The Dashboard is an extension to the popular addition to 10.3, a technology called Expose. Expose operates in one of three ways. Pressing F9 takes all the windows that you have open and tiles them across your desktop. Clicking the one you want brings it to the foreground. F10 does the same, but just with windows from your current application. F11 ‘swooshes’ all your windows out of the way and shows you the desktop. Pressing it again swooshes all your windows back again.
It sounds simple, but the power is remarkable. When you assign the hotkeys to buttons on your five-button mouse, it becomes even more of an indispensable tool, and one that you’ll curse Windows for lacking every time you sit down at a PC.
The Dashboard, then, allows you to press F12 and swoosh all your windows out of the way. Swooshing in, in place, are a set of Widgets – small applications that do simple tasks and give you simple and quick access to information. Additional widgets can be downloaded, and you can pick and choose from the ones Apple includes.
There’s a simple Calculator Widget, one for the weather, one for world time, one for translation, one for sticky notes, and so on. So far, I’ve also downloaded a Widget that allows me to capture screenshots with a simple click, and one that fetches Wikipedia definitions on typing in a search phrase.
While not as life-changing as Expose, the Dashboard is nonetheless a welcome addition to the repertoire of productivity enhancements that OSX offers. It’s another feather in the cap of usability.