What's the Difference Between a Widget and a Gadget?

The two terms are often used interchangeably

Widget on a computer screen.

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Widgets and gadgets are lightweight apps that allow users to interact with other apps or websites. The only major difference between the two is that widgets are designed to work on multiple platforms while gadgets are typically more limited in their functionality.

Widgets
  • Refers to a specific type of software.

  • Usable on any platform.

Gadgets
  • Refers to both hardware and software.

  • Made for specific apps or operating systems.

The terms widget, gadget, and app are often used interchangeably. In the context of software, both gadgets and widgets can be considered apps, but they are not like traditional stand-alone programs. Instead, most widgets and gadgets provide a simplified graphical user interface (GUI) through which users can interact with other programs and online services. Many apps for iOS and Android are technically widgets or gadgets, but not all applications fall into one of these categories.

Widgets Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Easy to insert into any website.

  • Can be used by anyone.

Cons
  • Interfaces vary in quality.

  • Some widgets seem superfluous.

A widget is a piece of reusable code that you can plug into any website or operating system. If you run a blog, for example, you might use WordPress widgets to design the layout of your website. You can also add widgets to your blog or personal website (in the form of HTML code) so that users can share your content on social media.

All RSS feed readers that provide news headlines, stock quotes, and other information from various sources are widgets. Smartphones support widgets for weather apps that provide real-time updates and alerts on your home screen. Some individual GUI elements, such as pop-up windows, dialog boxes, and toggle switches can also be classified as widgets.

Gadgets Pro and Cons

Pros
  • Interfaces can be optimized for specific platforms.

  • Protected under intellectual property law.

Cons
  • Can only be used on certain platforms.

  • Limited customization options for users.

A gadget acts just like a widget and often fulfills the same purpose. The only difference is that gadgets are proprietary, which means that they only work on certain devices, websites, or operating systems.

If you're a developer, there are benefits and drawbacks to making gadgets geared toward a specific platform versus making widgets that anyone can use. The former gives you greater control over how your program looks and operates, but the latter makes your apps more accessible.

Other Meanings for Gadget

The word gadget is also used to describe any small, physical device like a fitness tracker. To make matters more confusing, some physical gadgets rely on software gadgets to work in conjunction with an application. For instance, the Raymio is a wearable device that helps you stay safe in the sun. The device and its interface can both be considered gadgets since they rely on a separate app that runs on your smartphone.