Dashboard (software)


Dashboard (software)

Infobox Software
name = Dashboard
logo =


caption = Dashboard widgets running under Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard (including one made with Safari 3's "Web Clip" feature).
latest_release_version = 2.0
latest_release_date = October 26, 2007
developer = Apple Inc.
operating_system = Mac OS X v10.4 and v10.5
genre = Widget engine
license =
website = [http://www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard/ Apple Dashboard's Download page]

Dashboard is an application for Apple'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 it's 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, both 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.

Creation of widgets

Dashboard widgets are created using Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript. Because the same languages are used for creating websites, many web developers can already build them. Widgets themselves are, at the core, simply HTML files that are displayed within the Dashboard layer; they use the WebKit application framework that is also used in Apple's Safari web browser, meaning even users running earlier versions of Mac OS X — where Dashboard is unavailable — can build them.

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 JavaScript file, although it may be implemented directly within the HTML file if the developer desires
* 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

Once all of these files are in the root of a directory, it is given a name and the extension ".wdgt", and then it can be opened up in Dashboard as a widget. More complex widgets may also include a Cocoa widget plugin (for platform-specific functionality), one or more JavaScript files (for text scrolling, preferences, etc.) or multiple images (for personalized select menus or buttons).

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 Clip" which lets users easily create widgets from parts of a webpage. 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 webpages 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.

Graphics

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 can be taxing and superfluous, consuming CPU resources, 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.

Comparisons have been made 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 on 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 [http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=Desk_Ornaments.txt&sortOrder=Sort%20by%20Date&detail=medium&search=desk%20accessories] , 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).

The code bases for Konfabulator and Dashboard are also different: Konfabulator uses XML and JavaScript to generate Widgets, whereas Dashboard uses HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Objective C.

Included widgets

At first, Apple included 14 widgets with Mac OS X v10.4 - v10.4.3. They consisted of:

* Address Book
* Business
* Calculator
* Calendar
* Dictionary
* Flight Tracker
* iTunes Controller
* Phone Book
* Stickies
* Stocks
* Tile Game
* Translation
* Unit Converter
* Weather
* World Clock

After the Macworld 2006 keynote, however, 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 Clip, 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. This feature will also be available in IE 8, but it will be placed within the browser, not in a widget. 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 the desktop

Although by default widgets are confined to the Dashboard layer, a widget can be dragged to the desktop by selecting the widget in the Dashboard shelf, dragging it, and then switching back to the desktop, from the Dashboard, before dropping the widget. (By default this is accomplished by pressing F12 on the keyboard, or F5 on Apple aluminum keyboards, to switch from desktop to Dashboard.) The widget will remain floating on the desktop until the next time the Dashboard is opened.

To keep one or more widgets on the desktop in a more permanent fashion, the Dashboard "devmode" must be activated. Enter the following into the Terminal:

:defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YESand then restart the Dock (and Dashboard)::killall Dock

After the devmode has been set, widgets dragged from the Dashboard will remain floating on the desktop, even after log out or shutdown. To move a desktop widget back to the Dashboard, simply reverse the process used to move it onto the desktop.

Another option is to use [http://www.amnestywidgets.com/Singles.html Amnesty Singles] or [http://www.amnestywidgets.com/WidgetBrowser.html Amnesty Widget Browser] , shareware utilities that also allow the user to select which level (desktop, standard or floating) a widget occupies while it resides on the desktop.

Widgets on the iPhone OS

Apple has not, as of 2008, announced support for the installation of Dashboard widgets on the iPhone OS. 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 iPhone OS.

It has been demonstrated by Erica Sadun that installing Dashboard widgets on a jailbroken iPhone OS is possible in theory, but most desktop-oriented widgets 1) are not oriented to usage or interaction on the iPhone OS's multi-touchscreen-oriented interface; and 2) rely on Dashboard Client's widget JS object, which is not part of the iPhone OS.

ee also

*Comparison of widget engines
*Dashboard (business)
*Widget engine

References

* [http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=Desk_Ornaments.txt&sortOrder=Sort%20by%20Date&detail=medium&search=desk%20accessories "Desk Ornaments"] by Andy Hertzfeld, "folklore.org", October, 1981, retrieved July 11, 2006
* [http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/dashboard/ Apple.com]

External links

* [http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/dashboard/ Apple's Dashboard page]
* [http://developer.apple.com/macosx/tiger/dashboard.html Apple's Dashboard Developer page]
* [http://www.apple.com/macosx/theater/dashboard.html Apple's Dashboard video]
* [http://www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard/ Apple's Dashboard widget download page]


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