Although I was skeptical at first about the usefulness of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger's new Dashboard feature (I thought of widgets as desk accessories for the 21 century), Dashboard has quickly become my favorite Tiger feature. Why? Because there are so many widgets that are really useful, and they're so quick and easy to use!
My favorites among the widgets that come with Mac OS X 10.4 include Weather, Dictionary, and Calculator. These widgets have taken the place of applications and time-consuming Web surfing. They help save me time. I just leave them open on the Dashboard so when I press F12, they appear, ready to give me the information I need. What could be better for someone with work to do?
Of course, now that I've embraced widget technology, I'm hungry for more. Fortunately, developers are creating more, and Apple is making them easy to find. I visited Apple's Dashboard Widgets download page and looked at the widgets that had been released since May—more than 200 of them! I browsed through the list and downloaded the ones that met four criteria:
- Useful (or at least fun or interesting)
- Doesn't require software other than what comes with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger
- Does all its work without launching other software (including a web browser)
- Distributed as freeware
After downloading these widgets, I gave them a try and weeded out the ones that I didn't think were worth keeping. The widgets I liked best from the spring crop are covered in alphabetical order in the following capsule reviews.
Air Traffic Control
The Air Traffic Control widget monitors available AirPort networks, shows signal strength and other information, and makes it possible to switch to a different AirPort network with just a click.
Figure 1 shows my AirPort network, AirNet, as well as two others that are accessible in the area. I'm not sure, but I think they're over at RadioShack down the street. Oddly enough, none of these networks are protected, so I guess you can call them WiFi hotspots. My husband accessed the Internet via Gimel for about four months; his office is on the opposite side of the building, where the reception to those other networks is better.
Figure 1 The Air Traffic Control widget.
There are no configuration options. The back of the widget provides some information about the purpose of each of the columns.
Air Traffic Control is made by Spintriplet.