Wild About Widgets

I cleaned out my desk today and found a basic calculator. Not a fancy scientific calculator or one with a graphing function, just a regular calculator. I gave it away. Why? Well, I just don’t need one anymore.

There is one on my dashboard. A “dashboard” on a Mac is found in the “dock.” The dock is the bar usually found at the bottom of the screen that launches various applications. The dashboard is represented by a round, black gauge icon. Click it and it darkens the screen and reveals a display of all kinds of useful devices known as widgets.

The standard configuration is an analog clock, a calendar, a 5-day weather report for the city of your choice, and a calculator. To the lower left is a plus sign (+) that allows you to choose from several more widgets, for example, a dictionary/thesaurus, flight tracker, address book, a unit converter and a game or two.

On a PC, you can access a calculator by going under the file menu and locating it under applications. On a Mac, you can customize the tools (widgets) of your choice and have them ready for use in one click. It’s very convenient. It’s kind of like pulling an opaque shade down over your screen so you don?t lose track of what you?re working on and are able to reference something quickly.

If you are writing a report and are looking for the perfect word, simply click on the dashboard icon and your thesaurus is ready at hand. Widgets are useful and, evidently, collectable. A search of Mac.com reveals a library of well over a thousand of these widgets from which to choose. There are restaurant locators – just enter a zip code, recipe of the day widgets, stock reports, sports team reports, anything you could desire.

A friend of mine told me he has a Maxim Magazine model of the day widget. There is a widget for everyone indeed. While I haven’t downloaded any additional widgets from the website, I did add a new one to my dashboard today.

Curious about my other widget options, I clicked the plus sign and it revealed a widget labeled “translation.” As many of the sources I use to catalog images at work are in foreign languages, the translation widget is a great helper. I can type in text in a foreign language (German, Dutch, French, Spanish, etc) and it will give me a translation in English (or a language of my choice). It’s fast, much faster than looking each word up in a foreign language dictionary or even going to a translation website. It is like altavista.com’s Babel Fish, except it is ready at hand and doesn’t require a trip to a separate website.

The one caveat of using widgets such as weather reports, stock reports, flight trackers and any of the other widgets that require an up-to-the-minute reading is that you must be connected to the Internet. This does not pose a major problem to most, but if you happen to be out of wireless range or disconnected from the Internet, you will not be able to get a reading on these particular widgets.

It is fun to be able to select from a vast library of widgets to customize your dashboard. I’ve discovered that you can learn quite a bit about a person by their choice in widgets. In fact, widgets are, in this way, a lot like iTunes library lists – a topic to be explored in the near future.

One Reply to “Wild About Widgets”

  1. Thanks for the MAC tips! As a relatively new MAC convert, it’s so fun to read techie stuff in easily understood terms. Found the Dashboard by using Launchpad – and there it was (along with a lot of other new icons)! Next step: put icons in my Dock that I frequently use and remove the ones I have no clue as to why they are there. 🙂

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