Live stock charts on your desktop


the Windows Active Desktop
Google's Stock Quotes feature

...for free!

by Sujeet Bambawale

Lets hear the short story first...

Alright. Its about the stock market, its about you and its completely free. Specifically, its about letting you monitor the charts for your favorite stock without using any third-party software applications; but by just using features built into your copy of Microsoft Windows that have been there since Windows 95. It doesn't involve any additional software / spyware / "nagware", and it doesn't involve any pay-after-a-few-uses kinda scams. Just a Microsoft Windows feature being put to use in a manner beneficial to you.

Interesting. I'm curious...go on...

Active Desktop is a feature available in Microsoft Windows versions since Windows 95, which covers pretty much everyone using a Windows-powered PC, or Macintosh, today. While this feature attracted a good bit of attention immediately after its initial release, its been lying fairly low ever since. Essentially, it lets users make "active content" a part of their desktop. This "active content" can be anything from graphics on the local system to Web pages on the Internet. Using this Active Desktop feature, the user can "embed" an "active desktop item" onto the Windows desktop. This "active desktop item" is linked to a destination either on the local computer or on the network / Internet. When the destination object changes, the user's desktop item also changes accordingly.

That's a lot of words in a lot of double quotes. Here's the skinny: Active Desktop is available in most Windows versions being used today, and it lets the user create a little window of sorts on their Windows desktop. This little window will seem like its embedded into the Windows desktop, i.e. it'll look like its part of your desktop background / wallpaper - and will seem to float on it. The contents on this window can be anything on your local hard drive, a network hard drive or the Internet.

Google recently added stock quotes to their list of features. Combining Active Desktop with Google's free stock quote lookup can let the user place a stock chart on their desktop. Using the "scheduled updates" features of Active Desktop, the user can set this up so that the chart updates at a frequent interval (from 1 minute upwards). Thus, this can simulate a "live stock chart" without using any third-party software, or any subscription service.

If you're wondering - "Well, that isn't necessarily a 'live chart', is it?" - you're on the fence between semantics and technicalities. The Google stock quote system states that the quote could be delayed by 15 minutes. Factoring in this delay and the update interval delay set up by the user, the values shown on the stock chart could be delayed by 20 minutes or higher.

Also, the computer will need a connection to the Internet in order to update the chart. In essence, if you can reach Google from your browser, your chart(s) will be able to update themselves. The bandwidth required for this update process isn't a lot at all. The "chart" is essentially an image served up by Google, and the size of this image file is under 2500 bytes. As you can imagine, it wouldn't really need a broadband connection to fetch that much data off what would possibly be one of the most reachable sites on the Internet.

This sounds like geekspeak already! What do I need to have, and how much real effort and computer-savvy does this need?

I'll admit the explanation sounds like geekspeak, but at the risk of overusing a bad cliché - it really is quite simple once you get the hang of it (and its a lot easier than learning how to ride a bike, or to swim). I could sum up the effort required as less-than-ten-mouse-clicks and3typing in a URL. About computer-savvy, well, if you apply the "wisdom" from the screenshots shown below, to your system - this should be a piece of cake.

The following pages will use a lot of screenshots to illustrate the "how" of putting a live stock chart, for any (US) stock, on your Windows desktop. The same method could also be used for various other things, like, say, placing a self-updating weather icon on your desktop, or a currency trend chart, or a webcam picture. The possibilities are endless, especially because people are publishing a lot of stuff onto the Internet now, and a lot of this "stuff" is dynamic; i.e. changes over time.

My recommendations for stuff that you could place on your desktop? Here goes:

  1. A sunlight map of the world (new window)
    So that you know if they're sleeping before you call...

  2. Currency trend charts (new window)
    So that you have something better than the weather to talk to them about...

  3. Weather icons for all the places you care about (new window)
    So that you can call to check when the weather's going nuts...

  4. Traffic webcams (new window)
    Forewarned is forearmed.

Naturally, all of this could significantly change the look of your desktop. Some may even think of it as too "cluttersome". Others may wonder about all these self-updating panels on your desktop detracting attention from the picture that made up the desktop.

That..I leave you to think through. However, if you do find that all this is waaayy too much "stuff to do" (without even looking at the "how" on the following pages), here are a few options that you could consider...

Still here? I'm glad. To get to the good stuff, please click "Next" below, or make any other page selection that you like.

Copyright Sujeet Bambawale, 2006. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, in part or whole, of any content presented via this interface and/or network location is prohibited.

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