No, you can’t lock a gadget to the top of the sidebar

In another installment of I bet somebody got a really nice bonus for that feature, I offer you this customer:

My customer has created a Windows Vista sidebar gadget and wants to know if there's a way to force this gadget to appear at the top of the sidebar and prevent the user from moving or removing it.

I applaud this company for having written the most awesome sidebar gadget in the history of the universe. It's so compelling that it should override the user's preferences and force itself into the upper right corner of their screen in all perpetuity.

Unfortunately, Windows was not prepared for a program as awesome as this, and there is no supported way to force a gadget into a particular position and prevent the user from moving or removing it.

Comments (36)
  1. ajb says:

    But the gadget is enterprisey!  It is required to be in that position by Sarbanes Oxley!

  2. kog999 says:

    lol I hope that was the exact reply you emailed the customer back with. I guess management must had been afraid that the customer would be so in awe of this gadgets awesomeness they might start randomly clicking in its general vicinity and accidently remove it. That would make the customer sad since he probably couldn’t figure out how to get it back.

  3. Dan Bugglin says:

    Found this tidbit in the linked older article.

    "You do not use a notification icon to say "Everything is just like it was a moment ago; nothing has changed." If nothing has changed, then say nothing.

    Many people use the notification area to provide quick access to a running program, which runs counter to the guidance above."

    I just find it amusing that Microsoft Security Essentials is as guilty of this as every other AV app.  And Outlook 2007, which is running right now.  And Office Communicator 2007.  And the volume and network icons.  Though to be fair AFAIK those all hide automatically in XP/Vista when they have nothing new to say.

  4. Marquess says:

    Pierre B., I believe you are on the right track there. They need a mouse driver that will automagically move the gadget to the top if it has been “accidentally” moved down by hijacking the mouse for at least a minute (that'll teach them!). This driver should also make it impossible to move the gadget in the first place or uninstall it.

    Bonus points if it only works with one type of connector. Super bonus points if that connector is the serial port.

  5. zonk says:

    As you may know, some crazy guys using windows not only on their personal desktops.

    I guess this sidebar gadget is used on some kind of public pc, to show remaining usage time or something.

    [In this case, it was not for a specialized scenario but a program for a general audience. -Raymond]
  6. parkrrrr says:

    Also, of course, there's your standard reply: "what if two application did this?"

  7. @John says:

    That way leads to the dark side.

  8. Ian B. says:

    Heh.  If such a thing could be done I'd almost love to see how badly it would break under Windows 7's new gadget system.

  9. Piersh says:

    Why not? Isn't this precisely the kind of thing that GPOs are for? You can do it for desktop items, start menu items and a slew of others. If that answer held any weight, GPOs wouldn't exist.

  10. Someone You Know says:

    Did you actually use the "program as awesome as this" line with the customer? If so, this post is crying out for the "social skills of a thermonuclear device" tag.

    [No, I didn't use that line with the customer. That line was for you. -Raymond]
  11. Joshua says:

    Of course if some program did that my response would be to call down the thunder.

    I never did care for the gadgets and my response would probably be to go get ReactOS Explorer.

  12. James Schend says:

    Dan Bugglin: Two things:

    1) Home Essentials was bought by another company that wasn't beholden to Microsoft development guidelines, and they probably just haven't gotten around to changing that behavior yet

    2) As Raymond's mentioned numerous times, many many Microsoft products do things incorrectly– there isn't a single "Interface Nazi" out there approving every single widget in every single Microsoft app

  13. Oscar Saddler says:

    Raymond's post and most of the comments are full of snark–quite possibly deserved–but I can see this being a way to meet requirements of some IT departments.  Or let's say, for a countdown on a public library where patrons get 1 hour of computer time per day and get quite angry when the system auto-logs them off despite all the warnings.  A persistent widget could easily be abused, but there are legit reasons for asking the question.

  14. Micah says:

    …additionally my customers currently have to install my widget so that it will appear on the bar. It would be better if it appeared on the bar without the user installing it at all.

  15. Rick Brewster says:

    James Schend, "Home" Essentials? Or Security Essentials …

  16. Kemp says:


    As mentioned, this was for a general use program, not a special situation.

  17. Anonymous Coward says:

    I'm voting Raymond for Interface Nazi! Who's with me?

  18. Paul says:

    It seems that the only sort of case where there is a legitimate reason to do something like this is where the user is not the owner of the computer.  A possible solution would be for windows to have a flag on a user account that reflects this, and allow windows programs to act differently if this user has this flag set.  

    There could be many scenarios where code that would otherwise be malicious would be desired.  …of course the security issues might be too high of allowing such an account, but the Out of Browser functionality in silverlight is an example of how to  handle that type of problem just fine.  

  19. Pierre B. says:

    I'm surprised they had to ask. It's pretty obvious: simply uninstall all input device drivers and install a dummy mouse and keyboard driver that does nothing. They would probably also need to turn off networking, as those pesky users might try to remote desktop their way in and move or (*gasp*) remove the widget.

    Another way is to add a run-on-startup registry item that immediately shutdown the computer. An off computer is a safe-from-user-middling computer.

  20. John says:

    But you didn't say there is no *unsupported* way of doing it :)  Time to subclass the sidebar and reverse-engineer all its internal structures.  And if I'm important enough, you'll even write a compatibility shim for me!

  21. Gordon Schumacher says:

    Okay… but is there a way to dock gadgets onto other gadgets, à la "Return of the Son Of Vista Sidebar"?

    I personally think it would be pretty cool to be able to make "gadget organizers".

  22. RobIII says:

    @Paul: Isn't that what the Guest account is to be used for?

  23. John Muller says:

    Why a gadget?, why not just make a normal Window, then you can also set Always on Top, and maybe add a little animation, and some sound…

    It's like those little added promotional graphics on TV (generally called 'bugs'), I recall one with Hank Hill riding a lawnmower back and forth across the screen, WITH SOUND. Seriously. Lawnmower noise over the main show… maybe that instance was a gag or something, I dunno, I just turned off the TV at that point.

  24. Cheong says:

    I thought I would have said the same thing, but after served lots of kinds of bosses, I'd imagine the customer was just trying to get a confirmation as evidence to his boss that it can't be done.

  25. JamesNT says:

    Seriously, Mr. Chen, how many of these "customers" asking for features like this do we think are really malware organizations pretending to be legitimate companies?


  26. peterchen says:

    @John Muller: Because then you have to, like, write codes instead of zipping up a web page.

    Maybe the gadget was so awesome it broke in every other location.

  27. bob says:

    No interface for you! Come back 2 weeks.

  28. haha says:

    ubuntu-only user here. but damn that's funny :)

  29. dgfgdgfdggdf says:

    You've changed your tune MS, my ADSL modem sure found a way to be important enough to put 2 icons leading to its control panel on my desktop and have them reappear if you delete them. It also likes to sit in the system tray, the quick launch and root of the start menu

  30. JoeWoodbury says:

    I can actually see this behavior being desired in a corporate environment where a specific application needs to be made available and users keep deleting it while "organizing things" and then calling IT support and asking where it is.

  31. Voo says:

    I think I'd have to kill someone if I ever got around such an application.. oh god.

    Other than that: I like the abuse of the tra.. notification area for background tasks that have to run but shouldn't take up precious taskbar space (IM, music player,..). And luckily there will always be some backwards compatible way to achieve that ;)

  32. tenfour says:

    they should just use Active Desktop!

  33. hoohoo says:

    Microsoft may have no idea how to implement such a thing, but I bet a few hundred trojan and virus authors know dozens of ways to do it. Windows has never been prepared for their awesomeness.

  34. Aaron says:

    This is out-of-the-bid functionality in Microsoft Bob.

  35. Troll says:

    How about having a user option to lock gadgets (or the sidebar) like you can lock the taskbar? And why do you speak in a tone as if Microsoft doesn't lock down anything or doesn't deny the user the choice of something especially something previously offered as a choice?

  36. David Walker says:

    I never cared for the gadgets either.  They just clutter up the screen.

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