Dashboard – the screen of widgets that gives you all sorts of information – arrived in Mac OS X 10.4 amid much fanfare, but has become something of a forgotten feature.
It remains incredibly useful though. You can view it by pressing F4 on new Mac keyboards, or by clicking its icon next to the Finder in the Dock. You get some widgets as standard, including a unit converter, iCal and a weather forecaster. But there are thousands more online. Here we'll cover 10 of the best.
They come as WDGT files – just double-click them to install. Once a widget's loaded, flip it over by clicking i to view settings.
1. RSS Reader
Dashboard could never replace your regular newsfeed software, but if there are a few feeds you'd like to keep a closer eye on, this widget is great. Simply add the newsfeed address and it'll display the top headlines. Click one to read the story in your web browser.
You can add multiple feeds too – navigate between them using the arrows at the top. Unfortunately, there's no Google Reader integration.
2. iStat nano
Great for keeping on top of how your Mac is running. With information from fan speed to the temperature of your hard drive, it's all there at a glance.
The main Overview gives you key details. Hover over it to select another category, each of which gives you even more in-depth stats of how things are ticking.
3. Net_Remote Social
This one's simplicity itself, but we love it. The chunky buttons give you instant access to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Digg, Gmail, WordPress, Yahoo and AIM websites.
Just click the one you want to fire up in your browser – so your blog and favourite social networking sites are literally just a click away.
4. Twitter Search
Love Twitter and want to know what people are saying about a certain topic or user? If you want to run a quick search on Twitter, there's no faster way than to pop the word or words you're looking for into this unassuming little widget and it'll pop up the results for you in your web browser.
You can search for keywords, hashtags and usernames by using the respective # and @ symbols.
5. Tea Timer
Ever left your pizza cooking in the oven, come back to your Mac and forgotten about dinner burning away? This widget gives you a food timer.
Flip it over to enable alarms, set a sound and voice and tick Keep Alarming. Then go back, click where it says Tea and type in what you're timing. Enter the duration below, then press Play.
There's nothing more frustrating than when the batteries in your wireless keyboard, mouse or trackpad run out while you are working, or as you're about to finish that level you've been trying to complete for hours. This widget gives you battery readings for your input devices, so you'll know when power's running low.
7. Delivery Status
If you order lots of gear over the internet, you'll know exactly how frustrating it can be having to check the delivery status of each item across multiple websites. Now you no longer have to do this – simply add the details of your order or a tracking number to the widget and it will keep you updated on progress and provide a delivery estimate.
It covers your orders from Amazon, Apple, Google Checkout and more, plus packages sent by Royal Mail, Parcelforce, Citylink, TNT and many others.
Refurbished Macs are a great way to nab yourself a Mac that's as good as new, but at a knocked-down price. But there isn't an endless supply of refurbs.
This widget enables you to keep an eye on what's on offer, so that when something tasty comes up, you can pounce. Decide whether you're after a Mac, iPod or iPhone at the top, and choose your country's Apple Store from the drop-down at the bottom.
9. UK Motorway News
Do a lot of motorway driving? If so, this little widget gives you an at-a-glance view of the state of play on your commute, meaning you can plan an alternative route if things are looking congested.
Flip it over and choose a particular motorway, or leave the box blank to see how things are moving across the entire UK motorway network. Click one of the incidents to be taken to the BBC travel page to find out more.
While Dashboard comes with a translation widget, this one goes far beyond what the former does. Tapping into the extensive WordReference.com website, it can translate from English to 15 languages, and even between some of those tongues.
It gives you all the possible translations, showing words in context as well as compound forms.
First published in MacFormat Issue 226
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