Apple Mac: What is the Dashboard?

May 25, 2011, By Christian Cawley

After coming to terms with the Dock, Mac OS X newcomers might be interested to get to grips with the Dashboard, a selection of desktop widgets that can be invoked from a single keystroke.

Rather than cluttering up your desktop like the Windows Vista and Windows 7 gadgets, these Mac OS X widgets can be toggled on and off via the F12 key (although this can be changed via System Preferences > Personal > Expose > Dashboard).

Additionally, they can be easily added to, with the default calculator, calendar and clock standing ready to be joined by stocks news, unit converters and even a dictionary tool.

As you access the Dashboard for the first time you will notice similarities with the iPhone’s iOS user interface. It should come as no surprise that the new OS X release for 2011 brings this type of interface more central to the Mac’s desktop interface.

Understanding the Dashboard in Mac OS X

Accessing the Dashboard

In addition to the F12 toggle mentioned above, you can activate the Dashboard via its icon on the Dock. This can also be right-clicked to display options to add More Widgets…, which is where the real strength of the tool can be found (see below).

Accessing the Dashboard presents you with a selection of tools that can be quickly used and the discarded, acting in some ways as an extension of your physical desktop. Rather than scramble around your work area looking for a calculator, for instance, simply tap F12 or launch the Dashboard with you mouse, and a calculator app is displayed, ready for action.

Similarly, if you want to check the weather, a quick activation of the Dashboard will reveal the information, and you can close it again by clicking a blank area of y our desktop.

But hang-on, “weather”? There isn’t a weather widget in the Dashboard! Well, actually, yes there is, but it isn’t one of the default choices.

Adding new Widgets to the Mac Dashboard

If you want to take advantage of additional widgets that are available in the Mac OS X dashboard, you can do this very easily by tapping F12 and then clicking the round + symbol in the lower left corner of your display.

From here you will see a selection of widgets is displayed, such as a Ski Report, and a Translation tool. There is even an iTunes widget, and these can be added to your dashboard with a single click, and then dragged with the mouse to position them accordingly. If you want to remove a widget, click the X symbol in the item’s top-right corner; this option is only available while the widgets are being added, however.

Meanwhile, via the Manage Widgets button, you can clear and fill checkboxes to determine which widgets are available, and via the More Widgets… button you can launch Safari to find even more!

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