Play favorite Flash games in Dashboard

Today’s tip is a simple one, targeted at those who of you who enjoy the occasional diversion via a quick Flash game in your browser—perhaps an old-school classic such as Space Invaders or Pac Man, or something different like Binball Wizard or Desktop Tower Defense.

Whatever your preference, the problem with many Flash game sites is that they’re loaded with busy graphics, overly-intrusive ads, and hard-on-the-eyes color schemes. Some sites also require you to click through a few screens before you can get to the game itself. All together, these issues change what should be a fun and relaxing diversion into something that seems more like work (which may be what you were seeking relief from in the first place).

With just a bit of work using Safari 3 (or Safari 4 Beta), you can turn your favorite Flash games into Dashboard widgets. (If you prefer Firefox, you only need to use Safari long enough to do the conversion.) Once converted, your favorite Flash game is no more than a press of the Dashboard key away.

Converting a Flash game to a widget takes nothing more than a Safari’s often-overlooked Web Clip tool and a few seconds of time. Web Clip lets you turn sections of web pages into Dashboard Widgets, and is often used for pictures, headlines, and other such often-updated content. But Web Clip doesn’t care what you clip; it just creates a window into whatever region of the web page you select.

To convert your favorite Flash game into a widget, proceed to the web page that contains the game, and make sure the game is loading. Then click Safari’s Web Clip button (just to the left of the URL entry area), and then drag the clipping square that appears around the actual gameplay area. When done, click the Add button. On some sites, you may have to experiment a bit—I sometimes found I needed to make the captured area larger than the actual gameplay surface in order to get a functional Widget. Also, some sites (especially those that load their games in pop-up windows) may not work at all with this method.

When you click Add, the selected region will open in Dashboard, and you’re basically done—click the “i” button if you’d like to customize the frame, but other than that, your game is ready to go. Just keep in mind that if you ever use the “X” button to close the widget, it will be gone for good, as you can’t save Web Clip-created Widgets.

Web Clip is one of Safari’s more intriguing features; hopefully we’ll see new functionality in future OS releases that will allow us to save our created widgets, which is really the only area where Web Clip is lacking.

Subscribe to the Apple @ Work Newsletter

Comments