Widgets of the week: 6/10/2005

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In my latest roundup of cool and/or useful Dashboard Widgets, I cover TV and package trackers, a way to view movies in full-screen mode, a cool digital clock, and this week's “Why?” winner.

TV Tracker 1.5 (   ; free). Monkey Business Labs’ TV Tracker is a great way to quickly see what’s on TV in your area. You type in your zip code, and TV Tracker gives you a list of local cable providers; choose the correct provider and the number of hours of programming you want to download (2 to 8), and TV Tracker will get the latest listings. You can even decide which channels you want (or don’t want) to appear in the listings. When viewing listings, clicking on a show’s name switches to Safari and goes to the show’s information page on tv.yahoo.com.

TV Tracker Widget

Package Tracker 2.1.2 (   ; free). Also from Monkey Business Labs, Package Tracker can track packages carried by Fed Ex, UPS, and DHL. You click the appropriate carrier, enter the tracking number for a package, and then sit back and relax as Package Tracker downloads and displays tracking information. Clicking the current status area for a package takes you to the detail page for that item on the carrier’s Web site. Package Tracker even remembers recent tracking numbers so you don’t have to re-enter a package’s number each time you check its status. The only drawback is that recent tracking numbers are stored in a single history list; it would be nice if each carrier had its own list of recently tracked packages.

Package Tracker Widget collapsed
Package Tracker Widget in use

QuickTime Full Screen 1.0 (   ; free). If you paid for QuickTime Pro under Panther or Jaguar, you surely noticed that when you upgraded to Tiger, your Pro license was no longer valid—to get your Pro features back, you have to pay for QuickTime Pro 7. If you frequently use a number of QT Pro features, the $30 price isn’t too steep; however, if you mainly want the ability to play movies in full-screen mode, you can get that feature for free using the QuickTime Full Screen widget. Simply open a movie in QuickTime Player, activate Dashboard, and then click the Play button in the widget. Dashboard will disappear and QuickTime Player will begin playing the movie in full-screen mode. (You can also play a movie by dragging the movie file in the Finder, activating Dashboard, and then dropping the movie onto the widget.) When the movie is playing, you get a nice translucent control pad. Right now QuickTime Full Screen has a couple limitations—some non-.mov files don’t seem to play properly, and once you’ve played a movie in full-screen mode, to play it in standard mode you have to close and then re-open the movie. But this is one of the rare widgets that offers truly unique functionality.

QuickTime Full Screen Widget

Timer 3.0 (   ; free). The World Clock widget Apple includes with Mac OS X is nice, but I personally think an easy-to-read digital clock is a better match for Dashboard’s “get in, get out” philosophy. The generically-named Timer is the best I’ve yet seen. It provides a simple, readable digital clock that can be customized via two sizes and 12 colors. You can view the time in 12-hour or 24-hour mode, with or without seconds.

Timer Widget


Widget “Why?” of the Week

Each week I try to give a good-natured poke at a Widget that makes me think, “Why was this created?”

This week’s lucky winner—and I have to tell you, as more and more silly widgets are created, it’s getting tough to pick just one each week—is Pixel Widget 1.1b . As its name implies, it’s simply a single pixel that sits on your screen. That’s it. No, there’s no hidden functionality, no Easter Egg surprise if you’re able to find the pixel and click on it. The widget does absolutely nothing. (I’d provide a screenshot, but there’s not much to show.) What I find most amusing about Pixel Widget is that it has a version number, implying that there were previous versions and, better yet, future versions. What part of this widget worked so poorly in previous versions that it needed to be updated? And what necessary features have yet to be implemented? Curious, I remain.

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