Less than a year ago, I started using Facebook out of pure curiosity. I logged in and added a few old friends from high school. As I’m sure many readers out there can relate, two or three friends turned into almost fifty practically overnight. I was fascinated by the fact that I could catch up with friends that I’d lost touch with for over fifteen years.
It became very clear to me that Facebook was not your high school teenage fad. I found folks from my old home town – some of them well into retirement age – happily posting status updates about their daily activities, struggles, joys and thoughts. This, I thought to myself (and still do), is something that’s going to have major social ramifications. I’m not really sure what they are going to be, but the proliferation of Facebook throughout the world and throughout most industries completely fascinates me.
However, there is this one little thing that absolutely annoyed me about Facebook. You have to go to the site, do the Facebook login, and keep it open in order to receive status updates, notices or alerts about what’s going on. Sure, you could configure your profile to send notifications to your email address, but then you have to constantly check your email – and who wants an email box completely spammed by Facebook notifications? So, after buying a new PC with Windows Vista installed – complete with neat desktop sidebar applications – I started looking for a way to do the Facebook login automatically and receive instant status updates directly to my desktop, without having to log into Facebook all the time.
During that search, I discovered two perfect free Facebook login tools – the Facebook Sidebar Gadget, and MyFacebook. Just to save you some time – I opted for MyFacebook because it offered more interactive features. If you’d rather go for that, scroll down to the MyFacebook section. However, I also wanted to review the Facebook Gadget as well – and since that’s the one I tried first, I’ve reviewed it first.
Automatic Facebook Login With The Sidebar Gadget
For widgets and applications that automatically connect to your Facebook account, you need to acquire and configure a special number that gives that application “permission” to check your Facebook account for you. When you download the gadget and click on the file to install it, it’ll place the gadget on your sidebar as shown here.
When you click on “Login” the app automatically opens to your Facebook page, where you’ll need to do the regular Facebook login if you haven’t already. There, you’ll see this window.
Just click “Get login code for” and on the next screen click “Generate” and you’ll finally receive the magical “one-time” code to provide your gadget so that it can automatically do your Facebook login for you automatically.
Copy the code, and then go back to your desktop sidebar and click on the little “wrench” icon to the right of it. When you do that, the window will pop-up for you to enter your super-secret Facebook code.
Enter in the code, and now you’ll never have to do another manual Facebook login in your life.
The gadget displays your profile picture as well as your current status, and small icons and associated values next to them for how many pokes, events, friend requests, inbox messages, notifications, invitations, and group requests! This is all fine and dandy, but I have one problem with the gadget. You don’t actually receive any realtime information from Facebook, it only provides you with the number of each item, and when you click on the little icon, it opens up a browser and takes you to that specific Facebook page. This is cool – but what if you just want to keep an eye on what your friends are up to without having to open up your browser?
In order to accomplish this task, I went back to Windows Live Gallery and downloaded the other Facebook sidebar gadget called MyFacebook.
Automatic Facebook Login With MyFacebook
When you download and install this sidebar gadget, the first thing you’ll see is the same request for the Facebook code. You’ll need to obtain the code the same way as described above.
Just click on the link and go through the same steps – click “Get Login Code” and then “Generate.” Copy the code and then go back to the gadget and click on the “wrench” icon. You’ll notice that in this case, the form looks just a bit different.
These additional fields are required because this particular gadget has more functionality than the one above. It will automatically provide you with your friends’ latest status updates and picture gallery photos (if you want). I’m not really interested in the albums, but I do want the friend updates. If you only want your “notifications,” but not specific content from your friends’ walls, you need to find the notification feed. Not sure where to find it? Just click on the link above where it says “you can get the feed url from here.” You’ll be taken to a notifications page. Scroll down and on the right you’ll see “Your Notifications” – click on it.
This will take you to the actual RSS feed page for all of your notifications. All you have to do is copy the URL and paste it into the form on your sidebar gadget.
Now, getting your friend feed is much easier. In the sidebar gadget, just click on “click this link to enable Friends feed,” and then click “Allow Access” on the Facebook page that comes up – it doesn’t get much simpler than that.
The setup is similar to the previous gadget, except now that you have a real-time scrolling update of your friends’ status, the app feels much more interactive and always connected. Now, you can instantly update your own status, or you can just glance to the right and read the status updates of the latest few friends – and you don’t have to set foot inside any browser to do it!
Again – the links to these two apps are MyFacebook (my favorite), or Facebook Sidebar Gadget if that’s what you prefer.
Did you find either of these sidebar gadgets useful? Do you know of any other great social networking Vista sidebar gadgets? Share your insight in the comments section below.