Gadgets, sometimes also called “widgets” – a combination of the terms window and gadget – are software applications on the desktop of a Windows-operated PC or the dashboard of a Mac and typically perform simple tasks.
Types of Microsoft gadgets include web gadgets running on a website, sidebar gadgets running on the desktop or Windows Sidebar which is on the right or left side of the desktop, and SideShow gadgets running on the outside of a laptop, an LCD panel in a keyboard or on mobile phones and other devices. SideShow includes gadgets such as contact details, maps, calendar and email programs. The information from these gadgets can be accessed even when the computer is in standby mode, using only very little energy. Windows also features an MP3 player gadget that allows for hundreds of hours of listening to music when the operating system is powered down, since it only uses very little computer resources.
Apple’s mini-applications are called widgets and operate on the dashboard, a layer that is activated by the user when needed. Activating the dashboard will dim the desktop, which is still visible underneath the widgets. There is a number of widgets including, among others, the address book application, a calculator, a calendar, a dictionary, a flight tracker, a phone book, sticky notes, games, a translation tool, currency and unit converters, a weather forecast, a world clock, Google search and ESPN. There are also widgets that show system performance including CPU usage, memory usage, temperature of certain computer parts such as the CPU or the hard drive, and give information on current battery status and the number of charging cycles.
Widgets are commonly designed to make it easier for users to find regularly needed information fast and without using too much computer resources. Some widgets, such as the weather forecast, the dictionary or the currency converter, work only in combination with an intact Internet connection. Most gadgets are programmed for general use and will work on Windows-operated and Mac computers. Apple and Microsoft specific gadgets as well as universally applicable gadgets can be downloaded for free.