As the weeks go on the more I fall in love with iOS 8. That’s because much of what makes iOS 8 great is so tightly integrated with third-party apps. There’s custom keyboards, extensions and Touch ID--all which require support by third-party apps to be really useful. Each day, more and more apps are updated to support these cool new features. But best of all is the new widgets support in Notification Center. Widgets are little interactive status graphics that allow you to quickly access information from apps all in one place. We’ve put together this primer to tell you how to enable third-party widgets and also show off some of the best apps that have the coolest widgets.
Installing and Activating Widgets
As with most things with iOS, Apple has made installing and using widgets as easy as possible. Widgets aren’t separate apps; they’re just extensions of existing apps on your iPhone. So if an app has a widget when you download that app you’ll get the widget. But in order to see the widget in Notification Center you’ll need to enable it. Here’s how:
Swipe down from the top of any screen on your iPhone (or iPad). This will display Notification Center.
Tap the “Today” view. Widgets are only viewable in Today view.
By default you’ll see some built-in Apple widgets, like Today Summary and Tomorrow Summary. The Reminders widget is also enabled by default. Below these default widgets you’ll see an Edit button. Tap it.
The Widgets list slides up the screen. This list shows you all the widgets available on your device. It’s segregated into two sections. At the top you’ll see your active widgets and below that you’ll see a header labeled “Do Not Include”. Any widget in this “Do Not Include” list will have a green + button by it. Widgets in the “Do Not Include” list are listed in alphabetical order by app name. Active widgets above this “Do Not Include” list have a red – button in front of it.
To add a widget to Today view simply tap the green button by the widget’s name. The widget will automatically shift up to the top list.
To arrange the order widgets appear in in Today view drag the grab bars up or down to the right of the widget’s name (note that while Today Summary and Tomorrow Summary must be the first and last items, respectively, you can remove them from Today view if you want).
To remove an active widget, simply tap its red – button. The widget’s name will slide to the right and a red REMOVE button will appear. Tap it and the widget is removed and placed back in the “Do Not Include” list.
Tap the Done button when you are done enabling, disabling, and rearranging widgets.
Back on the Today view screen in Notification Center you’ll notice a small text notification below the Edit button whenever you’ve downloaded an app that adds a new widget.
Interacting with Widgets
Widgets just aren't static graphics of information; you can actually interact with most of them. Some of this interaction is simple. For example, tapping on Apple’s Weather widget will launch the Weather app. Virtually all app’s widgets support this simple launcher functionality. Tap on the widget = launch the app.
But some widgets offer a greater degree of interaction. London Bus Checker, for example, lets you navigate through ever populating lists of the next busses that will arrive near your location. Apple’s Reminders app allow you to check off a reminder in the Notification Center as soon as you’ve completed it--without opening the app. Several news apps allow you to tap on a breaking headline to be taken right to that story in the app.
In short, widgets are what the developers make of them. They can be simple launchers or offer some pretty cool interactivity that allows you to save time by completing tasks without opening up the app.
Some Cool Widgets
The list of apps with great widgets is growing by the day, but here are some of my favorites:
Dropbox – see the most recently added and changed files right in your Notification Center. Tap on a file to open it.