How To Run Widgets On Your Desktop In Mountain Lion [Mac OS X]

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mountain lion widgetsOpen your favorite Mac widgets directly, without the need for any sort of special hacks. WidgetRunner is a free Mac app that opens your widgets outside the Dashboard, allowing you to use them more-or-less the way you would any other program.

Relegated to a separate desktop since Lion, developers seem to have abandoned the Dashboard in favor of making apps for the iPhone. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still useful widgets, though. From Delivery Status (tracks packages) to GV Connect (use Google Voice) to built-in staples like the calculator and unit converter, Widgets can be quite handy. Many users, however, wish they lived directly on the desktop instead of in the dedicated Dashboard.

If you like OS X Mountain Lion widgets, but wish you could access them on your desktop, WidgetRunner is perfect for you. With it you can use your favorite widgets as though they were regular pieces of software – or even pin them so they become part of your desktop wallpaper. Here’s how.

Using Widget Runner

Start Widget runner for the first time and you may not notice anything happening. Look at the menu bar, however, and you’ll see that the program is running — and that you can load widgets.

mountain lion widgets

Click Add and you’ll be taken to the folder where the widgets you’ve installed live. Pick one and it will run.

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mountain lion widgets on desktop

The folder you’re seeing is /Users/username/Library/Widgets, where “username” is the account you use to sign into your Mac. Of course, you’ll note that not every widget on your system is there – the default ones are notably missing. Instead, they’re at /Library/Widgets on your operating system drive.

mountain lion widgets on desktop

Add the widgets you want until you’re satisfied. By default they’ll all behave as standard windows – neither hovering above other programs or staying beneath them. You can change, that, though.

Top/Normal/Desktop

Right-click any widget to configure it. You’ll see the following options:

mountain lion widgets on desktop

By default all widgets are “Normal”. Clicking “Desktop” will embed your widgets as part of your desktop. You cannot interact with widgets set to this mode – you’ve basically turned them into part of the wallpaper. To close such widgets, or turn them back to normal, you need to first click the Widget Runner icon in the dock, then right-click the widget.

Clicking “Top” will put a given widget above any and every window you might open. Put simply: Widgets set to “Top” show up over everything else you’re doing. Many will find this annoying, but it’s nice to have upon occasion.

Are you a big fan the multiple desktops (Spaces) feature of Mission Control? You’ll quickly notice, then, that widgets show up on only one desktop. If you want to change this, right-click the Widget Runner dock icon. You’ll see these options:

mountain lion widgets

Simply click All Desktops and your widgets will show up everywhere.

Download WidgetRunner

Ready to check this out? Go ahead and Download Widget Runner. There have been no updates since 2010, but Widget Runner still works well on Mountain Lion (we tested it).

It’s a free program created by Sam Madden, an MIT Professor. Thanks for the app, Sam!

Pros and Cons

Longtime Mac users know there’s another way to place your widgets on the desktop. It involves turning on developer mode and dragging your widget from the Dashboard to the desktop. Knowing this exists, why should Mac users run a dedicate program instead?

Well, for one thing, this undocumented hack results in widgets that float above every other window – like those set to Top in Widget Runner. Some (if not most) users will find this annoying. And another thing: it’s unclear whether this trick even works in Mountain Lion. For every person you find in a forum who got it to work you’ll find nine more who can’t. I’m among the nine, so I’m glad I found Widget Runner.

Of course, there are cons to using Widget Runner as well. Some widgets are buggy, and certain features don’t work in certain widgets. Did you get the developer mode hack working? Let me know in the comments below, and which version of OS X you’re using!

Widgets To Try Out

mountain lion widgets

Wondering what kind of apps you’d actually use this with? Check out Jackson’s list of Mac widgets you can’t live without. I also recommend the (previously-mentioned) Delivery Status and GV Connect, as well as Symbol Caddy.

Of course, I’m sure your fellow readers also have some widgets to recommend, so be sure to read the comments below to learn what they’re using Widget Runner with. Oh, and feel free to add your own to the list.

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Comments (20)
  • Cartoon S

    How do you get the widgets to stay where you want them on the desktop? The two I put on the top right (weather and world clock) are moved upon restart (stacked on top of each other under the finder face). If this is just some of that “buggy” behavior, then the whole thing is useless!

    Why Mac doesn’t allow simple widgets like these on the desktop is a mystery.

    • Cartoon S

      Also I installed the “Radar in Motion” widget, but can’t find it in the list with the others. Anyone else having these same issues?

    • Justin P

      Why install it? Simply put the widget file in any folder and add it directly. Much simpler.

    • Cartoon S

      That worked thanks … though still won’t display. Deleted the old radar and added the new – but only a text link is visible. This screenshot also shows the default location of the others after restart (bottom/left): http://imageshack.us/f/819/x05w.jpg/ Buggy?

    • Cartoon S

      Position problem solved! I emailed Samuel the programmer and he wrote back with an update (1.0.3) which fixed the bottom/left thing.

  • Ethan

    Thanks for the great post.

    I have installed widget runner and am trying to get a few things going. One issue I have come across is opening safari widgets. With I think is pretty slick.

    I cant seem to find where the safari widgets are located to open them with widgetrunner.

    This is a bit out there.. any thoughts?

    • Justin P

      Yeah, I don’t think you’re going to get this one working. I couldn’t find a way to do it either, though I’d love to be wrong.

  • Martin

    Hi.

    Looks like a nifty utility. However, when I run it and click on “new” it opens up in the Documents folder. I try to find the widgets folder where I’ve added a widget but I can’t find it. Rather, all I can find is the Widgets folder where the standard ones are stored.

    What am I doing wrong?

    Thanks

    • Justin Pot

      You’ll find the widgets you’ve installed at /Library/Widgets in your home folder (named after your User, in the Users folder).

    • Cartoon S

      Nope. No Widgets folder in Library (or anywhere that I can find). Using MountainLion (10.8.4). I see widgets running in the dashboard. Where the heck are they and how to access with Widgetrunner??

    • Cartoon S

      Update: Found it (thanks to Mac Rumors) “widgets are located in /Macintosh HD/Library/Widgets/ in ML”

  • abhinav wudali

    I am using a mac with Mountain Lion OSX , I have downloaded the widget runner where can I see the add option in your second point.

    • Justin Pot

      Click the icon and you’ll see “Widget Runner” in the menu bar. Click it and away you go!

  • Don

    I don’t see a way to remove my first comment, which looks like a reply to the first comment, but was intended as a separate comment. (My first entry WAS a reply to the first comment)

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.