Dashboard a technology introduced in Mac OS X gave birth to the widget – mini-applications that perform common tasks (like checking weather info or stock prices) quickly and easily. Instead of launching separate programs for each task widgets provide you with all those little ‘desktop accessories’ you need to make your life easier.
To activate Dashboard just hit F12 on your keyboard. If you are already using the F12 key for something else you can customise the shortcut in the ‘Keyboard & Mouse’ system preference.
When activated Dashboard overlays your screen with widgets that zoom in from the edges. You can literally fill your screen with hundreds of different widgets and have multiple instances of widgets as well.
For example the World Clock widget that comes standard with OS X can be used multiple times if you want to keep track of the time in more than one place. Just drag it out of the dock as many times as you need it.
Widget development is alive and well and with the release of Dashcode it’s really easy to make your own widget. In fact Apple is taking this a step further with Leopard (on track for an October release) where you’ll be able to create a widget from any web page.
Most of the default widgets Mac OS X ships with are great if you live in the US that’s why we thought we’d provide you with a list of ten essential widgets for your ‘Australian’ Mac.
The Top 10 Dashboard Widgets for Australians
This widget keeps you up-to-date with local weather forecasts anywhere in Australia. Information is pulled from the BOM so you know it’s as accurate as they come.
Shows the current temperature just about anywhere in Australia. Great if you have family interstate — you can watch their miserable cold weather while luxuriating in your beautiful temperate weather. Unfortunately it works the other way around too of course.
Check your current Internet usage with these handy widgets available for Netspace OptusNet OzEmail iiNet aaNet and Internode. Makes staying on top of your shrinking bandwidth easy!
There’s also a Dashboard Widget for the BigPond usage meter that displays a whole lot of info. And a simple usage meter that’s compatible with a number of ISPs: Internode BigPond and TPG. If you’re with Exetel you’ll want this usage meter widget .
Unfortunately there don’t appear to be any Dashboard widgets for the Westnet or AAPT usage meters yet.
It’s not exactly specific to Australia but given the fact that Aussies are avid online shoppers this is a very useful widget to easily calculate currency conversions between more than 170 world currencies. It has many more currencies than Apple’s converter widget (and has the ability to show more than one currency at once) including all the older European currencies for mailorder collectors of the antique Romanian Å£ilincÄ for example.
The scenario: your hotted up Camira is out the front yard with a newly busted distributor. You need to move it so you can get the Torana out so Dad can move the Cortina to get to the Commodore. All while watching the boat.
You flip through the yellow pages and find the number of the local car dealership to find out the cost of a new disty. It’s mindblowingly expensive – $1200.
You turn to the Trading Post and ring around a bit and find a bloke selling one brand new for only $350. You buy it but when you get it home you take it out of the box only to discover it’s a grubby old recycled part.
So you turn to the White Pages to look up the guy’s phone number so you can say a few choice words over the phone.
Sensis has managed to automate that entire process. This handy widget gives you access to the Yellow Pages Trading Post and White Pages all in one compact integrated widget.
Want to know what’s on at the movies? This widget asks you for your postcode then presents you with a ‘what’s on’ at your local cinemas. It pulls the data from Yahoo Movies so you can click on a movie name and read Margaret and David’s review — too easy!
If you’ve invested in an ASX-listed stock you’ll want this widget. Simply enter the stock ticker buy price and quantity and this widget will let you know whether you are richer or poorer by the minute.
Wait — wasn’t this a top 10? Aha… our special bonus trick ladies and gentlemen is converting widgets designed to run on web pages (like MySpace or Google) into OS X Dashboard widgets.
You simply copy and paste the HTML code for a web widget directly into this nifty program Amnesty Generator and it will generate a fresh Dashboard widget with the click of a button.
It’s not exactly the slickest system — it basically presents the web widget in a frame on your Dashboard so you don’t get the benefit of transparency around a widget and so on but it gets the job done giving you access to thousands more widgets than you had before!