How to Use Dashboard on Your MacBook with El Capitan

By Mark L. Chambers

Dashboard is a great feature within El Capitan — you can use it to hold widgets and display them with the press of a button. (Okay, that may sound a little wacky, but hang in there.) Widgets are small applications — dubbed by some as “applets” — that typically provide only one function. For example, Dashboard comes complete with a calculator, dictionary, clock, weather display, and quick-and-simple calendar.

By default, Dashboard is turned off in El Capitan. To enable Dashboard, open the Mission Control pane in System Preferences, click the Dashboard pop-up menu and select As Space (which displays your widgets as a separate Space in Mission Control). You can also choose overlay mode if you prefer your widgets to “float” over your Desktop instead.

You can display and use these widgets at any time by pressing the Dashboard shortcut; by default, that’s Function-F12 on current Apple laptop keyboard models (hold down the FN key and press F12), but you can modify the key on the Mission Control pane in System Preferences. Dashboard also appears as a Desktop in the Spaces strip on the Mission Control screen and as an icon in Launchpad.

You can add widgets to your Dashboard by clicking the Add button (which bears a plus sign, naturally) at the lower-left corner of the Dashboard screen. Then Dashboard displays your entire collection of widgets, and you can click a widget to add it directly onto your Dashboard.

While you’re adding widgets, you can also click the More Widgets button, which jumps directly to the widget download area on the Apple website.

Rearranging the widgets that are already populating Dashboard is easy: Drag them to the desired spot. After you finish customizing your Dashboard display, click the Dashboard background to return to your Dashboard. When it’s time to go back to work (or play), you can return to your El Capitan Desktop by pressing the Dashboard key again.

Most widgets have an option button that allows you to change things, such as borders, zip codes, display columns, and the like; look for a tiny circle with a lowercase letter i. Click this information icon, and you can then tweak whatever options are available for that widget.

To remove a widget from the Dashboard display, just click the Delete button (which bears a minus sign) and you’ll notice that a tiny X button appears next to each widget on your Dashboard. Click the X button next to the widget you want to remove, and it vanishes from the display.

Note, however, that deleting a widget doesn’t remove it from your Mac entirely! You can add that deleted widget back again at any time by clicking the Add button. To return to your Dashboard, click the Delete button again.