What Is an iPad Widget? How Do I Install One?

Open and access new settings and options on your Apple tablet

Woman using a digital tablet
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Widgets are small apps that run on a device's interface, such as a clock or a window displaying the current weather. While they've been popular on Android and Windows RT tablets for a while now, they didn't make their way to the iPad until the iOS 8 update brought "Extensibility" to the iPad. Extensibility is a feature that allows a snippet of an app to run within another app.

This allows widgets to run on the iPad via the Notification Center. You'll be able to customize this area to show and add widgets. You can also choose to access the notification center while the iPad is locked, so you can see your widget without typing in your passcode.

These instructions apply to devices running iOS 8 and later.

How to See and Install Widgets on the iPad

Here's how to see, customize, and add widgets to your iPad.

  1. Open the Notification Center. Swipe right from the left edge of the screen, or swipe down from the top edge, and then swipe left to enter the Today view. All of your available widgets are available here.

    iPad widgets screen
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and tap Edit.

    Edit button in the Notification Center on an iPad
  3. The Edit screen contains two groups: widgets that are currently active and ones that are available but you haven't installed.

    Add Widgets screen on an iPad
  4. The widgets on the top half of the screen are active. To remove one, tap the minus sign to the left of its name, and then tap Remove.

    Removing a widget on the iPad
  5. Tap and drag the handles on the right side of each line to change the order in which widgets appear in the Today view.

    Your iPad lists widgets in the exact order in which they appear on this screen.

    Reorder handle for a widget on an iPad
  6. To add a new widget, tap the green plus sign to the left of one in the bottom section.

    Adding a widget on an iPad
  7. You don't have to confirm or save changes to add a widget. It will move up to the "active" list as soon as you tap the plus sign.

How to Know Which Apps Include Widgets

Unfortunately, the only way to tell if an app has a widget you can add to the Today view is to download it and then check the list on the Edit screen. While the App Store does a good job of letting you know which programs are compatible with iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple Watch, the listings currently don't include whether a widget is available.

Can I Use a Widget to Replace the On-Screen Keyboard?

Another benefit of Extensibility is the ability to use third-party keyboards. Swype has long been a popular alternative to traditional typing (or tapping, as we do on our tablets). An Android keyboard alternative, Swype lets you draw words instead of tapping them out, which ultimately leads to faster and more accurate typing.

What Other Ways Can I Use a Widget?

Because extensibility is the ability for an app to run within another app, widgets can expand almost any program. For example, you can use Pinterest as a widget by installing it into Safari as an additional way to share web pages. You can also use photo editing apps like Litely inside of the iPad's Photos app, which gives you a single place to edit a photo and use features from other photo-editing apps.