Marcus in Widgetland
Dashboard is no doubt one of the coolest features of the newest Mac OS X release, Tiger. It comprises little applications that do anything from reporting the weather forecast, to providing stock information, to playing games. Now that Tiger has been in the wild for some time, third-party developers have jumped on the Dashboard bandwagon and have begun to churn out widget after widget. Most are interesting, some are useful, and others leave you scratching your head wondering what the purpose was.
Dashboard has become a regular part of my life. Let me take you on a brief tour of some of the more useful and interesting widgets out there in widgetland.
For those of us who spend the majority of the day in an office with no windows, the Weather widget is a great way of keeping up on what exactly is happening outside. For the true weather junkie, though, you really need to have access to weather maps to know what’s going on out there. US Weather Plus provides that added information. By accessing the weather maps available from Weather.com, you can have any amount of information, from forecasted rainfall, to doppler radar, to visible satellite images at your disposal. You can choose any section of the US, and (contrary to the title of the widget) you can also choose other continents. Curious about the weather in Europe? How cold is it in northern Asia? All this information and more is at the click of your mouse. With this widget, you can be sure that you will never again be caught off-guard by that freak July snowstorm.
If you are a mobile user like I am, you often find yourself in need of a wireless hot spot to hop on the Internet and check e-mail, do research, etc. In large areas, sometimes the choices can be numerous. Or sometimes you just want to know if there is anything available at all, without constantly trying to connect to various networks. That is where a widget like Air Traffic Control comes in. This widget will display all of the available wireless networks that AirPort can see. It gives statistics like the signal strength, the wireless channel that it operates on, and whether the network is encrypted—an excellent and quick way to find that elusive hot spot.
Ever want a quick glance at what’s on the other 374 channels on your cable system but don’t want to interrupt what you’re doing significantly? Well, Monkey Business Labs’ TV Tracker is here. This great little widget allows you to set your local cable system, then select your favorite channels to be tracked. You can also set the number of hours’ worth of program information it downloads and whether it will continuously update in the background. Once the widget is loaded, it will display the familiar TV grid of programming in a scrollable listing. Clicking on a particular program will take you to the Yahoo TV listings page for the program. The widget is of average size and allows you to see programing information for multiple channels easily and quickly. It’s the perfect widget for the wireless couch potato!
One of the most important things you can do for your computer is keep your software up to date. MacUpdate makes it easy to keep track of the ever-changing face of software development. The vast majority of software, from freeware to commercial software, is listed here. Now the folks at MacUpdate have released a Dashboard widget to make it even easier to keep track of new releases. The widget lists the latest additions to MacUpdate by default. You can select a particular category to list, from games, to utilities, to Dashboard widgets. You can even initiate a search from the widget. Clicking on any of the items listed in the software list will open up the description in your browser. It’s a definite must for a Mac user.
The latest craze, it seems, is all of the applications coming from the people over at Google. From video and audio search engines, to browser toolbars, to distributed computing clients, Google is definitely reaching beyond the standard Web search. One of the latest and coolest additions to the Google family is definitely Google Maps. The Google Maps widget makes it easier to explore all this application has to offer. Type in a location in the search field and the widget will display a map of the location. You can use the widget to zoom in and out of the map, change from map to satellite view, and click to view the larger maps online in your browser. You can also use your mouse to scroll around the maps, likely one of the most interesting parts of the Google Maps application. Use the Google Maps widget to explore these United States from the comfort of your own Dashboard, without using a drop of gas.
Twenty-five years ago, a small yellow character was chased all the way across the Pacific by four colorful ghosts. Thus began the craze that was Pac-Man. It has continued ever since. Pac-Man has been ported, emulated, and cloned on every system known to man. Now it’s available on the Macintosh, on your Dashboard. The Pacman widget is a very faithful recreation of the arcade classic, down to the graphics and sounds. It’s a great way to pass the time and very convenient in its widget form.
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The great thing about all of these widgets, and the vast majority of available widgets, is that they are completely free. It’s a whole new world of application, utility, and entertainment. Use these suggestions to start delving into it.
Also in This Series
- Give Alert Sounds a Little Personality · March 2012
- Create Your Own iPhone Ringtones · February 2012
- Create Your Own Homemade Audio Book · December 2011
- Upgrade to Lion Painlessly · August 2011
- Make the Most of TextEdit · July 2011
- Using the Free Disk Utility on Your Mac · May 2011
- Making Use of QuickTime X · March 2011
- Making the Most of What’s Already on Your Mac · February 2011
- Making the Most of What’s Already on Your Mac · January 2011
- Complete Archive