MetroSidebar is a free Windows 8-style sidebar for your XP (or later) desktop.
The program is small, installs easily, and (much to our surprise) has no adware at all. And there's no doubt it looks great. On first launch the sidebar appeared, with bold and colorful tiles displaying the time, weather, pictures, and more.
Click the Settings icon bottom-right and you can add more tiles. Right now there are ten: Alarm, Battery Info, Bing Search, Clock, Launcher, Media Player, Pictures, Power, User Account Info, and Weather. An "Online" tab is flagged as "Coming soon", though, so presumably there are plans for plenty of extras.
What you do get is really rather basic. The Media Player just plays the contents of a folder (not a file, or a URL, or a playlist); the Pictures photo is a simple slideshow; there's no great configurability or depth to anything.
Manipulating these tiles isn't as easy as it should be, either. You can't drag and drop them, for instance. They can't be resized. You can't just right-click one to set its options. Instead, you must first click a pencil icon, bottom left, and hover your mouse cursor over the tile you'd like to tweak. You then have to repeatedly click an Up or Down arrow to reposition it, while a Settings button has some basic configuration options.
Slightly bizarrely, you're also supposed to bring MetroSidebar into view by moving your mouse cursor into the top or bottom right corner of your screen, which of course doesn't work on Windows 8 (you just get the regular charms bar, instead). This isn't a critical issue - running the application again will bring the first instance to the foreground, or you can leave it displayed all the time - but it's still a little clumsy.
MetroSidebar is a simple free way to equip your Windows XP, Vista or 7 PC with a Modern UI-style sidebar. The tiles are very basic and they're not very configurable, but the program is still in beta - we'll be interested to see where it goes next.