July 2007
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Day 07/04/2007

Automated Dashboard Widget Installer


01/01/08: This workflow only works in Tiger. I’ve created a new and improved workflow for Leopard. The new one doesn’t work in Tiger, so if your still using 10.4 stick to the workflow described in the article below.

Otto the automator icon

It has been a constant debate since Mac OS X.4 Tiger was released on the usefulness of Dashboard. One of the things that has bothered me about dashboard is installing widgets. It is fairly simple if you only download one widget every once in a while. But I usually go to Apple’s widget page and download five to ten widgets at a time. I usually don’t even keep half of them, but I like to test new ones out. So to explain the problem I’ll have to describe the typical installation methods.

You go to Apple – Downloads – Widgets (or any other website you’d like) pick out the widgets you like to download. Widgets are almost always packaged as a .zip file, so you end up with a bunch of .zips on you desktop. From here you open them all which then puts a bunch of .wdgt files on your desktop. I find that selecting them all at once and trying to open them usually results in Apple’s uncompressing program BOMarchivehelper.app choking. Generally only when I have more than four times selected. (This is important for later) So it’s more of a pain in the butt because to extract them I can only do 3 or 4 at a time. So anyway, your now done extracting them, you have now have 10 .zip files and 10 .wdgt file on your desktop. To install them you can either double click the .wdgt files or just move them to ~/Library/Widgets.Then move the .zips to the trash.

I found this process very tedious after a year of using my mac. So I took advantage of one my favorite features in Tiger—Automator. I wont go through all the steps that make up the workflow as you can view them yourself once you download the file. Basically how it works is you select the .zip files that you downloaded from where ever you get your dashboard widgets, you right-click (or control-click) them select Automator then select Install User Widget (or whatever you named it). At this point the workflow will move the extract the .wdgt file to your Users Widget folder and then put the .zip file in the trash. Since BOMarchiverhelper.app chokes only select 3 or 4 .zips at a time.

Installation Instructions:

  1. Download my Install User Widget workflow file
  2. Unzip it
  3. Double click the .workflow file which will open Automator
  4. Then Select Save as Plug-in
  5. Name the Plug-in and make sure Drop-down list is set to Finder (see image below)


I have also created a video demo which shows how it works and how to install the .workflow file.

If you want to learn more about Automator or maybe just download some other workflows then check out automator.us. This is the personal website of Sal Soghoian who is the Applescript product manger at Apple. If you head over to twit.tv, Sal has done some video podcasts showing some really cool things you can do with automator. Just do a search for automator to find the shows.