Most Dashboard widgets are useless pieces of crap. With that said, a good widget can be both fun and useful.
Our list of 12 must-have widgets covers a wide range of categories, which should appeal to pretty much everyone looking to get the most out of their Mac experience. Of course, not everybody’s favorite can be included so if there’s one you feel should be added to the list, let us know in the comments!
1. iStat Pro
The ultimate widget to get an overview of everything that’s going on with your Mac. At a glance you can check your CPU & RAM usage, available hard drive space, network status & speeds, internal temperatures, fan speed, battery levels, current processes, and more — all with a great, elegantly designed interface.
2. Amazon Album Art
iTunes automatically downloads album cover art for your music, but only if you have an iTunes account and if they sell the music in your library. If a song or album isn’t for sale in iTunes, no cover art for you. This widget will quickly get album cover art from Amazon’s large database for the currently selected songs in iTunes.
Harmonic makes it extremely easy to get lyrics to your favorite songs. All you need to do is play a song in iTunes, launch Dashboard, and the lyrics will automatically display and copy right into iTunes. Lesser known songs lyrics may not be available, but for the vast majority of popular music it works great.
Remembering all the keyboard shortcuts Mac OS X has to offer is just about impossible. When you need a good reference for shortcuts, the xCuts widget will probably have what you’re looking for — right on your Dashboard. You can even view by category and search the database.
Apple bundles a widget called Unit Converter with the Mac operating system, but it’s a bit clunky and slow to work with. QwikConvert, however, is incredibly fast and offers a ton of conversions that update as you type. It doesn’t get much better than that.
6. Asteroid Run 2
I don’t normally like games on my Dashboard because they suck up system resources and fill valuable screen real estate. Asteroid Run 2 has me hooked for some reason, though. It’s a fun little time-waster where you navigate your spaceship through an obstacle course of asteroids to pass through a series of loops before time runs out. It’s fairly challenging and has decent graphics, so it’s definitely worth a try.
7. Time Machine Buddy
Time Machine is an excellent feature introduced in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, but it doesn’t give users much feedback in terms of what’s going on behind the scenes. For most people, that’s exactly what they want. For others like me, a little more information is good to have. The Time Machine Buddy widget will display the system logs generated by each backup, whether they are in progress or already completed.
8. Recently Added Widgets
If you’re always looking to make new additions to your Dashboard, this is the perfect widget for you. It keeps you updated on the latest widgets by grabbing the feed from Apple’s website to display the 20 most recently posted Dashboard widgets.
For some security freaks, a simple word-based password is the equivalent of a technology sin. They can be easily cracked, which leaves your online accounts open to hackers. The iPassword widget helps to alleviate this risk by randomly generating stings of text and numbers (at a character length of your choice), which you can use as passwords when you sign up for new accounts on the web.
10. Apple Retail Store Event Widget
Some people may not be aware that Apple Stores regularly hold free events and workshops to teach visitors how to perform certain tasks on a Mac, like creating a home video in iMovie or a song in Garageband. This widget provides a list of upcoming events at your local Apple Store so you know when to stop by for a presentation that interests you.
Get Google Maps on your Dashboard with this lightweight, easy to use widget. You can zoom in & out, use a variety of views (map, satellite, and hybrid), and even set your home address as a reference point. Sorry, no turn-by-turn directions though.
Forgetting birthdays of friends and family is a big problem for a lot of people. It’s not that you don’t care… you’re just so busy you don’t even realize, right? Unfortunately, that excuse can only work so many times. This helpful widget takes your contacts’ birthdays from Address Book and displays them so you can easily see when there’s one on the way.