Dashboard (Mac OS)
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Dashboard widgets running under Mac OS X 10.7 Lion
|Initial release||April 29, 2005|
|Stable release||1.8 (July 20, 2011[±])|
|Preview release||Non [±]|
|Operating system||Mac OS X v10.4 - OS X v10.9|
|Website||Apple Dashboard's Download page|
Dashboard is an application for Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X operating systems, used for hosting mini-applications known as widgets. First introduced in Tiger, it is a semi-transparent layer that is invisible to the user unless activated by clicking its icon in the Dock. Alternatively, the user can invoke Dashboard by moving the cursor into a preassigned hot corner, or by pressing a hot key or mouse button, any of which can be set to the user's preference.
When Dashboard is activated, the user's desktop is dimmed and widgets appear in the foreground. Like application windows, they can be moved around, rearranged, deleted, and recreated (so that more than one of the same Widget is open at the same time, possibly with different settings). New widgets can be opened, via an icon bar on the bottom of the layer, by dragging a widget icon out into the layer. After loading, the widget is ready for use.
Starting with OS X 10.7 "Lion", the Dashboard can be configured as a space, accessed by swiping four fingers to the right. OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion" further expanded on the dashboard by allowing widgets to be organized into iOS-style folders, implemented similarly to folders in Launchpad.
Creation of widgets
When a Dashboard widget is built, it usually consists of six files:
- The widget's HTML file, which is the actual file that will be displayed in the Dashboard layer
- The widget's CSS file, which is used for styling the widget (but is called on from the HTML file)
- The widget's Property List (called “Info.plist”), which is what Dashboard uses to load the widget’s properties (i.e.: name, version, HTML file, etc.)
- The background image of the widget, in PNG format
- The icon that is displayed in the menu bar
Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard" includes an application called Dashcode, which is a more user-friendly way of creating widgets. Another new feature of Mac OS X Leopard is called "Web Clips" which lets users easily create widgets from parts of a webpage. For example, during the WWDC 2007 keynote, Steve Jobs made widgets out of the following: the featured news headlines on Yahoo.com, the top ten most searched terms on Google, the Photo of the Day on National Geographic, the Dilbert comic strip, and the box office information from Rotten Tomatoes. The user can also customize the border to further personalize the widgets.
Widget functions and capabilities
Dashboard widgets, like web pages, are capable of many different things, often to perform tasks that would be tedious or complicated for the user to access manually. One example is the Google Search widget, which simply opens up the user's browser and performs a Google search. Other widgets, like Wikipedia, grab the contents of web pages and display them within Dashboard. Some widgets can also serve as games, using Adobe Flash (or another multimedia authoring program) to create games just as if they were in a browser. It is also possible for Mac users to create their own widgets using built-in software.
Dashboard uses a variety of graphical effects for displaying, opening, and using widgets. For instance, a 3-D flip effect is used to simulate the widget flipping around, by clicking on a small i icon in the right bottom corner, the user can change the preferences on the reverse side; other effects include crossfading and scaling from icon to body (when opening widgets), a "spin cycle effect" when a widget is focused and the user presses Command-R or a suck-in effect when they are closed. On sufficiently powered Macs, widgets will produce a ripple effect when they are opened, like a leaf falling onto water. These effects consume considerable processing power and are arguably merely cosmetic, but with the help of OS X’s Quartz Extreme and Core Image graphics architectures, sufficient computing power to render them in real time is available. As with Exposé, Front Row and the minimise effect, holding shift down while calling the Dashboard or opening the Dashboard menu bar will display the effect in slow motion.
Comparison with Konfabulator
Many people have made comparisons between Konfabulator and Apple's Dashboard, especially after Apple announced the feature while Mac OS X v10.4 was in development. It was a subject of debate in the online community following the few months before Mac OS X Tiger's official release.
One school of thought came to the conclusion that Dashboard was a "rip-off" of Konfabulator. It points out the visual and functional similarities between Dashboard has been widely compared to Konfabulator (now Yahoo! Widget Engine) and sometimes called a copy of it, due to the similarities between their graphical aspects and the fact that they both use the term “widgets” to describe the objects in their environments. Konfabulator may in turn have been based on Apple’s Desk Accessories, first released in 1984 with the original Macintosh. Desk Accessories, similar to widgets, were small mini-applications that operated on a user’s desktop. After the introduction of System 7 and cooperative multitasking, the necessity of creating Desk Accessories was removed and developers were encouraged to create applications instead. The OS continued to support them, for backward compatibility, until the switch to Mac OS X (In fact, the Calculator desk accessory remained in the Mac OS through version 9, 17 years without a significant update).
In the first version of DashBoard released with Mac OS X v10.4 - v10.4.3, Apple included 14 widgets. They consisted of:
- Address Book (now known as Contacts)
- Flight Tracker
- iTunes Controller—no longer included in latest OS X releases.
- Phone Book—no longer included in latest OS X releases.
- Tile Game
- Unit Converter
- World Clock
After the Macworld 2006 keynote, Steve Jobs also announced four new widgets (Ski Report, People Finder, Google Search, and ESPN), as well as significant updates to the Phone Book and Calendar widgets. All of these are available through the Mac OS X v10.4.4 update.
In addition, Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard" released in late 2007, includes new widgets. One of these is Web Clips, which allows any user to turn a rectangular section of any webpage into a widget (This, however, only works with Safari). The widget updates as the website does, and all links and other interactive material in the widget's selection of the webpage works as if the website is being accessed from Safari. Another new widget is Movies, which allows users to find currently playing movies at local theaters, view trailers, and purchase tickets directly from Dashboard.
Widgets on iOS
Apple has not, as of early 2013, announced support for the installation of Dashboard widgets on the iOS. Even though, in June 2008, an unannounced update of Dashcode that was packaged with the iPhone SDK allowed for the creation of iPhone-oriented web widgets, it is unknown if this most recent version of Dashcode would support the creation of AJAX-driven mobile widgets that could be installed natively on the iOS.
On June 2, 2014, as part of their announcement of iOS 8, Apple announced that in the 'Today' view (which is accessible by swiping down the status bar) will be able to have downloadable widgets from the App Store. While not the same desktop-oriented widgets that are found in the Dashboard, this is the first time that widgets became available officially (i.e., without Jailbreaking) on iOS.
- Where Apple Went Wrong With Widgets, a blog post claiming Dashboard was a Konfabulator rip off.
- Much Ado About Dashboard More debate, cites other references.
- Special Patrol: Arlo Rose on Tiger’s Dashboard, an interview with one of Konfabulators authors. Includes his opinions about Dashboard. Includes a response to the "Desk Accessories argument".
- Dashboard vs. Konfabulator, a blog post claiming Dashboard was not a rip off of Konfabulator. Includes history and technical details.