Set Your Lion Dashboard Widgets Free [OS X Tips]



Many of the complaints I’ve heard about Mac OS X Lion is about Dashboard. It now has its own space (virtual desktop) where all your Dashboard Widgets live. Well those living arrangements aren’t as permanent as one would think. Here is a tip on how you can set your Widgets free!

I’m not sure why Apple decided to give Dashboard and the Widgets it houses their own living space, but here is an easy fix that will return them to their free-floating selves again. Once you do this your Widgets will appear superimposed over the space you are currently viewing.

Simply launch System Preferences and then open the preferences for Mission Control. If you uncheck the option labeled Show Dashboard as a space, which is on by default, your Widgets will no longer be tied to their own space.

After you uncheck Show Dashboard as a space your Widgets will float over the current space just like before as shown below:

If you want to view your Dashboard Widgets at any time simply press function key F12 or FN+F12. The key sequence is dependent on the keyboard attached to your Mac. Generally, the latter sequence is used on Apple notebooks and wireless keyboards.



  • lfom

    OK, minus one annoyance … Now when Apple brings FrontRow back I may update.

  • Anon Developer

    Brilliant. Thanks for sharing this tip. All the swiping from one space to another with full screen apps caused me to frequently be swiping too far to the left and hitting that junk, im delighted they enabled it to be removed!

  • tekunoloji

    FN+F12 is way to slow still compared to the old Tiger and days when it was on F12 button alone. 

    I just mapped Dashboard to the lower left hot corner now.

  • Jordy Hendrix

    Before Lion, everybody on this website couldn’t wait for it to be released. Now it’s out, and everybody wants to change stuff back to Snow Leopard. What is wrong with you people?

  • Robert X

    Bring it back yourself. You can copy the app from SL.

  • Pinkbird_Kim

    Thanks for the tip!!  I’m trying very hard to get used to all the new features, but that one has just been annoying the hell out of me!!

  • lsla49
  • DavidWMartin

    Hi Kim. A friend was upset because he had a calculator that he used frequently. However, it was hard to use because he’d use it with other apps that he needed to see at the SAME time. So this tip saved the day for him. He is now able to use the calc, read figures from another app, perform a calculation, update his data entry stuff, etc. He’s a happy camper now. Plus realistically this change completely defeats the reason for widgets – especially in the case of my friends issue.

  • lsla49
  • niunai58
  • niunai58
  • TylerHoj

    I love the new dashboard space. I never used it in Snow Leopard but having it’s own space let’s me actually feel like I should customize it, because it’s only a quick three finger swipe away. I like that it no longer fuzzes over my desktop as it’s far less obstructive. You guys aren’t taking too much a liking to Lion are you. 

  • lfom

    AFAIK this hack stopped working with the new iTunes version (doesn’t play music anymore, for instance). Anyway, I wasn’t talking about a workaround, but removing a feature from OS X that many people use.

  • Eight Streets

    I’m the opposite.  While I to like seeing the screen as you mentioned, but once dashboard is not in it’s own space, you can’t swipe to see it – you have to use the fcn-F12 key – a bit annoying.

  • Ross Mckenzie

    Thank you thank you.  Nothing wrong with this person, but I rely on financial info and translation in my dashboard and it was infuriating to ‘loose’ my desktop documents each time I wished to refer info between dashboard and desktop.  Back to normal now thanks.  Not everything that is new should be assumed to be better…..

  • Chen

    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Midas Mulligan

    This was single most annoying thing in lion! 

    Thanks David! 

  • Matt Lehmann

    Yep, I gotta be honest.  I love the new dashboard space!!  I never used it beforehand, but now I use it constantly.  Love love love!  

  • Rachel Hannah Polsky

    does anyone know how to make the widgets live BELOW all windows?

  • Suenlar

    Followed your directions and can now get Dashboard to open from the icon on the dock; however, a blank white screen opens in Safari behind the dashboard and the screen I was viewing is covered. The white screen has a url of (with a lot after that). Sometimes I want/need to see the original website or document behind the dashboard.

  • pcmotorhed

    Does any one know who to detach a widget to reside on your desktop without having to press the F4 to see them?

  • Corbett Stepp

    Google search widget disappeared (Frownie face)

  • spreesix

    Say you’re adding up prices for a list of 5 pieces of merchandise.  You’re probably not going to remember them all so what do you do?  Without this tip, your options are to switch back and forth between the window which contains the prices and the Dashboard space OR to write the prices down on a piece of paper.  Are ya taking a liking to that?

  • chris perricone

    go into terminal 

    type sudo defaults write devmode YES

  • Felipe Vergara

    Muy bueno, Gracias!

  • James Nunn

    Can anyone help. Some how I downloaded a widget and didn’t like it and went to delete it from the library and deleted all the other widgets. I managed to get them back via time machine but they won’t work. Only 2 show up in manage widgets but i get an error. Can anyone shed some light on this for me please.


  • Terri Lawton

    Perfect post. Here’s a tool that lets youbuild any type of web app widget in minutes, without coding… fortune/