Go wild with widgets

What a desktop companion can do for you

Use your imagination

Now that you've eliminated all these barriers, you can create any number of custom info-dashboards, and launch each by logging into its user account. Here are a few info-dashboard ideas to get you started.

News junkie: Load your screen with RSS news feeds, TV news programs and pop-up news alerts.

Room with a view: Fill up your screen with outdoor web cams in your area. You're stuck at your desk, but you can still enjoy the sunshine.

Webmaster: Pack your info dashboard with widgets that monitor the health and performance of the Web sites you're responsible for. When one goes down, alarm bells ring.

Conference call dashboard: Add a clock for every city or region other callers are dialing in from, plus the webcams for callers who have them.

Sports nut: Stream sports scores, live games, sports news RSS feeds and pictures. Bonus craziness: Set up the desktop colors to match those of your favorite team.

Only the paranoid survive: Stream security camera feeds, Internet threat alerts, tsunami warnings and other scary information to your dashboard all day.

All about the Benjamins: Build a financial dashboard to watch your stocks and get late-breaking financial news.

Flyboy: Get government weather data, streaming tower chatter from your local airport, notices to airmen -- and watch the airport webcam.

Fanboy: Install Harry Potter widgets, TV show widgets and "countdown" clocks to events like movie openings.

Simply visit each widget engine's gallery of free, downloadable widgets to get your own ideas about what kind of dashboards to create. Or -- better yet -- roll your own!

Mike Elgan is a technology writer and former editor of Windows Magazine. He can be reached via email or his blog.

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