OS X Dashboard: Apple's oft-ignored widget interface — do you use it?

OS X's Dashboard has been around for almost a decade, a repository of "Widget" mini-apps. Do you use it or do you ignore it completely?

Dashboard is a special app built into OS X that features "Widgets." These mini-applications combine HTML, CSS and JavaScript to provide limited functionality compared to full-blown applications, but still offer plenty of functionality that's only a single key-click away. Apple really hasn't made any innovations to it in years, so it's easy to ignore the Dashboard. That's probably why many of us ignore Dashboard completely, though based on my unscientific survey, many of us still depend on it daily. I know I do, which is what got me wondering if and how you use it.

Apple includes a number of built-in widgets like a calculator, calendar and clock, stock tracker and more. But there are literally thousands of additional widgets that you can download and install to do whatever you'd like. There are widgets for shopping, widgets for weather. There are game widgets, food widgets, widgets for information and transportation. Widgets that monitor what's happening on your computer, widgets to follow your favorite sports teams. There are widgets for practically anything.

I did a survey of my Twitter followers to find out how they used Dashboard — or whether they used it at all. I was crushed with responses. Many of you told me that you don't have a use for Dashboard; some of you said that you have, in fact, deactivated Dashboard all together (you can uncheck Show Dashboard as a Space in the Mission Control system preferences, or to go the extra step, actually kill the process in the Terminal).

Messy Dashboard

But the many others who are using Dashboard find myriad uses for it. Setting clocks for different time zones, for example, or for weather map tracking. Some use it to track package deliveries, or to jot quick notes.

I use mine regularly for the calculator and unit conversions, and some of you do too. I also use it to look up words in the Dictionary, even though I could by option-clicking and using the pop-up menu. Text translation is another use. I even keep track of sports teams I care about using an ESPN widget.

Dashboard has been around since OS X 10.4 Tiger, and it'll probably be around for a while longer. What uses have you found for it? Let me know in the comments.

Peter Cohen