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Organize Your Work (and Play) With A Smart Dashboard

I’ve tailored mine so that I can keep tabs on the weather, read news headlines, and check off tasks at a glance.

smart dashboard
Hunter Fenollol

A smart dashboard is a customizable screen that can display real-time information essential to your everyday tasks. You can combine your work calendar, local weather, news feed, and other live sources of information in this single space. With a private link, you can pull your dashboard up or cast it to displays throughout various rooms of your home or office. It’s an especially handy tool as more of us find ourselves working from home. Here’s how to turn any existing screen in your house or office into a smart dashboard, depending on your equipment you have handy, based on my experience and use.

How A Smart Dashboard Can Boost Your Productivity

While it’s helpful to monitor live traffic, goal progress, and inventory from a business standpoint, you don’t need to work in analytics to reap the organization benefits of a smart dashboard. For example, you can start one for your personal workshop to draft up a list of materials, view real-time weather updates, and set reminders to keep projects moving along on time. And if you work in an office, you can keep an eye on commute times, assignments on your calendar, and Slack channels while you work to cut down on time spent jumping between apps. Outside of work, you can simply throw a clock, notepad, and chore list for each family member on your living room TV to keep your household running like a well-oiled machine.

DAKBoard is a cloud-based software that opens up all of these possibilities. What’s best is that it requires no web-coding knowledge; anyone can add information to a board by dragging and dropping their desired buttons and be up and running in minutes. And since the smart dashboard is hosted on the web, it isn’t tied to a certain device. You can generate a private URL link to pull the board up across browsers on computers, smart displays, and TVs. It is one of the most useful tools in my tech belt and the software platform we will use to make a custom dashboard.

Get Started By Creating A DAKBoard Account

First thing’s first, you will need to sign up for a free DAKBoard account to create your dashboard. When you first load into your account, you’ll be taken to the Screens page. The predefined screen is available to all users and allows you to organize specific sections of your layout. You can adjust the background, calendar, date, weather, and to-do info free of charge. But DAKBoard comes to life in its premium offering, which allows you to easily add and place advanced elements like a Slack window or Spotify control panel. You can start a month-long trial to see if you need such a high level of customizability. (The plans range from tiers starting at $5 to $30 per month.)

Information and apps show up on the board as “blocks”—think of these as widgets like you have on your phone. You can place and layer each block wherever you prefer, and size them by dragging a corner of a block out to expand it or inward to shrink. You don’t need to lift a finger to fetch data for these widgets; you simply sign into your accounts and they auto-populate all information in real-time.

building dakboard
Building block layers on my smart dashboard.
Hunter Fenollol

You can add all kinds of integrations, from upcoming calendar events to health data gathered from your Fitbit, and are free to customize all aspects of your layout to tailor the information you most want to see. Pro tip: Don’t use busy photos as a background, since they tend to lower text and graph visibility. And don’t get too ambitious with how much you try to fit on the screen, as all of the data is useless if you can’t see and digest it at a glance. Remember that this board is a focal point for your day. If it’s chaotic, don’t be surprised if your day is too.

A Tour Of My Dashboard For Inspiration

As Popular Mechanics’s consumer tech test editor, my job requires me to be on the pulse of the latest consumer tech industry news. I keep my RSS news feed front and center, just below my local weather and stock portfolio. This means I can quickly see the live status of the things I care about most without having to search them out. A Twitter block at the bottom of this news section pulls the latest tweets from @Wario64, a video game deals account I follow for information on video game console restocks. The minute a console purchase link goes up, I can click through to buy it directly from my laptop.

hunters dakboard
My dashboard laid out with work, news, and personal columns.
Hunter Fenollol

On the right side of my screen I keep important workday blocks broken into a large calendar populated from my Outlook account, individual daily To Dos powered by my Google Tasks account, and analytics based on our data-tracking account. I can make informed decisions on what content works and what doesn’t to tailor story ideas on the fly, stay ahead of meetings before receiving notifications, and cross off tasks as I complete them to ensure I’m hitting targets.

All the way to the left sits my personal column. This is where I store a live stream of Lo-Fi music from YouTube, track my current package deliveries, and see the time while working from my apartment. I even included Spotify controls that show the current song, album artwork, and controls for my music. Speaking of controls, you can connect smart-home devices like an Ecobee thermostat or SmartThings hub to manage and observe statuses. When I need to travel, I add in airport delay, transit time, and traffic widgets to stay up to date.

Use Existing Screens To House Your Dashboard Anywhere

Push The Dashboard To A Second Monitor

dual screen setup with one being a dashboard
Hunter Fenollol

With your screen populated by the content you need on a daily basis, you can drag the tab of the live dashboard over to another screen if you have one. I personally use a larger monitor for space to work across documents, research, and keep email windows open. On my laptop’s smaller screen, I set the DAKBoard to full-screen mode and adjust the view settings to remove the toolbar while I’m in fullscreen. This ensures the search bar and other tabs disappear so I can focus on the screen without distractions. Because the dashboard is hosted on the cloud, it doesn’t demand a lot of power of your computer while you work. If you don’t already have a second monitor, we recommend the HP model below. It’s affordable and features an IPS display so you get a good view from any angle in the room.

24mh FHD Monitor

  • IPS display is ideal for wide angles
  • Affordable
  • Smooth 75-hertz refresh rate

  • 1080p isn’t as sharp as a 2K- or 4K-resolution monitor

Display Your Dashboard On The Big Screen

sitting on couch with dashboard tv
Hunter Fenollol

If you have a streaming stick or smart TV with a browser app, you already have the basics for making a large dashboard on the biggest display in your house. Copy your dashboard’s web address (found in the search bar) and enter it on your smart TV browser to open it on the big screen. Since everything is hosted in the cloud, updates roll in as needed, meaning you can completely change your layout and the adjustments will appear within seconds.

If your TV supports Chromecast, you can skip the browser process entirely by beaming your dashboard over to your TV, even if it isn’t a “smart” model. Using Google Chrome on your computer, click the three-dot icon to the right of the search bar to expand settings. Select “Cast” and any Chromecast-capable gadget on the same network will pop up on the list of receiving devices. Now, if your TV isn’t smart and you also don’t have a streaming device, we recommend buying the Chromecast with Google TV to power your setup. Not only is it a powerful streaming device with plenty of apps and 4K support, it boasts the widely used Chromecast wireless protocol for sharing media from phones, tablets, and computers.

A large display isn’t just for up-to-the-minute updates. You can use it to share stats with an office, organize meetings, and even share QR codes for others to scan.

Chromecast with Google TV

  • Compact 4K streaming device
  • Chromecast wireless streaming built-in

  • Slow startup

View Your Dashboard On A Smart Display

smart dashboard
Hunter Fenollol

If you already have a smart display like an Echo Show or Nest hub device, you can extend your dashboard to their screens using a browser or Chromecast. Maybe you don’t have a smart hub. You can plug in a tablet—such as an iPad or Fire Tablet—and set the screen lock functionality to off so it can serve as an always-on display.

Say you don’t have either already and are willing to spend a little, I recommend the Facebook Portal Plus. At under $200, this screen rotates to shift between both portrait and landscape orientations, offers the best video-calling experience, and is one of the largest available. As I work from home, it keeps me in the loop while I make lunch or take a coffee break in the kitchen. It’s helpful for keeping an eye on upcoming meetings, plus breaking down the time I have left to get my scheduled tasks done.

Portal Plus Smart Display
$204.74 (27% off)

  • Large rotating screen
  • Smart speaker with Alexa built-in

  • Facebook account required
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