Enwidget: Ten useful Apple Dashboard widgets

Niall Kennedy contributes Enwidget, where he explores the ins and outs of the rapidly expanding universe of glanceable information applications and devices.

Apple Dashboard widgets can be a quick way to reference your favorite data in a small heads-up-display. Just a few weeks ago we discussed some of the basic features of Tiger and Leopard widgets for Mac. Today I'll walk through some of my favorite widgets for productivity and fun.

BART transit widget
Plan your next trip on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) with this Apple Design Award winning widget from Bret Victor. You can view multiple map renderings of the subway system, discover upcoming train arrivals, and plan the fastest route to your destination. All data is stored locally for quick offline access.

Package Tracker
Where's my gadget? This handy package tracker from Monkey Business Labs helps me track packages on their way to my door. Just enter a tracking number and the widget will automatically update with the latest time, date, and location of your iPhone accessories or other goodies.

[Niall likes his Package Tracker, but give me Delivery Status by Mike Piontek any day. -Ed.]

Widsesnse tracks your websites' Google AdSense revenue and click-through rates. Watch the money roll in before your next big gadget purchase.

Google Analytics widget
Dashalytics keeps my website statistics just a keystroke away. The widget displays your website traffic tracked by Google Analytics over the last day, week, or year. Keep track of traffic spikes, trends, and raw data without the full Gooogle Analytics interface.

HTML Entity lookup
Find the correct character codes for your web projects with a HTML Entity widget by Left Logic. Search for characters based on how they look -- c for copyright, asterisk for bullets, etc. -- and quickly copy the results to the clipboard.

PHP Function Reference
Keep your programming manual close at hand with the PHP Function Reference. PHPfr lets you search for full documentation for any function, test date formatting, and view full documentation using the same information found on

MLB Schedule
My office is two blocks from AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. I keep on top of home game schedules and recent scores with the MLB Schedule widget from Logan Rockmore Design. The widget also tracks games in progress, providing the latest scores and statistics as it happens. Bonus: a glance at my Dashboard also lets me know when 40,000 baseball fans might descend on my corner of the city.

iStat Pro
Keep track of your Mac's vital statistics with iStat Pro by iSlayer. You can track up to 8 CPU cores at once, monitor memory utilization, check on your battery status (even how many charge cycles its had), view individual component temperatures, and much more. iStat Pro provides a pretty cool glimpse inside your Mac hardware.

AirPort Radar
Fire up AirPort Radar from MacWireless to scan for local WiFi access points. This widget displays signal strength, security status, access point channels, and more. AirPort Radar is a quick way to scan for open networks while you're on the go. (See also: WiFind.)

Stop Dashboard
Dashboard widgets are fun, but too many open widgets will swallow valuable memory and CPU time. This simple widget kills your Dock application and restarts Dashboard. Your widgets are not reloaded until the next time you launch the heads-up-display, freeing up system resources and extending your battery life.

So, which widgets are you into? Leave 'em in comments!

Niall Kennedy is a well-known widget researcher. He organized the first-ever widget conference in November 2006 and the first research reports on the web widget space in February 2007. His current project Startup Search tracks the emerging web technology ecosystem.