Make Your Mac’s Dashboard Actually Useful

Make Your Mac’s Dashboard Actually Useful

The Mac Dashboard doesn’t seem to get much love these days, and a decrease in the amount of widgets being made for it means people have likely moved on to dedicated apps for most of their widget purposes. Still, it’s an extra screen on your Mac and that means there must be something you can do with it, right? Let’s run through a few different ideas for turning the Dashboard into a dedicated screen for certain tasks.

The key is to embrace Dashboard for one of two ends: a fun screen or a useful screen. Don’t try and load it up with everything cool you can find. Instead, use it for singular services that are useful to you. Start by hitting up the official Dashboard widget page and find things that are useful for your workflow. A few built-in widgets, like sticky notes and the calculator are clearly useful, but here are a few other ideas for what you can do with the screen you might not have considered.

Monitor System Usage


You won’t find a shortage of great system-monitoring utilities for your Mac, but most of them sit cosily in your Dock or menu bar. That’s good for heavy users, but if you really just want something you can check in on occasionally, then the Dashboard is a surprisingly good place to put them. You have a lot of options to choose from, but here’s a few of our favourites.

Mighty Monitor: Displays battery status for Apple keyboard, mouse and trackpad.
iStat Pro: Monitors everything from heat to CPU usage. It’s handy if you don’t want to keep something in your menubar.
Time Machine Buddy: Use Time Machine? Wonder what and how it’s doing? This simple little widget keeps you updated on what the backup utility is actually up to.

Turn it Into a Zen-Like Work-Recovery Screen

We’ve shown you how to change the desktop background in Dashboard with a Terminal command, and you can also do it with the Lion Designer utility. Changing the background screen isn’t just about making the dashboard aesthetically pleasing — it’s also a great way to create a tiny sliver of sanity on your desktop. Get rid of all the widgets, load up your favourite, calming image, and when things are getting a little hectic in your day, load up Dashboard for a little sanity.

Set it Up Just for Notes

If you’re looking for a good place to stuff ideas the Dashboard is an incredibly useful place to do it. The built-in stickies serve as a good place to jot down a quick note, but if you’re looking for a little more function, Dashnote syncs everything you type directly with Simplenote, making it an easy way to keep track of all your notes without running a desktop or web app.

Store a Cheatsheet for All Your Keyboard Shortcuts

We all love keyboard shortcuts, right? They’re a great way to save time, but they can be difficult to remember. Dashkards is a great way to keep them handy without clogging up your desktop. The widget has built-in support for most major apps and web apps, including Gmail, Chrome, Evernote and most of Apple apps. Even if you don’t ever want to use Dashboard for anything at all, Dashkards is incredibly useful.

Just Kill it All Together

Still not really seeing the point in Dashboard? That’s OK, it’s not useful for everyone and thankfully you can just kill the process altogether and restore system resources in the process. Load up Terminal and type this command:

defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean NO

Now restart Finder, your Dashboard will be killed, and it will no longer suck up precious system resources.

The above are just a few different ideas for getting more use (or in some people’s case, any use) out of Dashboard. Do you still find yourself using Dashboard, or have dedicated apps replaced the once-handy widgets?


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