everywhere Google Calendar outweigh the problems—and make this worth a look for anybody looking to keep better tabs on their time. gCalTasks is a free download for Windows 7 or Vista users. If you are looking for a hands-off, completely automated solution, take a look at previously mentioned Productivity Meter or Slife instead. Do you have a preferred solution for tracking your time? Share it in the comments.
YouTube is full of videos that don't require singled-minded attention, but trying to keep a YouTube page visible in the background for passive watching isn't easy. Digital Inspiration's Amit Agarwal suggests two methods, though, that work great for browsing other sites or doing actual, you know, work, while keeping a video cornered and always on top. The first requires re-working a video link to its full-screen version and bookmarking it to load in Firefox's sidebar—something we've covered before with other apps. The other method creates a mini-browser window that always stays on top using an AutoHotKey-coded app. Hit the link below for details on each idea, which should make burning through your favourite webisodes easier while still plucking away on your busy work. How to Watch YouTube Videos While Working on other Tasks
Windows only: If you're a fan of the music service Pandora and sporting the Windows Vista Sidebar (or a ported Vista Sidebar on Windows XP) a Pandora sidebar gadget is now available to bring your stations to the desktop. When docked into the sidebar, it displays the current song and the thumbs up and down option. When undocked users see the entire Pandora interface and are able to edit stations. Pandora Sidebar Gadget is freeware, Windows only. Pandora Sidebar Gadget
Windows only: If you're in no hurry to adopt Windows Vista but you've taken a shine to the Vista Sidebar, Joshoon over at Deviant Art has uploaded a port of the actual application to Windows XP. Using a combination of resources such as Alky for Applications, a Windows Vista to XP compatibility client, and the sidebar extracted from Vista the port allows XP users to run Vista Sidebar. Users can grab additional sidebar gadgets directly from Microsoft and experience the same functionality as they would with the sidebar on a Vista system. If you're running Windows XP and looking for something to round out real estate on your widescreen monitor this might just be it. For other sidebar candidates and general Vista goodness, check out how to get the best features of Vista in XP. The Windows Vista Sidebar pack is free, Windows XP only.
When Google released a couple of gadgets for the Gmail sidebar and provided an open means of making more, long-time users of Remember the Milk might have guessed the task manager that tries to be everywhere would be all over it—and they were right. The Remember the Milk gadget lets you add, complete, edit, and postpone tasks, as well as single out a task list to show in the sidebar. It doesn't have the second-brain, star-equals-task power of RTM's Firefox extension, but it's a nice, unobtrusive way to add task management to your email/calendar/docs landing page. Hit the link below for instructions on installing RTM (which requires a free accont) in your Gmail sidebar. Remember the Milk for Gmail Gadget
Gmail has added support for sidebar gadgets to its experimental Labs section, allowing users to add an agenda view of Google Calendar, a short list of recent Google Docs files, and any web-based gadgets using Apache's Shindig standard to the left-hand sidebar. As the developers themselves note, adding outside gadgets isn't exactly user-friendly, but then again, adding too many gadgets could lead to some page-loading slowdown. You can enable the GCal, Docs, and external gadget support in the beaker-icon Labs menu of Gmail. While you're in there, here's a few ways to make Gmail gadgets more convenient.
A good task manager is something that could make Windows Vista's somewhat unfairly maligned sidebar feature pretty useful—and Remember the Milk just so happens to be a pretty good task manager. Blogger Mark Godwin details how to turn the task manager's iGoogle gadget into a sidebar tool you can size any way you want. We've previously shown how to plant web gadgets into the sidebar with the Amnesty Generator, but Godwin's technique requires only a simple sidebar gadget installation, and it's time well spent. Got your own web-to-Vista gadget tweak to brag about? Tell us in the comments. Remember the Milk on your Vista Desktop!
Windows Vista only: The built-in search feature is one of the more useful aspects of Windows Vista, but the need to constantly update the file index is often seen as creating a performance hit. Switching off indexing altogether isn't a wise idea (it's needed for apps like Outlook, for instance). The MS-developed Indexer Status Gadget gives you more insight into how the indexing process works, showing how many items on your machine Windows still needs to index, letting you stop and start the indexing process if you want those to temporarily reclaim those processor cycles, or letting the indexer run full tilt rather than its default behaviour of slowing down when you're performing other tasks on your PC. Indexer Status Gadget is a free download for Windows Vista only, runs inside Windows Sidebar. Indexer Status Gadget
You've seen how Google Reader's iPhone interface fits oh-so-nicely into your Firefox sidebar, and now the How-To Geek shows how you can make it even more compact and useful. Using some bookmark digging and the Stylish theme-ing extension for Firefox, you can remove Reader's blue border and header, change the font sizes, and reduce the feed displays to headlines only. Hit the link for individual or compilation Stylish scripts that make Reader even better on the side. Tweak Google Reader iPhone Edition in Your Firefox Sidebar
In the wake of the recent Google Reader for iPhone update, web site Mozilla Links saw an opportunity to make good use of the new mobile interface by putting Google Reader iPhone into your Firefox sidebar. The setup is a snap, and when you're done the simple, mobile-friendly iPhone interface loads perfectly and looks great in the Firefox sidebar. Add this one to the growing list of mobile apps that fit perfectly in your sidebar.
The Digital Inspiration blog suggests that Facebook's new browser-based chat system, which we stood up against Gmail's web chat yesterday, works well running inside a Firefox sidebar. To anchor it there, simply add this Facebook Chat popout URL from Bookmarks->Organize Bookmarks, and make sure "Load this bookmark in the sidebar" is checked. The intended two-column layout can make the sidebar a little intrusive into your actual browsing, but you can resize to a narrow strip and still get chat functionality, simply by clicking inside the sidebar to re-order things. Put Facebook Chat in Firefox Sidebar & Talk from Any Web Page
Windows/Mac/Linux (Firefox): With all the things you can throw into your Firefox Sidebar—including web sites, gTalk, and a to-do list, among others—wouldn't it be nice if you had a bit more control over where that pane shows up on your browser? The MultiSidebar extension lets you right-click to place individual sidebars on the right, left, top, or bottom (kind of defying its nature, right?) and remembers where you wanted them next time you launch them. The real benefit, besides training your eyes, is being able to open more than one sidebar at once. If you have certain sidebars you browse with and others you occasionally pop open with a shortcut, MultiSidebar should be right up your alley. MultiSidebar is a free download, works wherever Firefox does. MultiSidebar