It’s week one for me getting back to dev-land and I have to admit that it’s not been the easiest experience, but it is getting there now. I thought it would be worthwhile noting down my thoughts and pointers for people following the same path I am. This week I am working on a proof of concept for a sports company here in the UK producing a Vista sidebar gadget that monitors and displays (pseudo-) realtime scores and information for a popular British sport.
If you want a great overview (much better than below) then watch the Mix06 session at:
Covers in good detail the value of gadgets, the how-to, design considerations, and a very cool sport gadget produced by Fox Interactive Media
Step 1: Get the OS, bits and tools
- First of all you will need to get a Beta 2 build or later of Windows Vista (if you have an MSDN subscription this is normally best).
Step 2: Read the tutorials and create a Hello World type app
- Developing gadgets is a relatively simple affair if you understand <html> and the odd var foo = 1; That said, it’s simplicty can often be quite frustrating as you try to develop rich WinForm type functionality using the limited framework available to you.
- First things first – Hello World is a great way to start and there is an excellent tutorial over on MicrosoftGadgets.com – http://microsoftgadgets.com/Sidebar/DevelopmentOve…
- For more detailed stuff like handling docking/undocking, transitions and modifying settings you have to dig into the Sidebar object model. This can be found – http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=…
- And breathe….
- Move on
Step 4: Testing your gadget
- Unfortunately there is no Visual Studio support for sidebar gadgets so it is not as easy as F5 on the keyboard.
- The majority of my gadget is not using the Sidebar Gadget Object Model so I am finding it easier to use Visual Studio and its debugging capabilities to write JS and HTML. And then when I’m ready for proper integration I copy my code into a gadget harness (a dummy project with basic functions such as settings, docking/undocking). Once I get a chance I will package it up for others to use as well
- When testing in the sidebar, copy your gadget to %UserProfile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar/Gadgets and then click the + symbol and instantiate your gadget.
- You can run multiple instances and each instance can be different to allow you to contrast and compare changes
- I haven’t used the Forums but the are a good source to ask questions and it looks like there are a few experts developing in the community and a few MS bods on there as well – http://microsoftgadgets.com/forums/
- A great blog for al things gadgets (Live and Vista) and one of the top posters on the Gadgets forums – http://livegadgets.net/
- If you want to hack, I mean admire the coding abilities of the gadget developers at MS, check out the Windows Sidebar\Gadgets directory in Program Files. It will give you a good idea of what you can do locally on the machine and out onto the www.