How to Get Started With Widgets on the Web, Desktop or Mobile

A brief intro to the wonderful world of widgets

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When a person or a website refers to a widget, they're usually referring either to a web widget, a desktop widget or a mobile widget. While these three things sound the same, they are actually quite different.

The term "widget" isn't as widely used now as it was back in the earlier stages of the web. Many people might refer to them now as "gadgets" or simply "apps"—particularly if they're using a mobile device.

Three Types of Widgets Explained

A web widget is a component of a web page, so it requires a web browser. Desktop and mobile widgets, on the other hand, reside on your computer's desktop or your your mobile device's screen, meaning they don't require a web browser to be open.

How Web Widgets Are Used

A web widget is a small piece of code that can be placed on a website or blog, such as embedding a video from YouTube.

To use a web widget, you must copy the widget code to your website, blog, start page or social networking profile. Some widget galleries help out by automating this process for you.

The four most common places to use web widgets are:

Websites

Whether it is a personal website or a business website, widgets can enhance productivity or just add a little fun to your site. A common example of a widget on a website is ad blocks such as Google Ads.

Blogs

Widgets can give your blog a personalized feel, or provide advanced utility for your readers. A common example of a widget on a blog are social networking buttons icons that will automatically share the web page to the user's corresponding social networking profile.

Personalized Start Pages

Widgets can also add productivity and/or fun to your start page. A common example of a widget on a start page is RSS readers used to deliver the headlines from your favorite blog or news source such as Yahoo! News or CNN.

Social Networking Profiles

You can use widgets on a Social Network to tell more about yourself, such as listing out your favorite books, or have compiled your favorite songs into a playlist to play for visitors to your profile.

How Desktop Widgets Are Used

A desktop widget is a small application that runs on your desktop, sometimes accessing the Internet for information, such as a desktop widget that shows the local temperature and weather.

Desktop widgets can provide a large range of uses for your desktop. For example, a scratch pad widget can allow you to create small notes for yourself and post them on your desktop, just as you might put notes on your refrigerator.

To use a desktop widget, you need to first install a widget toolbox to manage the widgets on your desktop. ​For instance, Into Windows is a popular source of desktop widgets for PCs running on Windows.

How Mobile Widgets Are Used

A mobile widget is a small application that can be integrated into your mobile device's OS so that it shows up on your screen, notification center, app drawer or somewhere else.

Mobile widgets are typically used by downloading apps, which is why these days, people stick to mostly just calling them apps for general purposes. For example, if you download the Evernote app to your Android device, you'll be able to choose from a number of widgets to put on your home screen for quick access to your notes.

How to Find Great Widgets

One problem many people have is actually finding widgets to put on their web page or blog. Most personalized start pages come with a small gallery of widgets that can be used on the start page, but if you are looking for a widget for your blog, it can sometimes be difficult to locate them.

Do a Google Search

This is perhaps the easiest and most straightforward way to find the type of widgets you're looking for. For example, if you're looking for weather widgets for your Android, try searching for "android weather widgets." You'll most likely find a handful of blog posts listing a few to try out.

Check Out Popular Apps in App Stores

Not all apps are designed to give you widgets, but it doesn't hurt to browse through the App Store, Google Play, the Microsoft Store or wherever else you get apps for your machine.

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Article updated by: Elise Moreau