RIP Dashboard, Apple Announces Its Demise After 14 Years on the Mac

Dashboard macOS Credit: iDropNews
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So long, Dashboard. We’ve had a good run, but you’re just not cool anymore.

After Apple previewed macOS Catalina last week, some developers noticed something missing after they got their hands on the first beta — the venerable Dashboard, which first made its debut 14 years ago back in OS X 10.4 Tiger was nowhere to be found.

This also wasn’t just a minor omission in the user interface. According to Appleosophy, which dug through the first beta in excruciating detail, Dashboard was just not there. They hopped into Terminal to attempt to force the Dashboard to come up from the command line, but there was no joy. Digging into the applications view, the Dashboard app itself appeared to be completely missing, marked with a question mark that suggested it was suffering a fate similar to iTunes.

Despite this, however, some hoped this was just a temporary omission — we are talking about a “beta 1” version of a major new macOS release, after all — and that the Dashboard might return in later beta. Unfortunately, however, it appears that this was wishful thinking, and Apple has dashed these hopes with the subtle announcement in a new changelog discovered by Japanese blog Mac Otakara.

The changelog is for Webkit rather than macOS Catalina itself, but clearly notes the removal of Dashboard support, outlining all of the WebKit frameworks from which Dashboard is being exorcised. Technically speaking, Dashboard has always relied on Safari’s WebKit engine for rendering — they’re basically just specialized webpages containing snippets of Javascript and HTML code.

To be fair, this latest news isn’t particularly surprising; Dashboard has been suffering a slow death since OS X Yosemite, which began disabling it by default. Once a prominent feature in OS X, Dashboard has gradually fallen into disuse, and it seems likely only the most hardcore Mac fans even knew the feature was still there. However, even in macOS Mojave, it’s still possible to take a trip into your Mission Control settings to manually re-enable it. Apple still provides developers with Human Interface Guidelines for Dashboard Widgets, but it’s also been pushing users to create their widgets for Notification Center instead.

When it was first unveiled in OS X Tiger 10.4 back in 2005, Dashboard was designed to offer a series of widgets that could be called up with a keyboard or mouse shortcut. Apple provided built-in widgets for things like weather, clock, sticky notes, calendar, and more, and third-party developers could also create their own widgets — in fact Apple still maintains a rather dated-looking Dashboard Widgets downloads page — and later versions of OS X offered the ability to add web snippets as widgets as well.

While the dashboard and its collection of widgets originally just hovered over whatever the user was currently working on, after Apple introduced Spaces, by the time OS X Lion 10.7 came along it was moved into its own space to the left of the main desktop by default, although users could still go into System Preferences if they preferred to fall back to the older transparent hovering state — an option that also still exists in macOS Mojave for those wishing to turn the Dashboard on.

While there are undoubtedly still hardcore fans of Dashboard and its collection of widgets, the design of macOS has been gradually moving away from it in recent years, pushing users to things like Notification Center instead, and if Apple’s catalogue of Dashboard Widgets is any indication, it’s been several years since there have been any significant new widgets created or even updated. If you’re a modern macOS user and you’ve never seen Dashboard, we’d definitely suggest a quick trip into Mission Control to turn it on and take a fascinating look at what was once a pinnacle of Mac UI design, but it’s clearly a legacy feature whose time for retirement has come.

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