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Playing with the Dashboard

Up to this point in time I've kind of avoided the Dashboard on my Mac. Having had bad memories of the Active Desktop in previous versions of Windows I've just avoided the genre. I played around with Mac's Dashboard a little last night and found it to be pretty cool though, making me rethink whether or not this is something I want to make part of my daily routine.

The number of widgets available from Apple for the Mac Dashboard is simply staggering. Since the widgets can be built really easily using Dashcode, Apple's development tool for these widgets, it's just painfully simple to create a Dashboard widget. The cool part is that you don't even need to use Dashcode to create a nice little Dashboard widget - you can just grab what you want directly from Safari.

Up in the Safari toolbar is the little scissors icon that allows you to select a chunk of your current web page and simply make a Dashboard control out of it. I've only just started playing with it but any site you visit frequently that has an RSS feed would be a good candidate for a Dashboard widget. It's so simple it's ridiculous.

So this morning as I was writing up this entry and I fired up Dashcode (needs to be installed from your original Mac OS X CDs or downloaded from Apple). I started playing around and before I knew it I had created a Dashboard Widget for my blog. You can check it out here: David Alison's Blog Widget. It's not much but also took me all of about 20 minutes to produce, and that was from fumbling around trying to figure out the UI for Dashcode.

Here's what the actual widget looks like:

It really is that easy. If you find yourself looking to express yourself on the Dashboard try out Dashcode - I have a feeling it's going to contribute to how I deliver my next product.

So here's a question for all of you: Do you use the Dashboard? If so, is there a "gotta have" widget you really use all the time?

13 comments:

Jared said...

You should check out istat pro - it's an awesome app that gives you all the information about your comp without sitting in your dock. I really like having it available without having to see it all the time. That and my gmail notifier are the ones I love!

David Alison said...

@Jared: Already there man! One of my favorite dashboard widgets.

RG-6 said...

I don't use dashboard. I played with it a few times but I find it just as easy to get the info I was looking for elsewhere.

I also don't like an alternate mode (leaving everything else behind to get to the widgets. I'd rather have little programs that I can quickly switch to if I need them.

Tom said...

I use Dashboard a lot, mostly for the calendar, or the unit converter. Handy trick with the unit converter, it does currency conversion as well. it handy for converting $ to €.

A third party widget I have been using is Delivery Status
( http://mikepiontek.com/software/mac/delivery-status.html )
It lets you track orders from a lot of stores, and UPS/Fedex/DHL directly. I use it all the time to let me know when things from Amazon.com should be here, or today to see when my Mac Pro should be here :-)

Anonymous said...

It's silly but I love having the calculator and calendar there, it is easy to get to when you need it and goes away when you don't. In Windows (at my work) I have to bind calc.exe to a shortcut key to get close to the same ease of use and switch to Outlook's calendar or double click the clock. And it still doesn't feel as "fast" as hitting F12.

meils said...

Hi David,

I really like Sol.

http://www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard/information/sol.html

Meils

qka said...

There are two things I use Dashboard for most.

1) I have a collection of weather widgets. Having the weather RIGHT THERE beats waiting it to come around, even on those stations that have the weather forecast every 10 minutes.

20 My daily chuckles - favorite comic strips. I makes it kind of like turning to the back pages of the Sports section - they're all in one place.

Yes rg-6, I can all this elsewhere. The question is, why should I?

Hendrik said...

ICal events widget
http://benkazez.com/icalevents.php

devburke said...

I don't use the Dashboard all that much, but I do use the weather and iTunes widgets. I also use the iCal widget, but only after I discovered that if you click it you can expand it to show your next few iCal events for the day. Initially, it's just a calendar, which was kind of useless. I think this is a great hidden feature, and you should definitely try it out if you use iCal.

My only other widget, and my only one I had to install, is one that is severely underappreciated. It's called OnTour, and if you tell it the city you're in, it'll automatically look up concerts in that area and group all the ones of artists in your iTunes library separately at the top of the list. It's not perfect, sometimes it'll miss concerts by smaller groups or return results for bands you don't actually have, but it's still awesome for anyone who enjoys concerts.

Eric said...

My current Dashboard:

Wikipedia - My most used widget. Need to get quick info on something? Invoke dashboard and wiki it!

Dictionary - Since I'm a student, I find myself using this widget a lot while writing papers. Especially the Thesaurus feature.

Harmonic - Gets AND stores lyrics to the song you're currently listening to in iTunes

Delivery Status - Very convenient, being a college student constantly ordering stuff online

Stock - to check my Apple stock :]

Other cool ones in my inventory:

G-Ruler - Very handy pixel-ruler if you're into graphic design. (Also, the crosshair screen capture Shft+Cmd+4 can be used to measure pixels too! Do you know all the screen capture shortcuts?)

iClip lite - Amazing clipboard widget. Takes copying/pasting to a new level

Movies - I think this one comes with OS X. Great for checking local movies showtimes. You can even watch trailers from the widget! Nicely implemented

And the ultimate tool:
In Terminal, if you type in
defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES
and log out/log in, you can pull widgets out of Dashboard and keep them on your desktop (and put them back of course)! Just click and hold a widget, invoke Dashboard, and let go.

David Alison said...

@Eric: Now that's a cool tip! Thanks man.

tlueker said...

Other than the standard dictionary, thesauraus, calculator, translator, and weather, two I use are:

Gas which is useful if I know I need to go out today and fill-up.

Flight Tracker. Which lets me get an idea of a flight's progress. The widget came with Tiger and I've found it helpful with relatives coming into town that I had to pick up at the airport.

Both of these widgets suffer from inaccurate data, but I still like them.

battery said...

My only other widget, and my only one I had to install, is one that is severely underappreciated. It's called OnTour, and if you tell it the city you're in, it'll automatically look up concerts in that area and group all the ones of artists in your iTunes library separately at the top of the list. It's not perfect, sometimes it'll miss concerts by smaller groups or return results for bands you don't actually have, but it's still awesome for anyone who enjoys concerts.