- 5.13. Dashboard
As you know, the essence of using Mac OS X is running programs, which of ten produce
documents. In Leopard, however, there's a third category: a set of weird, hybrid entities
that Apple calls widgets. They appear, all at once, floating in front of your other
windows, when you press the F12 key. Welcome to the Dashboard (Figure 5-23).
Note: On the thin aluminum Apple keyboard, the Dashboard has a different keystroke:
F4. In fact, you can see a tiny Dashboard logo painted right on the key. (The F12
keystroke can still work—but see the box on Section 5.3.1.)Either way, you can change
this keyboard assignment, as described below. Also, on laptops where F12 is the Eject
key, you have to hold down the Fn key (lower-left corner).
Figure 5-23. When you summon the Dashboard, you get a fleet of floating
miniprograms that convey or convert all kinds of useful information. They appear
and disappear all at once, on a tinted translucent sheet that floats in front of all your
other windows. You get rid of Dashboard either by pressing the same key again
(F12 or whatever) or by clicking anywhere on the screen except on a widget.
What are these weird, hybrid entities, anyway? They're not really programs, because they
don't create documents or have Dock icons (although Dashboard itself has a Dock icon).
They're certainly not documents, because you can't name or save them. What they most
resemble, actually, is little Web pages. They're meant to display information, much of it
from the Internet, and they're written using Web programming languages like HTML and
The starter widgets include a calculator, current weather reporter, stock ticker, clock, a
new movie-showtimes widget, and so on. (You may have to wait 30 seconds or so for
them to "warm up," go online, and display any meaningful information.) Mastering the
basics of Dashboard won't take you long at all:
• To move a widget, drag it around the screen. (Click anywhere but on a button,
menu, or text box.)
• To close a widget, press the Option key as you move the mouse across the widget's
face. You'll see the circled X button appear at the widget's top-left corner; click it.
- Tip: If the Widget Bar is open (as described below), every widget displays its X
close button. You don't need the Option key.
• To open a closed widget, click the circled + button at the bottom of the screen.
Now the entire screen image slides upward by about an inch to make room for the
Widget Bar: a "perforated metal" tray containing the full array of widgets, even
the ones that aren't currently on the screen (Figure 5-24). (The complete list, with
descriptions, appears later in this chapter.) Open one by clicking its icon.
Figure 5-24. You'll probably have to scroll the Widget Bar to see all the
widgets, by clicking the arrows at either end. When you're finished opening
new widgets, close the Widget Bar by clicking its circled X button at the left
side of your screen.
On Mac swith newish graphics cards, a new widget appears by splashing down
into the center of your screen, sending realistic pond ripples across the liquidy
glass of your screen. These widgets really know how to make an appearance, don't
• To hide one of Apple's widgets, or delete one that you've installed yourself, use
the Widget widget described below.
• To rearrange your widgets as they appear in the Widget Bar, open your hard drive
Library Widgets folder. Here you'll find the icons for the standard Apple
Dashboard widgets. To rearrange them, you have to rename them; they appear on
the Widget Bar in alphabetical order. (You can also remove a widget for good by
deleting it from this folder, if you must.)
Tip: The Dashboard icon also appears in your Dock, just in case you forget the F12
keystroke. On the other hand, if you prefer the keystroke, you can remove the icon from
your Dock to make room for more important stuff. Control-click (or right-click) the icon
and, from the shortcut menu, choose Remove from Dock.
5.13.1. Dashboard Tips
Like most Leopard features, Dashboard is crawling with cool tips and tricks. Here are a
few of the biggies:
- • If you just click an icon on the Widget Bar, the widget appears right in the middle
of your screen. But if you drag the widget's icon off the bar, you can deposit it
anywhere you like on the screen.
• There's a great keystroke that opens and closes the Widget Bar: -equal sign
(=). (This keystroke may be different on non-U.S. keyboard layouts.)
• To refresh a certain widget—for example, to update its information from the
Internet—click it and press -R. The widget instantly twist-scrambles itself
into a sort of ice-cream swirl (you've got to see it to believe it) and then untwists to
reveal the new data.
• You can open more than one copy of the same widget. Just click its icon more
than once in the Widget Bar. You wind up with multiple copies of it on your
screen: three World Clocks, two Stock Trackers, or whatever. That's a useful trick
when, for example, you want to track the time or weather in more than one city, or
when you maintain two different stock portfolios.
If you keep the Shift key pressed when you summon Dashboard, the widgets fly
onto the screen in gorgeous, translucent, 3-D slow motion. Aren't you glad you're
alive to see the day?
5.13.2. Dashboard Preferences
To change the Dashboard keystroke to something other than F12, choose
System Preferences, and then click Exposé & Spaces. In Leopard, they're combined in a
single System Preferences pane because at their core, they serve similar functions:
helping you herd your windows.
Tip: For faster service, Control-click (right-click) the Dashboard icon on the dock.
Choose Dashboard Preferences from the shortcut menu.
Here, you'll discover that you can choose almost any other keyboard combination to
summon and dismiss the Dashboard, or even choose a screen corner that, when your
mouse lands there, acts as the Dashboard trigger.
All of this works exactly as described on Section 184.108.40.206.
5.13.3. Widget Catalog
Here's a rundown of the 20 standard widgets that come preinstalled in Leopard. True,
they look awfully simple, but some of them harbor a few secrets.
- 220.127.116.11. The Widgets widget
This widget is designed to manage all your other widgets (Figure 5-25). It's the easiest
way to hide a widget (that is, get it out of Dashboard but leave it on your Mac, in case
you change your mind later) or to uninstall it altogether. It has three functions:
Figure 5-25. The Widget widget (whose icon appears at lower left in Figure 5-24)
opens up this list of widgets. Turn off a check mark to hide a widget, or click – to
completely uninstall any widget you installed yourself. The ones whose boxes aren't
checked are the ones that no longer appear on the Widgets bar.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION
I love the widgets, but I wish they weren't locked away in their own Mac OS X
"layer." I'd like to work with the Calculator widget, for example, while I'm
doing an Excel spreadsheet, without having to send the spreadsheet to the
No problem. What you want is Amnesty Widget Browser, a shareware program
that you can download from, among other places, this book's "Missing CD"
page at www.missingmanuals.com.
It adds a new menu-bar icon that, when opened, lists all of your widgets by
name. You can now open them individually—and, more importantly, without
sending your other programs to the background. You've just freed your widgets
from the translucent layer where they've been imprisoned.
• Use the checkboxes to hide or show widgets. You may as well hide the ones you
• Click the – button to delete a widget for good. You're not allowed to delete
Apple's widgets—only ones you've downloaded and installed yourself.
• Click More Widgets to browse the catalog. You go right to Apple's Widgets Web
page, where thousands of new widgets await your downloading pleasure, as
described later in this section.
- Tip: Drag the lower-right ribbed bar to make the Widgets widget taller or shorter.
18.104.22.168. Address Book
The concept behind this widget is, of course, to give you faster access to your own
address book. (Trudging off to the actual Address Book program takes way too long
when you just want to look up a number.)
The widget may look like a simple Rolodex card, but it's actually filled with clickable
shortcuts. For example:
• Search bar. Type a few letters of somebody's name here. As you type, the widget
homes in on that person's entry from the Address Book program.
If you see numbers at the bottom edge that say, for example, "1/12," then you've
found more than one match. You're looking at the first of 12 matches. You can
click the little right/left arrows to page through them. Click the circled X at the
right end of the bar to erase the box and start over.
• Big red dot. Click to open Address Book, with this person's entry staring you in
the face. That's what you'd do if, for example, you wanted to edit the entry.
• Phone number. Click it to fill your screen with an enormous version of the phone
number that you could see from outer space. The idea here is that it's big enough
to see from across the room as you dial the number on your desk phone.
• Email address. Click to fire up the Mail program (or whatever email program you
use), complete with a fresh outgoing message already addressed to this person. All
you have to do is type your message and click Send.
• Mailing address. Clicking the mailing address fires up your Web browser and
takes you to MapQuest.com, already opened up to a map that reveals the pinpoint
location of the specified address. Very, very slick.
22.214.171.124. Business (a.k.a. Yellow Pages)
A Yellow Pages of every business and organization in the entire United States wouldn't
be especially compact. In fact, it would probably occupy your entire living room. And yet
think of the convenience! You could instantly find the closest Chinese restaurant,
hospital, or all-night drugstore in a strange city.
Well, now you can, thanks to Business. Into the text box, type whatever it is you're
looking for, exactly as though it's a heading in the Yellow Pages business directory. You
could type drug store, cleaning service, health club, tailor, library, or whatever.
- Alternatively, click the triangular down arrow next to this box to see a list of services the
widget already knows about.
The widget shoots out the query to the Internet and, after a moment, provides a list of
local businesses that match, including phone numbers and addresses. (Click the right or
left arrow at the bottom of the window to see the next set of results.)
The contact information is clickable, by the way. Click the name of the place to open a
Web page revealing more information, the phone number to enlarge it big enough to see
from 50 feet away, or the address to see where this place is on a MapQuest map.
Note: Before Business can show you a list of local businesses, it has to know what you
mean by local—in other words, where you are. Now, your Mac may already know where
you live. It can extract this information from your original Mac OS X installation, for
example, or from the Address Book program (if you've filled in a card for yourself).But if
it doesn't seem to know where you are—or if you're traveling with a laptop—you have to
tell it. Perform any random search using the widget (try Banks, for example). At the
bottom of the results window, you'll see the . Click it to rotate the widget; on the
back, you'll see that you can specify a city and state or Zip code, how many listings you
want per "page," and how many miles away a business has to be to qualify. Then click
Here's your basic four-function pocket calculator, with one-number memory storage.
Begin by clicking it to make active—which basically means that any typing you do on
the number keys get intercepted by this little calculator. (Pressing the number keys is
much faster than clicking the onscreen numbers.)
There's not a lot to this calculator; if you need scientific and hexadecimal features, or
even square root functions, use the regular Calculator program described on Section 10.3.
Apple has provided about 65,000 different ways to access its built-in dictionary/
thesaurus (Section 10.6.3), and here's another one. You click either the word Dictionary
or Thesaurus, type the word you want, and press Enter. Instantly, a handy definitions
panel drops down to display the appropriate entry. The left/right triangle buttons in the
upper-left corner let you walk through the most recent lookups you've done, and the pop-
up menu lets you specify whether you want to search the dictionary, the thesaurus, or the
Apple terminology glossary (which is new in Leopard).
- Tip: Once you've looked up a word, you can look up new words by typing only the first
few letters. (You don't even have to press Return.) The Dictionary or Thesaurus
automatically displays the definition for the first matching word.
If you click the button in the lower-left corner, the dictionary panel spins around to
reveal its back side, where you see the Oxford American Dictionaries logo. Someday
when you're feeling curious, click it. You wind up firing up your Web browser and
visiting the Oxford University Press Web page.
Tip: See how the first letter of your word appears in a special rounded tab at the left edge
of the panel? If you click that letter, you get to see the word you looked up in its
alphabetical context among all the other words in the dictionary. It's a neat way to check
for additional word forms, to see if perhaps you've misspelled the word, or to scrabble
your way out of a tight situation when you're playing the word game "ghost" with