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I remembered that Google has its own set of desktop widgets called "Gadgets". I havent touched them for a few years so I was interested to see how they have progressed.
Are you getting sick of my obsession with widgets and desktop apps? :) I really like the idea of having some widget tools "at the ready". To track a package without needing to go to a website. To translate relatives chats on ICQ and respond back. Stock info, weather info, news, flight status, etc. So here I am trying everything :)
For the Google Gadgets, you dont need to go to a website or install a browser to use these in Ubuntu. Simply go to the software center (Applications - Ubuntu Software Center) and type in "Google Gadgets". Ubuntu users want to install the GTK version, Kubuntu users want the KDE version. After install you can start installing various gadgets by going to "Applications - Internet - Google Gadgets". It comes with a right side dock, which Im no fan of so I removed it. You can easily access your gadgets and install new ones by right clicking the Google Gadget icon at the top right of your panel. See photo...
After a right click of the icon, you'll get a drop down menu. Just click "add gadgets" and you will get this nice little gadget browser...
Sort through them all. There are some gems in a rough patch of mostly dumb gadgets. I like the retro clock with the flip numbers, I like the stocks (not as much as the Opera stock widget), i like the package tracker, and its really cool to have a little gmail box right on my desktop showing me a mobile version of my gmail account. Very cool!
A few notes: You can also make a hotkey for hiding and unhiding your gadgets. Right click the gadget icon on your panel and click "change hotkey". I put mine as F12 but you can do whatever suits you. If you want multiple instances of one gadget (say a clock) just install it again. If you want these to load up at boot, you'll have to manually add the gadgets app yourself. Go to "System - Preferences - Startup Applications" and add "Google Gadgets" for the name and for the command use "/usr/bin/ggl-gtk %F" (without quotes).
All in all I really like these gadgets and they dont appear to be a resource hog. I especially like the gadget layer where I can hide and unhide my gadgets at will.