I want to see the Sidebar gadgets without having to minimize all the windows one-by-one; I want them to appear and then disappear again.
WIN+G works. Just click anywhere in the current window to make the SideBar disappear again.
I don't think this can be achieved without third-party utilities in Vista. However, you can always just quickly press Win+D key to Show Desktop (along with the widgets), and then Win+D again to restore all windows to the exact state it was at.
- Click on the Orb
- Type Windows Sidebar Properties in Search
- Press Enter
- Tick Sidebar is always on top of other Windows.
- Click OK
Just tested it and it actually fits the windows next to the Sidebar when Maximized.
Alternatively double click the icon in the TaskTray to quickly display it. As already mentioned there is no way to make it "slide" in and out without a third party tool.
Not an actual solution to your problem, but in a way, I think such demand will be satisfied with Windows 7, with having floating gadgets, not depending on a sidebar anymore.
You can press windows key + space to make gadgets appear over any open and maximised windows (not sure about full screen applications)