Syncing Widgets

OS X v.10.5 includes Dashboard Sync, a mechanism for syncing a widget’s preferences between multiple Macs using .Mac. If a widget is installed on both Macs and the Macs are synced using Dashboard Sync in .Mac preferences, both Macs have a synchronized Dashboard.

Dashboard Sync Details

In order for a widget to be synced between two Macs, you have to set up syncing using the same .Mac account in .Mac preferences on two or more Macs. Also, the same widget must be installed on all synced Macs.

Once these conditions are met, Dashboard Sync keeps widget preferences in sync between multiple Macs. This synchronization is automatic and doesn’t require that you to do anything in your widget. Every time your widget retrieves a preference (as discussed in “Providing Preferences”), the most-recently synced version is provided to your widget.

Despite the fact that your widget’s preferences sync for free, you may want to do two things to adopt syncing into your widget:

Handling a Sync Event

Your widget can be notified when Dashboard is synced using the widget.onsync handler. Listing 1 shows a handler for widget.onsync that reads a preference and updates a string on the widget interface with the preference’s value.

Listing 1  Providing an onsync handler

if (window.widget)
    widget.onsync = synced;
function synced()
    document.getElementById("aString").innerText = widget.preferenceForKey("aKey");

The handler that you provide for the widget.onsync event is called when a Dashboard sync is complete. This gives you the opportunity immediately after a sync to read your preferences and update values in your widget to any new values acquired in the sync.

Excluding Preferences from Syncing

Your widget may have values that you don’t want to include when Dashboard syncs preferences across Macs. To exclude a preference from syncing, use the SyncExclusions Info.plist key, as shown in Listing 2.

Listing 2  Excluding a preference using the SyncExclusions Info.plist key


The SyncExclusions key takes an array of dictionaries as its value. Each dictionary consists of two keys: key and global. For each key that you want to exclude from syncing, repeat the dictionary containing key and global values.

The value for key is the name of a preference that you store, while the global key is a boolean value that specifies if the preference is a global or per-instance preference. Global preferences are not unique to one widget, while a per-instance preference is unique for each instance of your widget. A preference is a per-instance preference if the first portion of its key uses the widget.identifier property, yielding a key like <widget.indentifier>-<key>. If the per-instance preference is not formatted in this way, it can not be excluded.

To make per-instance preferences that use this format, include a function like the makeKey function in Listing 3.

Listing 3  A function for making unique per-instance preferences

function makeKey(key)
    return (widget.identifier + "-" + key);

Then, whenever you set or get a preference, use the makeKey function to make the preference per-instance, as demonstrated in Listing 4.

Listing 4  Using per-instance preferences

widget.setPreferenceForKey(aString, makeKey("aKey"));
var foo = widget.preferenceForKey(makeKey("aKey"));