Keeping the tabs on the weather isn’t the most exciting activity in the world, but let’s face it – it’s usually a necessity. While a small number of people have the luxury of living in areas with a very stable climate, many of us live in areas where a sunny day can be lost to a thunderstorm in just a few minutes. Ignoring the weather forecast is a good way to end up with a soggy picnic.
There are many ways to find out about the weather, and one of them is your computer. Having an active desktop weather widget is great for checking the forecast before heading out, particularly if you’re old-fashioned (like me) and still haven’t bought a smartphone.
Let’s take a look at some of the best Windows 7 weather widgets for keeping tabs on mother nature.
In the past Weatherbug had a pretty poor reputation. I remember having to frequently uninstall it from my grandmother’s computer because it caused problems whenever she booted into Windows. It seemed like I had to take it off on a weekly basis because it was piggy-backing on other programs and websites that she was using frequently.
To be honest, I don’t know what the state of Weatherbug’s current program is, but I can say that the Weatherbug weather widgets didn’t cause my computer to explode, cough or otherwise malfunction. It looks like they’ve gone legit.
And that is a good thing, because the Weatherbug widget is comprehensive. The main section, Live Conditions, shows the current temperature, wind direction and provides a simple forecast. The Forecast section provides a three-day forecast and links to a seven-day forecast, a weekend forecast and current temperature map (these open in your browser). The third screen displays a basic radar and the fourth screen will display a weather camera if one is available in your area.
I also noticed that the Weatherbug widget seems subjectively faster than the other weather widgets available. Windows 7 widgets have always had a tendency to feel slightly unresponsive, but the Weatherbug widget feels smooth. I don’t know what secret sauce they’ve used, but I’m glad they took the time to make sure their widget isn’t clunky.
Weather Center is, unlike other weather widgets, not affiliated with any major weather website. That means you obtain the luxury of choice. Weather Center can take data from The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, Weather Underground, MSN, The Weather Network, Weatherbug and NOAA.
You also gain the benefit of choice when it comes to the information you want to have displayed. The interface of Weather Center is about the same size as that of Weatherbug. The name of the city whose weather you’re watching displays a the top, along with the temperature and current conditions.
Below you’ll find four smaller entires. By default these are Feels Like, Wind, Humidity and Precipitation, but you can choose between 12 other options including Visibility, Dew Point and UV Index.
At the bottom of the widget is the forecast for the current day. Unlike some other weather widgets, Weather Center does not have the option to display an extended forecast. You will also not find a link to additional information that will open in your browser, as is the case with other widgets.
MSN Weather Widget
The simple MSN Weather widget isn’t the one to pick if you’re looking for features. The default view simply shows the name of your city, the temperature, and a graphic that indicates current weather conditions and time. If you click on the name of the city you will open up the MSN weather page in your browser, while clicking elsewhere on the widget will open a five-day extended forecast. You can, if you desire, make the five-day extended forecast show up at all times by changing the settings.
There are no options to show information like humidity, wind speed, or a radar. Depending on what you want, however, that may be fine. Basic though this widget may be, it is worth noting that this is the only Windows 7 weather widget listed here that will display a full five-day extended forecast without forcing you to open your web browser. It also takes up the least overall desktop space while using the smaller display setting.
Weather Channel Widget
This widget can be large. While the smallest display setting is of reasonable size, the medium setting is about two and half times as wide as The Weather Channel widget and about as tall. The larger display setting is four times the size of the Weather Center widget. This is not the widget to download if you are using a low-resolution monitor.
Fortunately, The Weather Channel widget doesn’t completely waste space. The medium display setting shows an extended three-day forecast that is relatively large and easy to read. The more interesting function, however, is the radar that appears when you make the widget huge. While it takes up a lot of space, the upshot of that is that the radar mode on this widget is actually readable. You won’t be able to zoom down to street-level, but you’ll at least be able to see if the big blob of green-and-yellow representing rain shows is near your city.
The Weather Channel widget also includes buttons for hour-by-hour and ten-day forecasts as well as the option to enlarge the radar or view it in motion. These options all direct you to the Weather.com website, which is annoying. There is also a complete lack of options for configuring the widget. Still, if you want an easy-to-read widget with clear radar data this could be the one for you.
These are far from the only weather widgets to choose from. They are, however, the only ones that I think are worth using. I tried other widgets – such as those from Weather Underground and ProWeather – and found them to be clunky or difficult to use. I could be wrong, however – post a comment if you have a favorite widget that I missed.
Image Credit: Bitzcelt