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Widgets on Your Mac Desktop

Use Terminal to Free Your Widgets From the Dashboard

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Dashboard Widgets: Widgets on Your Mac Desktop

Widgets that have been moved to the Desktop.

Dashboard Widgets: Widgets on Your Mac Desktop

You can use Terminal to enable Dashboard Development mode.

One of the cool features of OS X is the Dashboard, a special environment where widgets, those mini-applications designed to perform a single task, reside.

Now, widgets are pretty cool. They let you quickly access productive or just plain fun applications by switching to the Dashboard environment, you can even create your own Dashboard widgets. The not-so-cool part of widgets is the Dashboard environment. Apple created Dashboard so that widgets would run inside a special protected area. You can think of Dashboard as a corral; the widgets inside Dashboard can’t get to the system or user data outside Dashboard. The downside is that you have to leave the Mac desktop and enter the special Dashboard application in order to access your widgets, a process that makes widgets inherently second-class application citizens. I would much rather have the widgets I want to use available at all times, right on my desktop.

Luckily for us, that’s actually pretty easy to do. Apple even provides documentation about how to do it, because widget developers need to run their widgets on the desktop, so they can debug them during the development process. We’re going to take advantage of the same Terminal trick that Apple developers use to put our widgets on the desktop.

Use Terminal to Enable Dashboard Development Mode

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.

  2. Enter the following command line into Terminal. You can copy/paste the text into Terminal, or you can simply type the text as shown. The command is a single line of text, but your browser may break it into multiple lines. Be sure to enter the command as a single line in the Terminal application.

    defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES

     
  3. Press enter or return.

  4. Enter the following text into Terminal. If you type the text rather than copy/paste it, be sure to match the case of the text.

    killall Dock 
     
  5. Press enter or return.

  6. The Dock will disappear for a moment, and then reappear.

  7. Enter the following text into Terminal.

    exit 
     
  8. Press enter or return.

  9. The exit command will cause Terminal to end the current session. You can then quit the Terminal application.

How to Move a Widget to the Desktop, (OS X Mountain Lion or Later)

OS X Mountain Lion and later requires an additional step. By default the Dashboard is considered part of Mission Control and is treated as a Space. You need to first force Mission Control not to move the Dashboard into a Space:

  1. Launch System Preferences by clicking its Dock icon, or selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.

  2. Select the Mission Control preference pane.

  3. Remove the checkmark from the item labeled Show Dashboard as Space.

  4. Continue the instructions below for moving Widgets to the Desktop (OS X Mountain Lion or Earlier).

How to Move a Widget to the Desktop (OS X Mountain Lion or Earlier)

  1. Press F12, or click the ‘Dashboard’ icon in the Dock.

  2. Select a widget by clicking it and holding down the mouse button. Still holding the mouse button, move the widget slightly. Keep holding the mouse button until the end of the next step.

  3. Press F12, then drag the widget to the location of your choice on the desktop. Once the widget is where you want it, release the mouse button.

Widgets that you move to the desktop will always reside in front of the desktop and any applications or windows you may have open. For this reason, moving a widget to the desktop may not be the best idea if your Mac has a small display. You need plenty of room for widgets for this trick to be really useful.

Return a Widget to the Dashboard

If you decide you don’t wish to have a widget take up permanent residence on your desktop, you can return the widget to the Dashboard by reversing the process.

  1. Select a widget on the desktop by clicking it and holding down the mouse button. Still holding the mouse button, move the widget slightly. Keep holding the mouse button until the end of the next step.

  2. Press F12, then drag the widget to the location of your choice in Dashboard. Once the widget is where you want it, release the mouse button.

  3. Press F12 again. The widget you selected will disappear, along with the Dashboard environment.

Use Terminal to Disable Dashboard Development Mode

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.

  2. Enter the following text into Terminal as a single line.

    defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode NO
     
  3. Press enter or return.

  4. Enter the following text into Terminal. Be sure to match the case of the text.

    killall Dock
     
  5. Press enter or return.

  6. The Dock will disappear for a moment, and then reappear.

  7. Enter the following text into Terminal.

    exit
     
  8. Press enter or return.

  9. The exit command will cause Terminal to end the current session. You can then quit the Terminal application.
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