Introduced with OS X Tiger, Dashboard provides a quick and easy way to do everything from checking the weather forecast, to finding a phone number, or searching a favorite website. The list is almost endless. Although Dashboard appears in the Applications folder and on the Dock, it’s not really an application as such. In fact, it’s a layer of OS X, and it houses mini applications called widgets.


To quickly summon the widgets currently installed on your Dashboard, such as a calculator or weather tool, tap F12, or the Dashboard icon in the Dock. To close the Dashboard, tap F12 again, or click the empty space between widgets.

The few widgets that are laid out before you when you first open Dashboard are not the only ones in your OS X armory. Click the “+” icon in the bottom-left corner to show the Widget Bar along the bottom of the screen.

To add widgets to your Dashboard, drag them out of the Widget Bar and watch as they come to life. To remove a widget from the Dashboard, click the “x” icon that is visible at its top-left corner when the Widget Bar is open.

An alternative to the Widget Bar is the Widgets widget. Click the Manage Widgets button when the Widget Bar is open to reveal a special widget that replicates the functions of the Widget Bar, displaying all your installed widgets. This tool can be used to activate and deactivate widgets, and also features a button for accessing more widgets online.

Where Widgets Reside

When the mouse pointer hovers over a widget, you may see a little “i”. Click on it to access the widget’s settings.

Each individual widget is a little application. Unlike regular apps, which tend to live in your Applications folder, widgets are located in two special locations within your hard disk.

Macintosh HD – Library – Widgets: Widgets in here appear on the Widget Bar for all users on the Mac.

Your home folder – Library – Widgets: These widgets appear on your Widget Bar only, not those of other users.

In fact, widgets don’t have to be located inside these folders. As with other applications, you can keep them anywhere that’s convenient, and open them with a double-click. However, if you want them in your Widget Bar, you must use these folders.

Widget Syncing

If you have a MobileMe account, you can synchronize your widgets across various Macs registered to your account. This means that you don’t have to download new widgets multiple times for them to be installed on all of your machines. To do this, open System Preferences – MobileMe on each machine, and then check the Dashboard Widgets box under the Sync tab.

Get More Widgets

The widgets that come with OS X are useful, but they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, you can find thousands of widgets available online to download. Most of these widgets are free, and if you’d like to find a specific widget, chances are that a developer somewhere has already thought of it.

The first place you should check for new widgets is the Apple site, as their collection is vast and well organized. You can go straight to this site from the More Widgets option on the Dashboard bar. However, this is not the only source for widgets.

Some widgets will automatically appear on your Widget Bar after you’ve downloaded them. Others, however, may need to be moved to one of the two widget folders.

Hidden Features

Many widgets have fun, extra features that aren’t obvious at first glance. Here are two examples from the collection you already have:

  • The weather in Nowhere: Open the weather widget, hold down the Command key + Option and click the widget a few times. You’ll be taken to a mysterious city called Nowhere, and shown all the weather systems the widget can describe.
  • If you’ve played with the Tile Game widget but got bored of the default image, try putting yourself in the picture. Pick an image in Finder and, while dragging the file, tap F12, still holding down the mouse button. Keep dragging the image and drop it into the Tile Game.

Roll Your Own Widgets

Widgets can be easily created. The easiest way to create widgets is by using the Open in Dashboard button in Safari, which lets you grab a section of an existing Web page, and save it as a fully functioning and live-updating widget. In fact, widgets comprise little more than HTML code, JavaScript and images.


Over time widgets can use large amounts of RAM, making your Dashboard and other apps run slower. Don’t forget to close widgets you are not using. Sometimes, your computer will need to be restarted.

Tips about Dashboard

To add the Open in Dashboard button to the Safari toolbar, choose Customize Toolbar from the Safari View menu.

If you want to make a widget available all the time, and not just when Dashboard is open, you can download and use DevMode widget. Once the DevMode widget is up and running, click F12 to reveal Dashboard. Next, click and drag the widget you want to keep active, tap F12, and you’ll see a floating widget. To put it back on the Dashboard again, tap F12 while dragging it.

Many Mac keyboards also feature a dedicated Dashboard key in the F4 position.

To teasingly slow the Dashboard’s animated blitz across the screen, hold down Shift while you tap F12.

To close widgets without opening the Widget Bar, hold the Option key as your mouse pointer hovers over the widget. This will reveal the widget closing button.

If an individual widget becomes buggy or freezes, reload it with the keyboard shortcut, Command key + R.

You can change the keyboard key and mouse button that reveals your Dashboard in the Exposé & Spaces pane of OS X’s System Preferences.

If you always use the F12 key to access the Dashboard, you have no need to keep its icon in the Dock. Click and hold it and choose Remove from Dock from the menu, if you ever want to put it back, drag the Dashboard icon from Applications onto the Dock.


The whole idea of widgets dates back to Konfabulator, a third-party product available for both Macs and PCs. Now, it has become Yahoo! Widgets which offers thousands of widgets. Through history, many of them have not been compatible with Dashboard, so a separate app must be downloaded to use them. Google Gadgets work in a similar way to Widgets.


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