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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

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Use Dashboard widgets on the desktop

The Dashboard is a handy feature in OS X on the Apple Mac and it provides access to a collection of widgets - mini programs - that perform simple, but useful functions. For example, there's a calculator, a dictionary, a calendar and so on.

To access them you either click the icon in the dock or press the hotkey that's been assigned on the keyboard, such as F12. The screen dims, programs are put into the background and the widgets are placed on top. When you've finished, pressing F12 hides the Dashboard widgets and you can access your programs again.

So you can either access your programs or the widgets, but not both at the same time. Wouldn't it be useful if you could access both? Having a handy widget on the screen at the same time as an application would be really useful. This is possible by changing a secret setting in OS X.

Open a Finder window and go to your home folder. Open the Library folder and then Preferences. Double click com.apple.dashboard and it will open in the Property List Editor (you may need to have the Xcode developer tools installed from the OS X DVD). Click the Add Child button in the toolbar and name the new key devmode. Set the type to String, then click in the Value column and set it to YES.

If you don't have the Property List Editor installed on your Mac, go to the Applications folder, open Utilities and then click Terminal. Type this command into the Terminal window:

defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES

Mac OS X DashboardThis does exactly what we did in the Property List Editor and it adds the devmode key to com.apple.dashboard and sets the value to YES.

You need to log off your account and log back in or restart the Mac in order to use the new setting.

When you're back at the desktop, open the Dashboard with F12 then click and hold the mouse on a widget as if you want to drag it somewhere, then press F12 again.

You'll continue to hold the widget as the desktop reappears and you can drop it wherever you want it. You now have the widget on the regular desktop with your applications.

To put the widget back in the Dashboard, click and hold it, press F12 to open the Dashboard and then drop it.


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