Windows 11 looks like it might soon support third-party widgets, as another clue that they could be imminent has popped up courtesy of an eagle-eyed Twitter user.
FireCube did some digging and spotted that the widget manifest has been updated to reference downloading widgets – tiny apps that provide at-a-glance info, such as the current weather, or local traffic – from the Microsoft Store.
Widget manifest update shows more evidence of being able to download third party widgets and updates from the Microsoft Store.#Windows11 #FluentDesign pic.twitter.com/RgBYCq7sgZApril 13, 2022
The text informing users that they can “download new widgets and widget updates in Microsoft Store” is another piece of evidence that the eventual plan is to let developers put their third-party widgets in the Store, and allow Windows 11 users to download whatever they want.
The widgets panel would then be more useful, of course, with a bigger range of options and plenty more scope for customization, compared to the current situation where people can only use Microsoft’s own widgets in the panel.
As Windows Central, which spotted this, points out, its own Zac Bowden – a prolific source of Microsoft leaks – has previously said that the widget panel is expected to be getting third-party efforts, plus new features, and indeed that developers have already been briefed as to how third-party widgets will function. Previous leaks have pointed to third-party widgets being inbound, too.
Analysis: Expanding the widget panel in more ways than one
Bowden made those comments in December 2021, four months ago now, and with this latest spotting of a nugget of evidence that Microsoft is preparing to implement third-party widgets, it seems a firm enough possibility that they will debut at some point in 2022.
Would that be with the big H2 2022 (Sun Valley 2) update? Maybe, but given that Microsoft has been adding stuff to Windows 11 as and when it likes so far this year – witness the recent arrival of some big interface changes outside of major feature updates – then maybe this clue turning up now is a sign we could be installing third-party widgets in the OS sooner rather than later.
As for the other plans Microsoft has for the widget panel, at its recent Windows 11 reveal, we did catch a glimpse of a full-screen panel; so that could be in the pipeline too (and it’d provide more screen real-estate to populate with third-party widgets).
The widget panel is, of course, a divisive feature, and some folks really don’t appreciate it, viewing it as a rather pointless element of the UI. Its usefulness is certainly limited in its current form, being restricted to Microsoft services (like OneDrive, for example, and the likes of MSN weather).
Opening up the ability to add a huge range of new widgets from all over the shop would certainly help to make the panel a more compelling feature for Windows 11, and markedly improve the perception of this part of the interface.