Widgets are wonderful

In my ongoing quest for free software, I rediscovered the world of widgets on my iMac. (I had tried them for a while on my Windows PC before, but dropped them because of suspected technical problems.) Widgets are tiny programs that do essentially one function. You can put them on the Dashboard (it’s like a screen overlay) like so many fridge magnets–magnets that are connected to the internet. They are often cutely designed as well. Mac OS X comes with a bunch of standard widgets, but there are plenty out there that can be downloaded for free as well. Here’s what I’ve got on my Dashboard so far:

  1. Standard Weather, Clock, Calculator, Sticky Notes and Calendar widgets for all that kind of info (I think they’re self-explanatory).
  2. A bunch of “look up” reference site widgets to quickly access: Google, Internet Movie Database, Wikipedia, or a dictionary/thesaurus, Yellow or white pages, or my own Address Book (the funnest one is logoSearch, which retrieves eps graphic files of any logo from Decepticons to United Nations based on a keyword search).
  3. Movie widgets: I would have loved a widget to give me movie times (but alas the ones out there don’t work for Canada), but I do have one that shows me the top ten movies of the week, and another that automatically connects to the latest online movie trailers
  4. Word of the day – displays a new word (with definition) from dictionary.com each day
  5. iCal Events connects directly with my iCal calendar to list a week’s worth of upcoming events/appointments
  6. POP shows me a number representing how many new email messages I have (this is for POP accounts. There are better widgets for Gmail and other webmail systems). I don’t really rely on it because I don’t find it to be very accurate.
  7. Changesomething widget presents a tip each day from changesomething.org – little things we can do to be healthier and live better

Widgets are definitely an optional part of the system, but they are one of the things that can make computing (especially on a Mac) fun.

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