Loving Google's Sidebar -- my new RSS aggrgator
By Charlene Li
I have a confession to make. I may research and write about RSS, but darn it if I can’t remember to actually check my feeds! It’s just not part of my daily habit and after trying about 20 different aggregators, I have yet to find one that 1) works with the Forrester laptop configuration; 2) that I actually use on a daily basis.
That is, until now. Enter Google Sidebar. This is the new extension of Google’s Desktop Search offering – it’s a panel that sits on your desktop and provides a single source of personalized information (like news, weather, stocks, and yes, RSS feeds). Think of it as a personalized portal, but one that lives outside of a Web page (no need to have to surf over to my.yahoo.com or my.msn.com – this application is just THERE!).
A quick glance lets me see recent feeds – no need to have to start another application or open a browser window. Even aggregators embedded into Outlook didn’t do the trick for me as I spend only a portion (albeit, a large portion) of my time there.
What I find interesting is that Sidebar acts like one really big widget – and additional plug-ins are available, similar to what Yahoo’s Konfabulator and Apple’s Dashboard offer. While I’m a big widget fan, there was one major problem with them – I never see my desktop (it’s usually buried under umpteen windows). There are only a few plugins available today – but I’ve already found the “To Do” plugin useful. And I’m really looking forward to getting the eBay Sidebar plugin which is under development!
There are just two things to point out about Sidebar. First, the new search query box in Sidebar provides “search as you type” functionality, albeit, it’s a bit delayed compared to other desktop search applications like Yahoo! Desktop Search and Copernic. In keeping with the "no browser" philosophy, the search query box allows you to look at the initial results quickly and to go directly to that file or email.
Second, when I downloaded Sidebar and used it for the first time, I was struck by how similar it is to MSN’s Dashboard, which MSN has included as part of its Premium access service Internet software (click on “Custom Tools” to learn more – I’ve also included a screenshot from my archives). One of my favorite features of Dashboard was the ability to “pin” it anywhere on the desktop. Granted, there are a lot more advanced features in Sidebar AND it’s more configurable. But MSN introduced this technology in 2002!! They had the foresight to develop it years ago but kept it tucked away in a hidden part of its offerings. Look for them to quickly dust off the covers and make it available forthwith.
Lastly, I've been asked if this will Sidebar and it's inevitable market followers will speed along RSS adoption. There's no doubt in my mind that it will. Making RSS readily accessible AND visible puts it top of mind and spurs usage, which will drive adoption.