What’s on my Mac.I have thoroughly embraced the Dashboard widget feature Apple introduced in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. And while I don’t have time to keep up with the dozens of new widgets that are released each week, I have managed to pick up a few favorites.Among them are a bunch I use daily. They’re the ones that are set up and ready to go so that when I press the F12 key, they’re onscreen, providing me with the information I want or waiting for me to type in a request.Here’s my list of widgets I can’t live without. Some of them might surprise you.
First, the Basics
I regularly use three of the widgets that come with Mac OS X.Weather provides basic weather information. I usually display two locations: Wickenburg, which is where I live, and Williams, which is near where our vacation property is. One look at the screenshots here should give you an idea of why I’m thinking of Williams when I live in Wickenburg. (Yeah, but it’s a dry heat.)
Calculator is a handy tool for anyone who needs to perform quick calculations. Here’s how I might use it on a typical day. I’m working on my Mac, hopefully doing something that’ll earn me a bit of money. The phone rings and I answer. It’s someone interested in a helicopter charter from Phoenix to Laughlin, NV by way of Sedona. (Not exactly on the way.) How much would that cost? I press F12 and start punching numbers into the calculator, based on my rough idea of time and my hourly rate. The number I come up with shocks my caller. After a pause, he says, “I’ll have to think about it. I’ll get back to you.” We hang up and I know I’ll never hear from him again. But at least I had a quick answer for him.
The third Apple-provided widget that’s always open on my Dashboard is Dictionary. And no, I don’t use it for spelling. I work with words and like to make sure I’m using the right one. So, as I write, I may come up with a word I’m not quite sure about. I’ll press F12 and paste the word into Dictionary. Its definitions and synonyms help me get things right. It’s also a handy tool as I read other blogs and sites and find words I’m not familiar with. F12 gets me the answer within seconds.
During monsoon season here in Arizona, storms are always moving around the state. That’s why I keep Radar In Motion by Kamal Aboul-Hosn set up to show me the local radar. It’s customizable so you can set not only the location, but the type of radar image you want. You can also store multiple locations and click to switch between them. What’s interesting is that it’ll even provide weather warnings, like the Flash Flood warning I saw last month (which was followed, within an hour or so, by a flash flood through my property — fancy that!).
I have a brain like a sieve. Although I’d like to think that the onset of middle age has nothing to do with it, I know better. I also believe that if you cram too much stuff into a brain, some of it has to leak out somewhere.So I use three Dashboard widgets to help me remember things.iCal Events by Ben Kazez is a widget that lists events from iCal. It’s a vast improvement over Apple’s [rather lame] Calendar widget. It’s customizable so you can specify how many days of events should show and which calendars should be displayed. Simple but elegant. And I like red.
DoBeDo by Ron Morrison pulls items off my iCal To Do list. It’s customizable so I can set the sort order, how many days in advance should show, and other things. I can even add items to my Do To list without opening iCal. Best of all (for me) is that the window is resizable, so I can see all my to do items in a single window.
UpcomingBirthdays by William Turnage is a simple one-trick pony that reminds me about birthdays of people in my Address Book data file. Not only does it remind me of upcoming birthdays (like Cliff’s in two days), but also of past birthdays. I can customize it to set the number of days in either direction for the listing.
For Fun (and Deep Thoughts)
I use widgets for less serious things, too. (Or perhaps you might think they’re more serious when you see my next choice.)The Doonesbury widget by Michael Gaiman displays the current day’s Doonesbury comic strip on my computer. This is a full-sized strip that fits in its own window. (It’s reduced here so it fits in the text column of my blog with text wrapping around it.) On Sundays, the window is huge — almost too big to fit on my 12″ PowerBook. I consider Doonesbury my reality check. When I hear something on the radio that makes me shake my head and wonder what the hell the world is coming too, chances are, I’ll read about it in Doonesbury within a week or so. That lets me know that I’m not the only one who thinks there’s something screwing going on.
For Keeping Track of my Hosting Fund
I pay for Web site hosting with money I earn from Google AdSense. My hosting costs are low, which is a good thing because I don’t get much revenue. But the RevenuSense widget by Nobuhiko Wajima keeps track of it for me without having to visit the AdSense site. Press F12, wait for a refresh, and I can see yesterday’s earnings, today’s earnings, and month-to-date earnings, all in a little window.
For Managing Widgets
One thing I was never happy about was the two-step interface for opening Dashboard widgets. Sure you can keep the Widget Manager open all the time, but it takes up a lot of real estate.Then I found DashOpener by Lasar Liepens. This widget is a launch pad for all installed widgets. Although it’s
configurable, so you can set it to display multiple columns, I like it with its default settings. Clicking each of the letters “L,” “m,” and “i,” displays a list (shown here), manager feature, and configuration options. Click the name of the widget to collapse it; click it again to reload it for any newly installed widgets. Quick, easy, and smaller than the Widget Manager.
How About You?
What widget do you use every day? What does it do for you to make your life easier? Let us know. Use the Comments link or form. to share your favorite widget with us.