A fun way to customize the Mac desktop is to add floating widgets for things like weather, ski conditions, stocks, and time. These widgets are actually from Dashboard, a largely forgotten feature of OS X that can be made useful again by bringing them more to the forefront of your desktop experience. This is different from making Dashboard hover over everything again, because this actually liberates the widgets out of Dashboard turning them into movable objects on the desktop itself.
Longtime Mac users may be familiar with this trick, but it still works in the most recent versions of OS X and in many ways is more useful now that Dashboard has been deemphasized in Lion and Mountain Lion.
Enabling Dashboard Developer Mode
To get individual Dashboard widgets onto the desktop, you will need to first enable Dashboard developer mode:
- Open Terminal and enter the following defaults command, placing Dashboard into Developer Mode:
defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES
- Next, pull down the Apple menu and choose System Preferences, then choose the “Mission Control” panel
- Uncheck “Show Dashboard as a space” to make widgets float over the desktop again
- Go to the Apple menu again and choose “Log Out”, then log back in again for changes to take effect
Once developer mode has been turned on and dashboard as a space has been turned off, you’re ready to move widgets to the desktop.
Bringing Widgets to the Desktop
Now to get any widget out of dashboard and instead to stick on the desktop, you will want to use the Dashboard keyboard shortcut. Typically that is the F4 key, but if it was changed use the new keyboard shortcut instead:
- Open Dashboard by hitting F4
- Click and hold on any widget, then while continuing to hold the widget hit F4 again
- Repeat as necessary to add more widgets to the OS X desktop
Position the widget onto the desktop as desired, somewhere unobtrusive is ideal because even though the widget is now on the desktop, it will still float above other windows and apps, including things like Launchpad and Mission Control.
Because the widgets float over other documents, it is best to not overdo it and perhaps stick to one or two that are particularly useful or interesting.
Removing a Widget from the Desktop
To remove the widget from the desktop again, reverse the process which added them to begin with:
- Click and hold on the widget that is floating on the desktop, then hit F4
- Release F4 while Dashboard is open again to return it there and remove from the desktop
Repeat that process for multiple widgets.
Disabling Dashboard Developer Mode
There is no harm in leaving devmode enabled, but to turn it off again by flipping the NO flag to YES. Note that disabling devmode alone is not sufficient to remove the widgets from the Mac desktop, you need to manually do that using the method above.
- Launch Terminal and enter the following defaults command:
defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode NO
- Log out and log in again by way of the Apple menu
Again, if widgets are still persisting on the desktop after devmode is disabled it is because you did not move them back into Dashboard beforehand.
The video below demonstrates adding widgets to the desktop and removing them, and how they float over all system apps in addition to other windows.
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