iPhone widgets: How to install and use on iOS

Faster functionality at your fingertips

Even though iOS 8 has been out for the better part of a year, some developers are just getting their sea legs when it comes to building quality widgets that give you live information and quick actions right from the Notification Center. But that's OK: many iPhone users are still getting used to the idea of widgets as well.

They're great for checking baseball scores, skimming the news or finding out when your next appointment is. Once you get your widget section set up the way you want, you'll spend less time hopping through apps to find the content that you're after or to perform a specific task. We'll get you through the basics.

How to add widgets

Widgets live in the Notification Center (accessed by sliding down from the top of Home screen), on the left side under the Today tab. The Notifications tab on the right is reserved for all those sometimes-annoying push alerts.

By default, Apple starts you out with widgets from its core services. The Today summary, Reminders, Calendar, and Stocks are decent enough, but as with many of Apple's apps there's often a better solution from a third party. Also, you can rearrange the order of the widgets, add new ones, or delete those on display. (The Today summary and Traffic Conditions are the only ones that can't be repositioned).

iOS Widgets

Click the Edit button in Notification Center to add, remove or rearrange your widgets.

When you download a new app, you'll see a message at the bottom of the Notification Center if a new widget is available. Touch the Edit button to launch the screen that has all the available widgets to add. You'll see the familiar red button for deleting items, as well as three horizontal lines on the right that indicate you can move an object. Just touch and hold a widget's name to slide it into the position you want. You can rearrange the existing ones, add a new widget, or remove a widget that you don't want anymore.

Which widgets?

As with any operating system feature, some developers have built better solutions than others. Some widgets do a better job than others at keeping the information updated. ESPN, Nuzzel, and, of course, Apple's offerings are particularly reliable at putting the most up-to-date data in the Today view. Several other news apps, however, require you to jump into the app from time to time in order to get the most refreshed content. It's unclear if this is some type of restriction in how Apple allows developers to implement widgets or if the developers need to work out some bugs.

Other widgets allow for better productivity. Evernote's widget is a fine example, as it gives you one-touch access to creating a new note or reminder. Also, PCalc lets you add a calculator widget - a great way to have one within easy access and to save space on your home screen.

iOS Widgets

ESPN, Nuzzle and PCalc are examples of excellent third-party widgets.

Ultimately, you'll need to spend some time building widgets into your workflow to see which ones you like. One-touch actions are the key differentiators here. Widgets that save you time and give you at-a-glance information are the most deserving of a spot in your Notification Center.