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Widgets unleashed

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Although its novelty has worn off since Tiger was first released, Dashboard is still a popular feature of Mac OS X 10.4. However, one of the most frequent requests we get here at Macworld—even today, nearly a year after Tiger was released—is for a way to get Dashboard widgets to run outside of Dashboard.

Last fall, Dori Smith explained how to get a widget to float above the Desktop, but that procedure required that you enable Dashboard developer mode and then manually drag widgets in and out of Dashboard. A simpler—though more expensive—approach is to use Mesa Dynamics’ $20 Amnesty 1.2.2 (   ).

Last May, I briefly mentioned the then-beta version of Amnesty; however, the utility has come a long way since then. In short, when Amnesty is running, a new Amnesty menu appears in the menu bar, listing all available Dashboard widgets. Choosing a widget from the menu opens it on your screen—without activating Dashboard. Each widget remains onscreen until you close it (by again choosing it from the Amnesty menu). Via the widget’s settings dialog—accessible by Control/right-clicking the widget and choosing Configure from the resulting menu—you decide whether the widget floats above all applications, acts as a standard application window, or becomes part of your Desktop. You can also customize the widget’s opacity, or even set it to ignore mouse clicks—useful to avoid accidentally clicking buttons on an “informational” widget while it’s on the screen.

Amnesty-opened widgets

But perhaps the coolest feature of Amnesty is that you can resize widgets individually. Got a clock widget that you really like but that’s just too small on your 30-inch Cinema Display? Amnesty’s widget settings dialog lets you increase the size of the widget by up to 50%. Got a useful widget that’s fallen victim to the “my developer doesn’t understand that a Widget shouldn’t take up the whole Dashboard” plague? Amnesty can cut its size in half. You can even rotate widgets—not always useful, but always interesting.

Amnesty’s widget rotation setting

You can also hide widgets individually or, via the Amnesty menu, hide all widgets simultaneously. A related feature lets you create groups of widgets that can be opened and closed at once via the Amnesty menu or keyboard shortcuts. And by downloading the company’s free Amnesty Screen Saver, you can use a floating version of any widget as your screen saver.

(If you have widgets that you want to use via Amnesty but don’t want cluttering up your Dashboard dock, Amnesty offers its own folder [~/Library/Application Support/Amnesty/Widgets] for storing Amnesty-only widgets.)

Finally, another significant benefit of Amnesty is that it allows Macs running Panther (Mac OS X 10.3)—which doesn’t include Dashboard—to run Dashboard widgets. Not all widgets work under Panther, but enough do that it’s a nice option for those who haven’t upgraded to Tiger.

$20 seems a bit steep to me for a Dashboard/widget enhancer. But if you’ve been looking for a way to get more out of your widgets, Amnesty may just be worth the Jackson—it gets nearly everything right.

Amnesty works with Mac OS X 10.3.9 and later. And, yes, I am aware of Konfabulator ;-)

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