For those of you who never met a gadget you didn't need to have, Windows 7 has you covered. For the rest of us, Gadgets can unobtrusively supply us with precisely the amount of general awareness we need, without distracting us from all those urgent, mission-critical tasks we heroically perform every day.

So what exactly is a Gadget? It's a little program, designed to hang out on desktops, ready for you when you need it.

"WHAT? What are you calling me? 'LITTLE?'" Oh my, we've offended the Clock—diplomacy may be required. So, um, Gadgets don't take much space, on your desktop or in your computer's busy memory, but they're downright indispensible.

Clock Gadget

In addition to the extremely powerful Clock, which can do more than you might think, Gadgets let you keep tabs on weather, news, and your computer's performance—and even include a slide show and a game or two (useful for stimulating on-the-job creativity, right?).

Choosing a Gadget (or two). To see the bounty of gadgets ready to brighten your day, right-click on the desktop and choose Gadgets. Up pops a pane showing Gadgets already installed on your system. Click once on a gadget icon, then click Show details, and a brief description appears.

See an appealing, fascinating, even thrilling Gadget? (I know I was intrigued when I first saw the Clock.) Simply double-click its icon, and it will appear on your desktop, whereupon you can drag it around, choose from a few options, and (in some cases) adjust its size.

Note that you can place multiple Gadgets of the same name on your desktop: for example, you could have four Clocks lining the top of your screen, each set to a different time zone. Of course, you'll have to...

Customize your Gadgets! All Gadgets let you adjust their opacity, or keep them in view continuously by specifying Always on top. Adjust these setting by right-clicking a Gadget and choosing from the pop-up menu. To see and set a Gadget's unique options—as in setting the time zone on the clock—right-click it and choose Options, or point to it and click the Wrench icon in the pop-up mini-menu.

Watch this video to learn how to customize desktop gadgets:

Video: Customize desktop gadgets

Feed your genius. In the workplace, many find the Feed Headlines gadget especially useful, because it can alert you to new content of particular interest to you. My friend the accountant uses Feed Headlines to monitor certain websites dedicated to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Wow, fascinating stuff.

Don't worry, though—you can choose which of your feeds to display in Options for the Feed Headline Gadget. Learn all about feeds, and how to set them up..

Get even more Gadgets. From the Gadget selection panel, click Get more gadgets online, and be amazed. Whether you want to check traffic before you head out to a meeting, glance at upcoming Outlook appointments, or test your Internet connection speed, there's a Gadget for you. Nothing, perhaps, quite as compelling as the Clock, but your mileage may vary.

Final note. When exploring your system's Gadgets, consider waiting until the end of the workday to try the game Reversi, which has been known to cause missed blog-post deadlines.

Keith