The iOS notification centre already included widgets for weather and calendar, but these were fairly limited. With the launch of iOS 8, the notification centre gets a huge upgrade, as you can now control which apps show up and what additional information can be presented using widgets. This can range from a calendar to a translation widget to just showing you your progress in different books.
There are a lot to choose from and some are more useful than others. We used quite a few of these widgets and here are our favourites.
Wdgts is a great app to start with that really makes the most use of the notification centre. This app has five basic functions - calculator, currency converter, time zones, calendar and photo frame. It puts all of these in your notification centre. Want to quickly check the current exchange rate or make a quick calculation? You can access all these functions at any time by just opening the notification centre.
This widget lets you quickly translate text into English quickly - all you need to do is copy the text wherever you encounter it, and iTranslate will show you the English translation in the notification centre. So if you come across a word in a webpage, email or book, you don't need to copy and paste it into Safari, and then search for it. Simple use cases like this are a great way of using the notification centre without making it complicated.
Sky Guide (Rs. 150) is a great app for stargazing, more of which we have written about earlier. This app has a widget that shows you the time of the day (or night) when celestial bodies will be visible. In the widget you can see these times for the Sun, Moon (along with its phases), Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. A neat graph to illustrate this is the icing on the cake.
Evernote uses widgets to help you speed up the note-taking process. It shows five buttons - text, camera, photos, reminders and list. You can pick any one of these and jump to typing notes in the Evernote app. This gets full marks for boosting productivity, as you save time by quickly selecting the type of note you want to create.
The beauty of Yahoo Weather lies in its design. It is perhaps the best weather app on the App Store from a design perspective. Yahoo Weather now has a widget that shows you the current temperature and forecast in the widget, along with nice background images that are a hallmark of the app. Our only complaint is that the image doesn't fill the width of the screen, but hopefully it will be fixed soon.
Best of the rest
We also liked widgets of many other apps, and here are the best of the rest.
- Audiobooks from Audible: Tracks total time spent listening to audiobooks. Version 2.2 of this app often crashes on launch, so wait for a fix (v 2.2.1) before you download it.
- Parcel is a nice app for tracking deliveries of shipments. Unfortunately, it does not support courier services based in India yet.
- Day One (Rs. 300): Tracks how many notes you have taken everyday and shows a them in a notes versus time bar graph. Shows a few past entries and photos too.
- TwoDots: This fun puzzle game uses widgets to show game progress, lives remaining and medals won.
- Dropbox: Shows most recent files from your Dropbox folder. If you use a shared folder, you can quickly open files added by others in the group.