Add Weather & Other Dashboard Widgets to the Desktop in Mac OS X

Jan 18, 2013 - 8 Comments

A fun way to customize the Mac desktop is to add floating widgets for things like weather, ski conditions, stocks, and time. These widgets are actually from Dashboard, a largely forgotten feature of OS X that can be made useful again by bringing them more to the forefront of your desktop experience. This is different from making Dashboard hover over everything again, because this actually liberates the widgets out of Dashboard turning them into movable objects on the desktop itself.

Widgets on the Mac desktop

Longtime Mac users may be familiar with this trick, but it still works in the most recent versions of OS X and in many ways is more useful now that Dashboard has been deemphasized in Lion and Mountain Lion.

Enabling Dashboard Developer Mode

To get individual Dashboard widgets onto the desktop, you will need to first enable Dashboard developer mode:

  • Open Terminal and enter the following defaults command, placing Dashboard into Developer Mode:
  • defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES

  • Next, pull down the  Apple menu and choose System Preferences, then choose the “Mission Control” panel
  • Uncheck “Show Dashboard as a space” to make widgets float over the desktop again
  • Turn off Dashboard as a space

  • Go to the Apple menu again and choose “Log Out”, then log back in again for changes to take effect

Once developer mode has been turned on and dashboard as a space has been turned off, you’re ready to move widgets to the desktop.

Bringing Widgets to the Desktop

Now to get any widget out of dashboard and instead to stick on the desktop, you will want to use the Dashboard keyboard shortcut. Typically that is the F4 key, but if it was changed use the new keyboard shortcut instead:

  • Open Dashboard by hitting F4
  • Click and hold on any widget, then while continuing to hold the widget hit F4 again
  • Repeat as necessary to add more widgets to the OS X desktop

Get a widget on the Mac desktop

Position the widget onto the desktop as desired, somewhere unobtrusive is ideal because even though the widget is now on the desktop, it will still float above other windows and apps, including things like Launchpad and Mission Control.

Widgets on the Mac desktop

Because the widgets float over other documents, it is best to not overdo it and perhaps stick to one or two that are particularly useful or interesting.

Removing a Widget from the Desktop

To remove the widget from the desktop again, reverse the process which added them to begin with:

  • Click and hold on the widget that is floating on the desktop, then hit F4
  • Release F4 while Dashboard is open again to return it there and remove from the desktop

Repeat that process for multiple widgets.

Disabling Dashboard Developer Mode

There is no harm in leaving devmode enabled, but to turn it off again by flipping the NO flag to YES. Note that disabling devmode alone is not sufficient to remove the widgets from the Mac desktop, you need to manually do that using the method above.

  • Launch Terminal and enter the following defaults command:
  • defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode NO

  • Log out and log in again by way of the  Apple menu

Again, if widgets are still persisting on the desktop after devmode is disabled it is because you did not move them back into Dashboard beforehand.

The video below demonstrates adding widgets to the desktop and removing them, and how they float over all system apps in addition to other windows.

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Posted by: William Pearson in Customize, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

8 Comments

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  1. John Blommers says:

    In my case the widgets actually disappeared from Dashboard. Their were only two, Weather and iStatPro. So I added them back to Dashboard. This time I could move them to the Desktop.

  2. Mithilesh Vaidya says:

    Well, it didn’t work out on my iMac. When I hold the widget while pressing F4, it just disappears

  3. Andrew says:

    I didn’t realise the Dashboard space could be turned off! That’s the best part of this tip!

  4. Dave Ross says:

    If it’s not working for you, try giving the “killall Dock” command after the “defaults write…” one.

  5. You can actually hit option to pull them off the desktop too.

  6. James says:

    Same thing for me, John.

    Does anyone know a way to make the widgets hide under other windows instead of on top?

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