How To Place Your Widgets On The Desktop [Mac]

Jeffry Thurana 04-06-2009

How To Place Your Widgets On The Desktop [Mac] 00 dashboard widget iconDashboard is one of the cool features of Mac OS X (starting from Tiger). With a push of a single keyboard button, Mac users have access to many mini useful applications called widgets.


Users can add or remove widgets to fit their personal preferences. There are already thousands widgets available today on Apple’s Dashboard download page, and who knows how many more are there scattered all over the internet. Users can even create their own widgets.

Some widgets are the “˜smaller versions’ of full-featured applications although not all are. That doesn’t mean these widgets are below the quality of the “real applications”. Many widgets are even so good (like these ones Dashboard Widgets You Can't Live Without [Mac Only] Read More ) that they should’ve been made available as stand-alone applications.

Imagine using a currency convertor widget like this one, to convert a whole list of different currencies. You’ll probably have to switch between Dashboard and your desktop a million times.

It turns out that it’s possible to detach widgets from the Dashboard and make them available as individual applications. Here is the way to do that.

Enable Developer Mode
First thing to do is to put the Dashboard in the Developer Mode. You can do that by launching Terminal (Applications –> Utilities –> Terminal) and typing in the following command:

defaults write devmode YES

Hit Enter or Return.


To avoid mistakes, I suggest you just copy and paste the command.

The second step is to restart the Dashboard. But instead of logging out and logging in, type in another command in the Terminal:

killall Dock

And again, hit Enter or Return.



Drag the Widgets out and back in
Now you can press the keyboard shortcut assigned to show and hide the Dashboard. The default key would be F12 (or in some keyboard F4). You can change the settings by going to System Preferences → Expose & Spaces.

After the Dashboard appears, drag the widget that you want to detach. While still dragging, press the keyboard shortcut again. The Dashboard will disappear but the widget will stay. You can move it around the desktop and it will always stay above other applications.

You can drag as many widgets as you want out of the Dashboard and into the desktop by repeating the above process.



You can also drag the widgets back into the Dashboard by reversing the process: drag a widget on the desktop; and while still dragging, press the keyboard shortcut. Drop the widget back on the Dashboard, and press the shortcut key to go back to the desktop.

Disable the Developer Mode
If later on you decide to disable the Developer Mode, you can do so by typing in this command:

defaults write devmode NO

Hit Enter or Return, then continue with this command:

killall Dock

And hit Enter or Return.


Other methods
Using the Terminal commands is not the only way to detach widgets from the Dashboard. You can also use free widget called DashIt or a paid app called Amnesty Singles.

Please note that if you’ve moved the widgets to the desktop then disable the Dashboard, for example by using MainMenu, the widgets will disappear along with the Dashboard.

If you know other methods to pull widgets out of Dashboard, please share using the comment below.

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  1. Tim
    June 12, 2009 at 8:01 am

    I assume then that the only way this will work is with the widgets floating above everything else? The idea is wonderful but if there's no fix for the float, it's not really functional.

    • Jeffry Thurana
      June 13, 2009 at 10:58 am

      Yes, the widgets will float above everything else. That's really annoying. So far, there's no free fix that I could find. But if you use Amnesty Singles (not free), the widgets will be transformed into a stand alone application and will behave like one.

  2. Jackson Chung
    June 8, 2009 at 4:01 am

    There is also a DevMode widget to easily enable Developer's Mode

  3. Pat
    June 6, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    There is Tinker Tool, also free.

  4. Tim Verpoorten
    June 4, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    My only problem is that the widgets are on top of all apps on the dashboard now. How can I keep the Widgets at the desktop level and have apps stay on top of them on the desktop?

    • Alex
      June 4, 2009 at 8:24 pm

      Same here, I hate that they MUST float above all else, this is a true disappointment for me...

  5. Gee No
    June 4, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I use an app called Hoverdash that allows you to choose one or more widgets to leave open on the desktop.

  6. Aoi_sora9x
    June 4, 2009 at 9:15 am

    True Mac users will never use the terminal, it just defeats the purpose of an out-of-the-box machine, you know?

    ok sarcasm aside, can we have an article about rainmeter?