Windows Sidebar: 'Sky's The Limit'

In some of the earliest builds of Longhorn, the Sidebar was the most visible change. While its eventual use within the operating system wasn't initially clear, its sudden disappearance in the build given to attendees of WinHEC surprised many Windows enthusiasts.

In a discussion Tuesday evening with BetaNews, Windows lead product manager Greg Sullivan said the Sidebar was never fully removed as a feature within the operating system. "You'll see things reappear and disappear," he explained.

Sullivan confirmed that there was always a development team working on the project. However, he did acknowledge that the focus of the Windows Sidebar has changed to become more developer centric.

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In Windows Vista, the Sidebar will now serve as a platform for third parties to extend Windows with "Gadgets."

"The sidebar is a container for these mini-applications," Sullivan explained. Most of the applications built for the sidebar will use elements of the operating system in order to function. He said this makes Microsoft's Gadgets quite different from those offered by Apple through its Dashboard and Yahoo with Konfabulator.

Developers will also not be limited in what type of scripting they can use to develop gadgets. Whereas one can only develop Dashboard Widgets with DHTML and JavaScript, Microsoft's gadgets can be developed using a variety of programming methods including C#, ZAML and more.

"It's different from a developer standpoint," Sullivan said, noting that there are few constraints on what people can do. "I think the sky's the limit."

Sullivan directed interested developers to visit microsoftgadgets.com to learn more about the platform and to also make submissions, as the site will become a portal of sorts for users to find and download new gadgets.

As for those who may be focusing on other features that disappear during Vista's development phase, Sullivan offered some words of caution. "Don't focus on what's there and what's not," he said.

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