How the macOS Dashboard can actually help you be productive

Introduced in 2005, Dashboard is still a useful Web clippings tool

Apple, OS X, maxOS, Web, Tiger, how to, Dashboard

Apple keeps trying to kill Dashboard but you can still use the Mac’s widget-friendly one-stop-shop to all kinds of useful information – and perhaps the one thing it does that Notifications can’t truly match is monitor Websites for you.

What is Dashboard?

Introduced with OS X Tiger in 2005, Dashboard acts as a host for all manner of mini-apps (widgets). (Take a look at the image above -- an Apple PR image from 2005, it's amusing how many references to "Yosemite" you'll find. Along with a Dashboard icon in the Menu bar).

Your Mac ships with a range of widgets, including contacts, a puzzle game, flight tracker, calendar, clock, and weather app. You can enable new widgets by tapping the + icon at the lower left of the Dashboard environment.

You can find and install even more widgets from a range of third party developers when you tap the ‘More Widgets’ button. (Here is the complete collection).

Dashboard widgets can be useful, but Apple has been deprecating their importance in the last couple of OS releases (it hasn’t had a significant improvement in years).

That’s why it makes sense to use Notifications widgets if one you need is available to minimize the workflow impact if Dashboard support is removed from macOS in future.

However, with hundreds of Dashboard widgets available in contrast to a handful of Notifications equivalents, you may still find work for idle Dashboards to do.

How to launch Dashboard

Originally an icon to access Dashboard was hosted in the Dock by default. This changed in OS X Yosemite and you may now need to enable it.

To enable Dashboard:

  • Open System Preferences>Mission Control.
  • Set Dashboard to Off, As Space, or As Overlay

Off is self-explanatory. You can access Dashboard in its own Space, or as an Overlay atop your Desktop. My personal favorite is Overlay because it gives me the information I need without removing me from my workspace.

  • At the bottom of the preferences pan you will see your Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts. Show Dashboard is probably set to appear when you press F12, but you can change this if you wish.

To access Dashboard:

Once you have enabled it here are the many ways to access your Dashboard:

  • Tell Siri to “Open Dashboard”
  • Tap Command-Space, type ‘Dashboard’ in the search box, hit Return
  • Double-click its icon in your Applications folder (Or drag the icon back to its rightful place in your Dock for future use).
  • Use Launchpad
  • Tap F12 (or another function button you may assign)
  • Swipe up with three fingers on your trackpad to access Mission Control. Tap ‘Dashboard’.
  • Create a Hot Corner shortcut to Dashboard in Mission Control

How to create a Web clipping

Dashboard becomes a powerful tool if you want to keep an eye on multiple Websites without interrupting whatever it is you are trying to get done. An Apple watcher might want to keep up with an element of a few sites, such as the top stories on MacSurfer or MacDailyNews; or new posts on my AppleMust. You might want to keep an eye on the status of a recent order; watch the most recent links on Reddit; or monitor sales on Amazon, it's completely up to you!

  • To create a Web clipping in Dashboard just navigate to the website you want to keep an eye on and choose File>Open In Dashboard
  • A purple border will appear at the top of the now greyed-out page, along with an exhortation to “Select part of the webpage, and then click Add.”
  • Move your cursor to the portion of the page that you want to monitor.
  • A box will appear above that area and the greyed-out effect will disappear.
  • You can adjust the size of the box using pull handles, once you have the right areas selected tap ‘Add’ and you’ll be taken to Dashboard view where you will watch your new Web clipping appear, containing content sourced from the area of the page you want to watch.

In future, you will be able to take a quick glance at these pages just by accessing your Dashboard, enabling you to keep up with the headlines while you try to remain focused on the task at hand.

Editing the clips

You can edit the way clips look: Tap the small ‘I’ at the bottom right of the widget to access the settings for that clip. You can choose between six slightly different appearances and change the size of a clip by tapping “Edit” and dragging the corners to a new size.

To remove a widget from Dashboard, click the Remove (–) button in the lower-left corner of the Dashboard, then click the unwanted widget's close button (X).

Tip: You can refresh the contents of a web clipping in the Dashboard window. Tap on it to bring it to the front of the Dashboard and hit Command-R. An unusual animation will appear and the clipping will refresh with new content, if available.

I hope you manage to squeeze a little joy from using Dashboard.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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