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Dashboard—the Tiger feature that added the term widget to every Mac user’s vocabulary—gives you quick access to handy utilities such as traffic trackers, Stickies, and more. But if you’re not careful, dealing with all your widgets can become an unmanageable task. These tips should put you back in charge.

See Dashboard in a flash

Dashboard usually runs in a toggle mode: you press F12 to activate Dashboard so you can use the widgets, and then you press F12 to exit it. But if you want only to view widgets, instead of interacting with them, you can use Dashboard in a temporary mode. Instead of pressing and releasing F12, hold it down. Dashboard will remain visible for as long as you hold down the key, letting you view any already-open widgets. When you release F12, Dashboard will vanish.

Note that if you’re using a keyboard that lacks a dedicated eject key, you’ll have to use the Dashboard & Exposé preference pane to remap Dashboard’s default activation key to something else—otherwise, holding down F12 will cause your CD or DVD drive to open. —Rob Griffiths

See Dashboard widgets without clicking

Tired of having to mouse over and click on the big plus sign (+) to bring up the Dashboard bar? Here’s a little-known (and undocumented) keyboard shortcut: after activating Dashboard (the default shortcut on most computers is F12), just press Command-equal sign (=) to bring up the Widget bar. Press the combo again to make the bar vanish. Unfortunately, you can’t activate the widgets without resorting to the mouse. —RG

Whip widgets into shape

Having problems getting a widget to work? Often, all you need to do is reload it. To do so, click on the widget and press Command-R. —Ted Landau

Find missing widgets

Ever put a new widget in your Widgets folder but then fail to see it on the Widget bar? Scroll past where it should be on the bar (widgets appear in alphabetical order) and then back again. You should now see it where it belongs. —Dori Smith

Place a widget in the Finder

If you’d rather see a widget all the time—not just when you switch to Dashboard—you can move the widget to Tiger’s Finder layer, so it appears on the desktop. Launch Terminal (/Applications/Utilities); then type

defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES
. Log out and then log back in, and you’ll be able to pull as many widgets into the Finder layer as you like. While dragging the widget from the Widget bar, press F12 to close Dashboard. When you release the mouse, the widget will appear on the desktop. —DS

[ Contributing Editor Christopher Breen writes Macworld’s Mac 911 column. Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs the Mac OS X Hints Web site. Contributing Editor Ted Landau is the author of Mac OS X Help Line: Tiger Edition (Peachpit Press, 2005). Kelly Lunsford is Macworld’s senior how-to editor. Kirk McElhearn is a coauthor of Mastering Mac OS X , fourth edition (Sybex, 2005). Dori Smith is the author of Dashboard Widgets of Mac OS X Tiger: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press, 2005). ]

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