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  1. Windows 11 is under active development with a general release date somewhere around the end of the calendar year. For those interested in giving the operating system a go before then, now is a good time to enroll in the Dev or Beta channels in the Windows Insider Program. While the OS is still under development, we have started taking a closer look at some of its features and capabilities, and also comparing how it stacks up against its predecessor. Although some of these might change depending upon feedback from Windows Insiders, the idea is to give our readers who have not used Windows 11 yet a hint as to what to expect come the OS' global launch. A couple of days ago, we took a deep-dive into the Windows Search functionality, and today, we'll be taking a closer look at widgets. For the purpose of this hands-on, we'll be taking a look at Windows 11 build 22000.160 released just a couple of days ago versus a publicly available up to date Windows 10 (version 21H1 build 19043.1165). "News and Interests" in Windows 10 Before we discuss widgets in Windows 11, it is important to note that the feature debuted quite recently on Windows 10. It is called "News and Interests" on the OS and can be accessed from the taskbar. As the name suggests, it's essentially a news feed that sits on the right side of your taskbar by default, and shows you the weather. However, when you hover or click on it, it expands in a fly-out window (screenshot above) showing you the weather, news, scores from sports, stock market trends, and more. You can click on the three-dotted menu on the top-right corner to manage your interests and can also click on the "expand" icon next to that, which will open the "My Feed" tab in Microsoft Edge. This will essentially show you the same information but in more screen estate. The same will happen if you want to view a particular item in more detail. It will always open in Edge and not respect your browser preferences. "Widgets" in Windows 11 If we move to Windows 11, the launch experience is quite different. The widgets icon now - see red arrow in screenshot above - sits along with your regular pinned taskbar items rather than the far right. It does not automatically launch on hover (this behavior can be disabled on Windows 10 too, by the way), and it does not take any space on your taskbar to show the weather. The only way to launch it is by clicking on it or using the Win + W shortcut. On Windows 10, this shortcut launched the Windows Ink Workspace UI. In terms of the post-launch experience, you'll see that the widgets launch on the left side of the screen rather than the right. Eagle-eyed readers will also notice the rounded corners in the windowed component, which seems to be a staple in the Windows 11 design. Another noticeable change is that the widgets hover over the the taskbar and are not adjacent to the borders of the taskbar, which is something that we noted in the Windows Search UI a couple of days ago too. Managing widgets in Windows 11 While the general look appears to be the same, there are some key differences. The UI shows the time at the top, the "expand" and "refresh" icons from Windows 10 are gone, and the controls-related icons on the top-right have been reduced to just your account's picture. When you click on this, you'll be able to manage your interests, similar to Windows 10. That said, there are a lot more widgets here than what are present in Windows 10. Looking at the screenshot above, you'll see that it contains options like Outlook Calendar, To Do, and traffic information too. In fact, by default, the Windows 11 widgets also have the Photos widget pinned. This typically shows you memories from your OneDrive albums. It is important to note that you can unpin widgets anytime you want and can even hide it from your taskbar by simply right-clicking on the icon and clicking "hide from taskbar". While the widgets UI in Windows 11 will likely be welcomed by people who like to check news and stock market trends without launching the full browser experience, I feel that it could do with a lot of improvements. Again, this section is not intended for people who don't plan to use widgets altogether, and they have the option to hide it. Widgets take up too much space on Windows 11 I believe that the widgets fly-out window takes up way too much space on the screen. If I just want a quick look at the news, weather, or stock market trends, I do not want it to take up roughly 35% of the width of my screen - as can be shown above - and horribly obstruct what I'm doing in the background. In essence, it does not offer multi-tasking capabilities at all. If you click on anything outside of the widgets UI, the window closes. In the next few builds leading up to the general release of Windows 11, I believe that Microsoft should invest significant effort into redesigning its widgets UI from a multi-tasking perspective. Maybe provide some control to the user as to where they want the widgets to appear and how much space they should occupy. For example, in my case, I would prefer that if I click on widgets, they appear at the bottom right corner of the screen, and occupy 20% of the width and 30% of the height. Furthermore, they should not close unless I explicitly click on the widgets icon or some "X" button on the top-right of the widgets window itself. From a personal user experience perspective, this would allow me to continue with my regular activities on the main screen estate while occasionally scrolling through news and match scores on the right. Lastly, since I use Chrome as my primary browser, I do not appreciate the fact that widgets on Windows 10 and Windows 11 do not respect browser preferences and open in Microsoft Edge, regardless of anything. There definitely needs to be more control given to the user on this front. Overall, I appreciate the changes that Microsoft is making to widgets in Windows 11 and adding new capabilities that take advantage of information from your Microsoft account, I do feel that there is a ways to go before I consider integrating widgets into my regular usage, come Windows 11. In the same vein, if you have feedback for Microsoft too, consider reporting it to the company via Feedback Hub and let us know in the comments section what you think about widgets as well. Closer Look: Widgets in Windows 11
  2. Microsoft Edge might finally be adding this super useful feature Widget support is coming to Edge (Image credit: Microsoft) Microsoft plans to add a number of new features including web widgets, tab search and an extension menu to its Edge browser in its next big update. While Google has long offered support for widgets in its Android mobile operating system, it appears that widget support will also be coming to Windows 10 via Microsoft Edge. At the moment, the software giant is currently testing out a news + weather widget that will include headlines directly from Bing’s MSN news feed. This new widget for Microsoft Edge will follow the same approach used by Microsoft in Windows 10’s upcoming taskbar news and weather feed which can show users a personalized briefing with popular stories based on their interests such as sports and finance as well as their location. Even with Edge closed, users will still be able to access the widget by clicking on the icon floating over their desktop and other Windows apps. As of now, Microsoft is only working on its news feed widget but the company is expected to introduce additional widgets later this year. Tab search and extension menu Microsoft is also working on adding tab search to Chromium Edge as this feature is already available in Google Chrome. The company added support for vertical tabs to Edge last year and a new update to the browser will add the option for users to search for open tabs. Once rolled out, users will be able to access this feature by navigating to the browser’s top bar or by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + A. An extensions menu is also finally coming to Microsoft Edge and it is marked by an icon that looks like a puzzle piece. From here, you’ll be able to access all of your installed extensions or alternatively, you can pin them to the address bar for even faster access. Since making the switch to Chromium, Microsoft has continually updated Edge with new features and this latest batch will surely be welcomed by users looking to increase their productivity when using the company's browser. Via Windows Latest Microsoft Edge might finally be adding this super useful feature
  3. Custom iOS 14 widgets have become a TikTok flex Customizing the iPhone home screen is now an art form The most exciting part of iOS 14 isn’t picture-in-picture video display or the app library — it’s widgets. Instead of once-boring app icons for your calendar or clock that might get placed in a utilities folder, the new wave of widgets let you spice up your homepage with anything from custom notes to astronomy and weather reports. Those options have existed on Android devices for years, but their sudden arrival on the iPhone has created a kind of gold rush, with users combining them into custom layouts that can be tweaked, shared, and even sold. The new options have also turned a small utility called Widgetsmith into a surprise success, garnering more than 2 million downloads since it launched on September 16th, according to CNBC. Widgetsmith isn’t necessary for layouts, but its wide-ranging custom widget options give users more control. Most importantly, it’s become the preferred tool for most layout tutorial videos, which has put it at the center of the growing scene. Even with Widgetsmith, designing the perfect layout can take several hours — but it’s worth it for users who are trying to make a splash on Instagram or TikTok. With those tools in place, the layouts are as eager, intricate, and fannish as could be expected. One user focused on Club Penguin-themed layout, using Widgetsmith and Apple’s Shortcuts tool to make a home screen look and feel exactly like the now-defunct social gaming app. In another case, a TikTok creator used an orange, red, and brown color palette to coincide with the aesthetics of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and the fall season. There are also viral Star Wars and Marvel home screens and others designed with minimalist aesthetics in mind. Gia, a 15-year-old Twilight fan, spent five hours making her Twilight-dedicated home screen, which includes a GIF lock screen image, characters from the Twilight films as app icons, and Widgetsmith boxes used to display Twilight dialogue. Her video quickly amassed thousands of views. Part of the inspiration for her home screen came from being a devout Twilight fan, but Gia also told The Verge that it “would be very cozy especially since we’re transitioning into fall.” Some layouts are appealing enough to pay for. Katarina Mogus, owner and creative director of En Flique Creative, a social media marketing agency, runs an Etsy shop that has started selling iOS 14 packs for $4.99. They’re designed with “aesthetic AF” in mind, something Mogus believes is key to understanding why iOS 14 designs have taken off in the last week. Mogus told The Verge that after her TikTok video demonstrating how to use Widgetsmith to make cool home screens was seen more than 25 million times, she decided to sell some of her designs on Etsy for people (like me) who might not be as artistically inclined. “I really wanted to make it easier for people,” Mogus said. “I put out a price point where I’m like, ‘Ok, for one Starbucks drink, would someone be willing to buy the widget that I’m creating?’ I’ve been getting a lot of sales on it, and I’m continuously making more because I’m getting a lot of requests for different ones.” Sharing those designs — and the skills it takes to create them — has become a sensation on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. There are new accounts entirely dedicated to tutorials, asking people what they want to learn and showing them how to do it in a minute or less. The #ios14tutorial hashtag on TikTok has already garnered close to 20 million views. Christian Parrotte, a freshman at the University of Florida, is an iPhone owner who spent a few hours working on his own iOS 14 layout that incorporated different characters and elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most of the time was spent hunting down photos that he liked that would work functionally against the dark backdrop he was using as wallpaper. The more views his video collects, the more people ask Parrotte in the comments to drop a tutorial. They want to make it their iPhone backgrounds, too. It made Parrotte realize that there’s a huge market for developers to make it easier for people to customize their own phones — something that may only continue growing as more people buy and receive Apple products during the holiday season. “I definitely think that as app developers start to see how impactful iOS 14 is, and how we use our phones, they’re going to start making adjustments,” Parrotte told The Verge. “Right now, it’s really only Widgetsmith. I think we’ll start seeing a lot of other apps purely aesthetic widget apps really soon.” It’s hard to say how long the fad will last, or how long users will keep their intricate home screens. Parrotte and Gia think part of it is simply creating the designs for clout. (“I think it’s a way for people to flex,” Gia says.) But with form factors and operating systems settling into a dull sameness, there’s a powerful appeal to having a home screen that looks different from everyone else’s. “Since the iPhone has always looked the same and there’s no ability for customization, it’s so exciting as a creator and as just a regular iPhone user that you can change things,” Mogus said. “I’d love to see more customizable aspects to the iPhone in the future, and even other Apple devices. I have every Apple product, so anyway to change them up a bit more is really exciting.” Custom iOS 14 widgets have become a TikTok flex
  4. Gmail and more Google apps are getting widgets on iOS Apple's iOS 14 added support for home screen widgets for the first time, and companies have been working to catch up and add widgets to their own apps. Google is one such company, and after adding a widget for the Search app back in September, the Mountain View giant has now revealed a few more apps getting their own iOS home screen widgets. Some of the widgets are rolling out in the next few days, and those are for Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Fit. The first two are fairly similar, featuring a search bar at the top and a couple of quick links. In the Gmail widget, you can start composing a new message or get a glimpse at how many unread emails you have. For Drive, you get links to the "files you're most likely to need". Meanwhile, Google Fit simply shows a summary of your activity in the past week. You can see your daily and weekly goals for heart points and steps and whether you've met them. Coming a little later, the Calendar widget shows your upcoming events. And next year, Chrome is also getting its own widget, which is similar in design to Gmail and Google Drive widgets. A search/address bar is at the top, along with links to open an incognito tab, use voice, or scan a QR code. There's also a smaller widget with a "prehistoric surprise", which is likely a reference to the dinosaur game that's displayed when you try to open a webpage in Chrome without an internet connection. These widgets are available now for Chrome Beta users, but the general public will only get them in 2021. Gmail and more Google apps are getting widgets on iOS
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