Get Top Dashboard Tips right in your Mac OS X Dashboard.
Every widget creates a cache file. In theory, these cache files are meant to speed up Dashboard performance. But, the cache files can get bloated or corrupted, resulting in the exact opposite effect. If your Dashboard seems to be running unusually slow, you may want to try clearing those caches.
You’ll find a cryptic set of folders with no names, just numbers. Delete everything inside the “DashboardClient” folder.
In order to complete the process, you need to restart the Dock (it controls Dashboard). You can do this in two ways:
Type in the Terminal:
This will quit and restart the Dock.
Open the Activity Monitor application (in your Utilities folder). Type “dock” in the search field. Once you find it, select it and hit the “Quit Process” button. The Dock will quit and restart.
That’s it. You’ve successfully cleared the cache files for your widgets. For me, this resulted in a significant performance boost. Dashboard is actually usable again.
Note: If you run several widgets, it will probably take several seconds for Dashboard to display the info in each widget the first time it’s activated after clearing the caches. Dashboard needs to rebuild the cache for each widget. Don’t be alarmed when they initially come up blank.
It should also be noted that the caches do NOT hold the actual data in the widgets. So, if you’re running widgets like, Mint, iClip lite, or Daily Grind Timer, the data will NOT be lost by clearing the cache.
DashLock is a widget that adds a little lock to your Dashboard.
Version 2.0 is a redesign of DashLock which contains high-quality 3d animation.
The widget allows you to quickly lock your screen and switch to the login window, keeping your session active.
It is very straight-forward to use DashLock. Just click on the lock and after a short animation, your computer with switch to the loginwindow while keeping you logged in.
During the small animation you can click on the lock again to cancel the system lock.
Upgrade to the latest version if you encounter any problems.
Dashboard KickStart is not a widget, it’s a System Preference.
With Dashboard KickStart, you’ll always have the Dashboard ready to use the first time you want.
Without it you’ll have to wait for a complete Dashboard start-up sequence as soon as you are ready to use it for a first time, making its quick accessibility rather useless.
How it works
This application runs in the background and reacts to the starting or re-starting of the Dock. When that happens it initiates the starting of the Dashboard. This prevents the delay you’ll experience when launching Dashboard the first time you want to use it.
Dashboard KickStart is available in English, French, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian and German.
Uninstalling Dashboard Kickstart
Dashboard kickStart can be removed, by right-clicking the Dashboard KickStart icon in the main window of the System Preferences, and choosing to remove it.
Upgrade to the latest version if you encounter any problems.
In this variation of the classic number puzzle game, you’ll have random puzzles with four different levels of difficulty. You also have the option to reveal an incorrect answer, use “pencil” marks for temporary numbers, time the games so you can see how much better (or worse) you are getting, show high scores, use blank puzzles and many more. All we can say is, spare a big chunk of your time to enjoy this one.
At first, I thought that this one was not a Dashboard game. Widgets, to me, are simple mini-applications with a certain function. But the size and the complexity of Mars Explorer go beyond that.
The description of the game goes like this: Ascend massive volcanoes, race atop elevated plateaus, splash through lava seas, and execute aerobatic stunts using deployable wings while playing laser tag with your friends over the internet!
What more can you ask?
This one is a multi-dimensional maze program. A classic puzzle with increasing levels of difficulty: once you have mastered the two-dimensional mazes you may progress to three-dimensional mazes and so on, up to six dimensions.
4. Space Fighters and Asteroids
For those who love spaceship adventures, why not try these two widgets? Both are variations of the classic “Asteroids” game. Just remember not to destroy your keyboard.
Your job is simple: group bubbles with similar colors together and get a score as high as you can. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the rule, this one is very, very addictive.
Want to know how good you are in creating a new world? Maybe you’ll get a clue by playing this widget game.
Chrysalis-B is a real-time causal pace evolution widget/game. You start with nothing but plants and dirt within a glass chamber. By figuring out the right temperature that promotes growth/evolution, you must guide an unknown species through several stages of evolution until it hopefully evolve into the Elders.
Do you have a good eye? Try to spot the differences between the two cartoon images.
If you love to drive like crazy, get crazy with this one. The goal of 3D Crashdrive is simple: have fun. It is a freeroam race/stunt game. You can play around on your own, but better yet: you can also play it in multiplayer mode. You can play together with friends or random players from all around the world and compare your records and score.
A remake of the classic arcade game. I played this back in the 80′s on the big machine with a large ball to control the anti-missile circle. This game is also featured in one of the episodes of Chuck. Even though much smaller in size, this widget version isn’t any easier than the original version. At least, not to us.
10. Crate mania
There are many first-person shooter multiplayer games out there. To stand out among the masses, one must have something special. Crate Mania twists the common scenario a little by giving players the ability to disguise themselves as crates.
Open your favorite Mac widgets directly, without the need for any sort of special hacks. WidgetRunner is a free Mac app that opens your widgets outside the Dashboard, allowing you to use them more-or-less the way you would any other program.
Relegated to a separate desktop since Lion, developers seem to have abandoned the Dashboard in favor of making apps for the iPhone. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still useful widgets, though. From Delivery Status(tracks packages) to GV Connect (use Google Voice) to built-in staples like the calculator and unit converter, Widgets can be quite handy. Many users, however, wish they lived directly on the desktop instead of in the dedicated Dashboard.
If you like OS X Mountain Lion widgets, but wish you could access them on your desktop, WidgetRunner is perfect for you. With it you can use your favorite widgets as though they were regular pieces of software – or even pin them so they become part of your desktop wallpaper. Here’s how.
Using Widget Runner
Start Widget runner for the first time and you may not notice anything happening. Look at the menu bar, however, and you’ll see that the program is running — and that you can load widgets.
Click Add and you’ll be taken to the folder where the widgets you’ve installed live. Pick one and it will run.
The folder you’re seeing is /Users/username/Library/Widgets, where “username” is the account you use to sign into your Mac. Of course, you’ll note that not every widget on your system is there – the default ones are notably missing. Instead, they’re at/Library/Widgets on your operating system drive.
Add the widgets you want until you’re satisfied. By default they’ll all behave as standard windows – neither hovering above other programs or staying beneath them. You can change, that, though.
Right-click any widget to configure it. You’ll see the following options:
By default all widgets are “Normal”. Clicking “Desktop” will embed your widgets as part of your desktop. You cannot interact with widgets set to this mode – you’ve basically turned them into part of the wallpaper. To close such widgets, or turn them back to normal, you need to first click the Widget Runner icon in the dock, then right-click the widget.
Clicking “Top” will put a given widget above any and every window you might open. Put simply: Widgets set to “Top” show up over everything else you’re doing. Many will find this annoying, but it’s nice to have upon occasion.
Are you a big fan the multiple desktops (Spaces) feature of Mission Control? You’ll quickly notice, then, that widgets show up on only one desktop. If you want to change this, right-click the Widget Runner dock icon. You’ll see these options:
Simply click All Desktops and your widgets will show up everywhere.
Ready to check this out? Go ahead and Download Widget Runner. There have been no updates since 2010, but Widget Runner still works well on Mountain Lion (we tested it).
It’s a free program created by Sam Madden, an MIT Professor. Thanks for the app, Sam!
Pros and Cons
Longtime Mac users know there’s another way to place your widgets on the desktop. It involves turning on developer mode and dragging your widget from the Dashboard to the desktop. Knowing this exists, why should Mac users run a dedicate program instead?
Well, for one thing, this undocumented hack results in widgets that float above every other window – like those set to Top in Widget Runner. Some (if not most) users will find this annoying. And another thing: it’s unclear whether this trick even works in Mountain Lion. For every person you find in a forum who got it to work you’ll find nine more who can’t. I’m among the nine, so I’m glad I found Widget Runner.
Of course, there are cons to using Widget Runner as well. Some widgets are buggy, and certain features don’t work in certain widgets. Did you get the developer mode hack working? Let me know in the comments below, and which version of OS X you’re using!
Widgets To Try Out
Wondering what kind of apps you’d actually use this with? Check out Jackson’s list of Mac widgets you can’t live without. We also recommend the (previously-mentioned) Delivery Status and GV Connect, as well as Symbol Caddy.
The Dashboard can be moved around now, just by clicking and dragging it to where you want to leave it. You can even move it to your secondary monitor on a dual monitor setup.
DashNote - Making use of Simplenote, DashNote allows you to access your Simplenote notes from your Mac Dashboard. If you are unfamiliar with Simplenote, the service allows you to make small notes, from grocery lists to packing lists, all made accessible over multiple platforms.
Dashkards - Keyboard shortcuts are a great way for you to navigate your Mac more efficiently. Without having to toy around with the menu bar at the top, shortcuts can get you to where you need to be in a snap.
Dropbox Droplet - Dropbox is an easy way to share files with others. The Dropbox Droplet allows you to share files in a snap: simply sign in once, then drag and drop the file you’d like to share.
Reminder - Sticky notes are considered one of the best productivity tools out there, but their downfall lies in the lack of adequate notification. Reminder is the widget that reminds you about the small things that are easy to forget about.
Milk the Cow - No, not the fun iOS game we know of. Milk the Cow is the Mac Dashboard implementation of Remember the Milk—the popular to-do list application. Add, edit, and complete Remember the Milk tasks with this helpful Mac widget.
MightyMonitor - MightyMonitor is the main tracker of the aspects of Mac that we normally ignore—the wireless mice, keyboards, etc. This widget monitors their battery lives and allows you to know when one requires your attention.
Time Machine Buddy - When Time Machine is automated, it can be a bit of a mystery knowing what is going on during the backups. Time Machine Buddy demystifies Time Machine.
Eject Volume - One day, you may have your movie in while your external hard drive is backing up and your jumpdrive is plugged in doing its thing. In other words, there are days when a lot of things are connected to our Mac. EjectVolume allows you to eject all of the connections with a click of a button.
iStat Pro - A widget I make use of quite often is iStat Pro, which allows you to know everything about your Mac both inside and out. From your WIFI connection’s strength to the current temperature inside your Mac, iStat Pro keeps you informed.
AnalyticsWidget - In short, this is the iStat Pro for Google Analytics. Stay informed about how your site is performing right from your Mac dashboard.
Social and Lifestyle
Delivery Status - Expecting a package in the mail? Delivery Status allows you to track any package with a tracking number from the major postal carriers.
Twidget - View your timeline and update your Twitter status with this useful Twitter widget for Mac Dashboard.
Tumblr Widget - This newly updated Tumblr widget is barebones while still allowing you to do the basics of the site, including text and multimedia posts.
GitHub Widget - The social network of developers, GitHub allows you to view the progress of your collaborative projects and read the latest from your feed in this simply-designed widget.
Digg.com Widget - The design of the Digg.com widget is very similar to the desktop website, with the ability to check out the latest news in various categories—from technology and entertainment to business and sports.
Calculators and Counters
Currency Converter - The traveler’s ultimate calculator. Need the most up-to-date exchange rate for a specific currency? This calculator is the one for you.
Color Converter - From HTML developers to individuals just trying to discover their favorite color’s code, Color Converter provides this as an easy-to-understand interface.
BMI Calculator - Still working on your New Year’s resolution to lose weight? The BMI calculator can help you notice your improvements and stay informed on whether or not you’re on track.
Word Counter - There are times when essays may call for a specific number of words. Word Counter helps you to stay within the rules.
Countdown X - Counts down the seconds to the event of your choosing. It stands out from similar widgets by offering a smaller footprint and the ability to differentiate between timers with selectable background colors. When the timer completes, the user is notified with a fireworks display right in their dashboard.
How to Backup
- Step 1: Choose go to folder in Finder by typing Shift + Command + G and go to “~/Library/Preferences”
- Step 2: In the Finder window, search for every com.apple.dashboard file. Choose to sort files by name. Select all of the files the Finder displays, then copy them to a separate folder.
- Step 3: Go to folder “~/Library/Widgets” Copy this folder along with all of the files to another backup folder. It is fine if you wish to only save only select widgets and not all of them.
Now all of your widgets and their associated files are backed up. Be sure to backup all of these files again if you decide to update your library otherwise you will have issues restoring them.
How to Restore
- Step 1: On a Mac with which you want to restore your widgets, go to folder “~/Library/Preferences”
- Step 2: Search for all com.apple.dashboard files, highlight all of them and send them to the trash.
- Step 3: Highlight all of your previously backed up com.apple.dashboard files and move them to “~/Library/Preferences”
- Step 4: Go to “~/Library/” and move your Widgets folder here.
Now simply restart your Mac and your widgets will show when you view your Dashboard. This has been confirmed to work with Macs running OS X 10.5 and higher.
Widgets used to be one of the hottest things in tech, and everyone had them, not just Macs. Google had Google Desktop on PCs, Yahoo bought out Konfabulator, one of the original widget engines, and Microsoft had the Sidebar Widgets in Windows Vista. Even KDE, one of the more popular Linux desktop environments, had their own widgets. It seemed you weren’t a proper tech company without your own desktop widgets engine.
But the widget craze is mostly over. Google discontinued Google Desktop in 2011, Yahoo killed their desktop widgets in 2012, and Windows 8 dropped support for the Vista-style widgets. Apple, it seems, is the last man standing with a functioning widget system that’s still supported. But even Apple’s Dashboard support seems to be waning, at least if you base your opinion on their incredibly dated Widget gallery.
The Dashboard Widget page sure doesn’t look good today…
Seems Like Dashboard Met iOS…
That said, Dashboard still got a bit of attention in OS X Mountain Lion, enough that it seems that Apple might not be done with it just yet. Dashboard now has a ton of iOS style to it. You’ll see all of the widgets you can use on their own Launchpad-style page by clicking the plus button in the bottom left of Dashboard. You can click and hold on the Dashboard icons, and they’ll start shaking just like Apps do in iOS or on OS X’ Launchpad. What’s interesting here is that all of the icons are small squares, so they look so much like iOS apps. You can drag them into folders, or click the x to delete them. You can remove any dashboard widget except the included ones, no matter where you downloaded them from, unlike Launchpad which only lets you uninstall App Store apps.
Seems like I’ve seen that before … in iOS!
And, of all things, Dashboard works great with the latest OS X features. Widgets are sandboxed, so you’ll see the Contacts widget that ships with OS X asking permission to see your contacts, of all things. Dashboard is also integrated with Spaces, so if you swipe to the right from your main desktop you’ll see the Dashboard in its own space. Or, you can still have it open in a semi-transparent layer on top of your desktop if you’d prefer, ready to be brought forward with a keyboard shortcut.
Apple’s own Dashboard widgets got a touch of iOS style, too, with the Stocks and Weather widgets looking almost just like their iOS counterparts. There’s also a few oddly redundant widgets; why would anyone want a separate dictionary widget when the dictionary is integrated so beautifully throughout all of OS X? But there’s still a few widgets that fill in a nice, niche need on the Mac that’s filled by built-in apps on iOS, and Apple seems to have decided that the best way to bring them to the Mac was with widgets. Some of the very best current Dashboard widgets from 3rd party developers are compainion apps to iOS apps, such as Delivery Status, DashNote for Simplenote, and Notefile.
That almost makes you wonder if Apple has some idea of making Dashboard into a way to run iOS apps on the Mac, or if they perhaps plan to make a way to turn Widgets into simple iOS apps. I highly doubt they’d ever have full widgets on iOS, Android-style, but turning a Dashboard widget into an app similar to the Stocks app with the Stocks Dashboard Widget … that could be very interesting.
Safari: Dashboard’s Killer App
Just open any site that you’d want to check often, right-click, and select Open in Dashboard. You’ll then get to select anything on the page to clip and turn into a live widget in Dashboard.
Safari, meet Dashboard.
It’s an old trick, one that’s been around since Leopard, but it’s still a good trick. Just search for something that’ll change over time (days until a certain date, a stock price, planes currently flying over you), clip the part of the site you like, and then you’ll be able to check up on it quickly by switching over to Dashboard. No extra tabs needed.
The Dashboard, complete with a web clip
Many sites work great like this; you can keep up, say, with the top of your Facebook, Hacker News, Reddit, or any other site with a web clip. You can open a mobile or responsive site in a small window, then clip it to fit more on your Dashboard. Or, WolframAlpha gives you a great way to make more app-like widgets that give you info you might otherwise need a specialized app for. You can’t interact with the web clip, for the most part, but you can click links on the page to open them in your default browser. So, it’s best for seeing things you’d otherwise have opened a new tab in your browser to see, not for using web apps, but it can still be very useful.
It might not be the most useful thing on your Mac, but it’s useful enough to keep me using Dashboard. And even if the iOS app aspirations fall through, we hope Apple keeps Dashboard around if nothing else than for web clips.