Mac OS X Tiger has plenty of goodness. In your face and under the hood. The most in-your-face addition to the Mac is Dashboard Widgets. They’re cute. They’re cuddly. They’re collectable. Some are actually worthwhile. Many widgets are worthless.
If you’re not using Mac OS X Tiger and don’t plan to, that’s OK. You won’t know what you’re missing. If you keep reading, you’ll know what’s cool about Widgets. The good ones. There are bad ones, too.
Widgets are desktop accessories without the desktop. They reside on a layer of their own and are easily accessible with a click or swipe of the mouse. Boom. The whole screen is filled with Widgets.
Apple provides a handful of very good Widgets. Let’s call them basics. They’re good, they’re useful. They’re free. Well, so far, anyway, most Widgets are free. That’s probably because Widgets don’t take much programming to become useful.
Here’s my list of the Best Widgets on the Planet. Your mileage may vary.
First, the Apple Widgets. Apple supplies an Address Book Widget that’s tied into Address Book. It’s simple and works well. The same can be said for Calculator, Calendar, Dictionary, Stickies, Stocks, Tile Game, Translation, Unit Converter, Weather and World Clock.
Granted, you’re not going to use all these Widgets every day, though they work OK in their version 1.0 status. I particularly like Weather, Dictionary, and Translation and Unit Converter. I’ve opened Weather three times on my screen so it shows three different locations. That’s handy.
As expected, there’s now about 300 Widgets on the market. The OS X Tiger Widgets should not be confused with the Konfabulator Widgets which launched a couple of years ago and run on Windows, too. Apple’s Widgets are generally more stable and work in a more elegant fashion than the Widgets that work with Konfabulator application.
There’s a long story about Konfabulator and Apple’s Widgets. In short, Apple’s are really better for you. No, they didn’t steal Widgets from Konfabulator since the whole idea of extra applications to handle odd little chores probably goes back to the original Mac OS and “desk accessories.”
If you still need to argue the point, read John Gruber’s take on Konfabulator vs. Apple’s Dashboard Widgets. Click Here for the end all argument on Dashboard vs. Konfabulator. Oh, Konfabulator loses. Get over it.
Generally, Apple’s Widgets work well and play nice, though screen real estate becomes a premium rather quickly. There seems to be a limit of 18 stocks in the Stocks Widget. Dictionary is handy but Tiger’s dictionary is nearly system wide now so it’s everywhere you want to be. Select a word, control-click.
I’ve started my own Widget collection. You, too? What a shock.
I’ve got the AmazonSearch.wdgt. It takes just as long to call up the Widget as it does to use a bookmark to get Safari to Amazon. The Britannica encyclopedia lookup Widget is very handy. So far, I’ve used it twice but it was cool both times.
Remarkably valuable is the Countdown Calendar. It looks like one of those old desktop day-by-day calendars where you flip the page (or rip it off) to bring forward another day. But it counts down to a pre-determined day. Right now I have 15 days left until a trip to visit my parents. You can open multiples, too.
“Even on a 23-inch Apple Cinema Display HD there’s just not enough screen to show all the Widgets that I want.”Hand in hand with iCal is iCal Events. I like this one. It shows today and tomorrow’s iCal events without having to open iCal. One click (or wrist swish) and you can see what’s coming up on iCal.
MyYahoo Widget gets the latest news from Yahoo, AND shows you how many messages are in your Yahoo email account.
Very handy and colorful is the SysStat Widget which display various system statistics. I like being able to see Green for available RAM.
Another favorite is SlothCam. It’s a bad name for a very good application. Basically, it’s a web cam window. Select or enter the URL of a web cam and it displays the image in a nice box. Mine is linked to a web cam in New York and one on Abbey Road in London, UK.
The YaGoohoogle Widget lets you search multiple search engines at the same time. I haven’t found the process of going from what I’m doing to the Dashboard to the Widget to be any faster than going to Safari to do the same thing.
Maybe the most valuable and useful Widget for me is PackageTracker. It’s small and expands only when you need more information about a package. It checks delivery status for packages from FedEx, UPS, and DHL. Add the USPS and it’d be perfect.
The Scoreboard Widget is almost handy. It displays baseball scores but it’s too small. What’s needed is a scoreboard application that’s small until you “mouse over” it, then it expands to show ALL major sports and recent scores. That would be great.
The Genius Bar Widget lets you check the Genius Bar schedule at your favorite Apple Store. There’s a couple of 8 Ball Widgets. Remember those plastic 8 Balls that you could “shake” and would give you a genric answer that would fit nearly any question? It’s not worth much except to try it out a few times and show your Windows friends what they’re missing.
The Unix Permissions Widget I really like. Mac OS X is based on Unix so uses a file permissions system that actually requires some thought. Since I can never remember what’s what, the Unix Permissions Widget is a good tool.
TV Tracker is handy. It will show you the TV schedule for your area, cable TV included. It’s a huge Widget and needs to be smaller with some kind of “mouse over” ability that expands the display screen.
That brings up a major issue. Screen real estate. Even on a 23-inch Apple Cinema Display HD there’s just not enough screen to show all the Widgets that I want. After barely a month of Tiger there’s hundreds and hundreds of Widgets. There will be hundreds and hundreds more.
There’s a Widget that shows traffic in various locations. One shows traffic cams. Another shows Russian TV. That’s exciting. Since we have around 300 Widgets available already, what’ll it be like by the end of the year? Even Apple’s 30-inch display won’t be enough.
What’s your favorite Widget? What’s the worst Widget you’ve seen to date? Any problems with your Widgets? Share your perspective and experience with other readers and click the Comments link below.