How to Install & Use Notification Center Widgets

Notification Center Widgets
Yahoo Weather and Evernote widgets running in Notification Center.

Sept. 18, 2014

In iOS 8, Notification Center has gotten more useful. Third-party apps can now display mini-apps, called widgets, in Notification Center so you can perform quick tasks without going to a full app. Here's what you need to know about Notification Center Widgets.

Users of the iPhone and iPod touch have been enjoying Notification Center—the pull-down menu that's packed with short bursts of information from apps—for years. Whether it was to get the temperature, stock quotes, social media updates, or other breaking news, Notification Center delivered.

But it didn't deliver completely. It showed some information, but what it showed was basic and primarily text. To do anything with that text, to act on the notification you'd just gotten, required opening the app that sent the notification. That's changed in iOS 8 and up thanks to a new feature called Notification Center Widgets.

What are Notification Center Widgets?

Think of a widget as a mini app that lives within Notification Center. Notification Center used to be a collection of short text notifications sent by apps that you couldn't do much with. Widgets essentially take selected features of apps and make them available in Notification Center so you can use them quickly without opening another app.

There are two important things to understand about widgets:

  • Not all apps offer widgets. Support for the feature must be built into an app, so not every app on your phone—even those that work with Notification Center—will be compatible.
  • You can't get widgets on their own. Because the feature has to be built into a larger app, you can't just download a widget on its own. It's an integral part of the app it comes from.

Right now, because the feature is so new, not a lot of apps offer widgets. That will change as more apps are updated to support the feature, but if you're looking to try widgets out now, Apple has a collection of compatible apps here.

Installing Notification Center Widgets

Once you've got some apps that support widgets on your phone, enabling widgets is a snap. Just follow these 4 steps:

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen to open Notification Center
  2. In the Today view, tap the Edit button at the bottom 
  3. This show all apps that offer Notification Center Widgets. Look for the Do Not Include section at the bottom. If you see an app whose widget you want to add to Notification Center, tap the green + next to it.
  4. That app will move to the upper menu (the widgets that are enabled). Tap Done.

How to Use Widgets

Once you've installed some widgets, using them is easy. Just swipe down to reveal Notification Center and swipe through it to find the widget you want.

Some widgets won't let you do much (the Yahoo Weather widget, for instance, just shows your local weather with a nice picture). For those, just tap on them to go to the full app.

Others let you use the app without leaving Notification Center. For instance, Evernote offers shortcuts to creating new notes, while the to-do list app Finish lets you mark tasks completed or add new ones.