Windows 11 users: get ready for lock screen widgets that might annoy you (but Microsoft is doing something about that)

Windows 11 and 10 users, you can breathe a sigh of relief for a moment, as there’s news that’s not about sticking more AI into the heart of Windows 11, or about Windows 10’s seemingly unavoidable end – although I don’t know if this development will be a cause for joy. Microsoft is fully rolling out MSN lock screen widgets after testing the feature for the past four months. 

Apparently, the feature is still in the process of being rolled out, so you may not see it quite yet, but these widgets should appear on your lock screen very soon (if they don’t already). Microsoft is implementing this change for Windows 11 and 10 via a server-side update, so the widgets will just suddenly appear – and so far, Windows Latest observes that users aren’t receiving them warmly.

Part of the problem is that the lock screen widgets displayed are pre-set by Microsoft, and they can’t be adjusted or modified to your preferences. The widgets appear if you switch them on, or already have the ‘Weather or more’ option turned on, in the Settings app. 

To be precise, you’ll find this option in the following location: 

Settings > Personalization > Lock Screen  

A selection of a screenshots of the Lock Screen section in the Settings app, allowing users to switch on the batch of widgets

(Image credit: Microsoft)

An all or nothing proposition – at least for now

The pre-configured MSN widgets include Microsoft Money, Sports, and Weather, but you can’t currently pick and choose which of these you’d like to keep and which to leave out. I imagine this is where a lot of the dissatisfaction with the feature comes from, as it feels that if you’d like widgets on your lock screen, but not all of them – well, it’s a case of tough luck. You’re forced to have them all, or none of them (if you switch them off).

Why can’t you adjust these widgets individually, turning off the ones you don’t like, as you can with other individual widgets such as Mail or Calendar? Well, the good news is that you’ll be able to do that before long, as Microsoft has promised this ability is inbound for Windows 11 and 10 users.

We don’t know when this important change is set to arrive, but hopefully, we’ll see this coming in sooner rather than later, as we can’t imagine it’s a huge task for Microsoft.


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Microsoft is mulling a change for widgets in Windows 11 that could prove controversial

Microsoft has deployed a new preview build of Windows 11 to the Canary channel (which is the earliest testing outlet) and it does some work on the widgets panel that could be divisive.

This is build 26200 and there’s only a handful of changes applied here, two of which pertain to widgets.

The main thrust of innovation here is Microsoft’s new idea to allow developers to send notifications from their widgets to the taskbar button. In other words, when something happens with a widget that you might want to see, it’ll be waving at you from the taskbar to let you know.

Of course, not everyone will want their widget button in the taskbar to act in this way, and fortunately, Microsoft has included an option to turn off this behavior.

It’s also worth noting that this is a limited rollout to begin with, and indeed, most people won’t see these widget notifications yet – only those in the European Economic Area (EEA) are getting this feature in testing. Of course, that rollout could be made broader down the line, depending on feedback.

Another tweak related to this in build 26200 is that Microsoft is changing said widgets button to make the icons on the taskbar clearer.

Elsewhere on the taskbar, another icon is changing, this time the energy saver icon which resides in the system tray (on the far right). A few months back this was changed in testing to look different for desktop PCs plugged into a power socket, but now Microsoft has decided to revert it to the old look (a leaf icon).

Finally, Microsoft notes that there is an odd known issue with this preview build – and others, in the Dev and Beta channels, too – whereby Copilot is auto-launching itself after the PC is rebooted.

The software giant explains this is not related to the automatic launch on boot behavior that has been tested in preview builds before, the rollout of which has now stopped, apparently, since March (though we heard it has been restarted elsewhere).

This is a separate glitch, then, and Microsoft says it hopes to have a fix implemented soon. Meanwhile, greater visibility for Copilot is something the company is certainly driving forward with, to no one’s surprise.

Analysis: A livelier taskbar won’t be everyone’s preferred beverage

Are notifications for widgets intrusive? Well, yes they could certainly be regarded in that way, but as noted, as long as the option is provided to turn them off, it’s not too big a deal. If you want them, you can have them – if not, hit that off switch. Fair enough.

Many people likely won’t want their widgets effectively waving their hands at them from the taskbar, whenever something new pops up with a widget in the panel. This taskbar-based hand-waving appears to be a direction Microsoft is exploring in more depth, though. We’ve also recently seen an idea where the Copilot button runs an animation with its icon to draw your attention to the fact that the AI can help with something you’re doing on the desktop.

This only relates to copying text or image files currently – again, in testing – but in this case, there’s no way to turn it off.

All this could possibly point to a taskbar which is considerably livelier and more animated in the future, perhaps – and again, that’s not something everyone will appreciate.

If this is the path we’re going down for the taskbar as we head towards next-gen Windows (which might be Windows 12), hopefully Microsoft will also give Windows users enough granular control over the bar’s highlighting features and animations so they can be dialed back suitably.

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Hate the widgets board in Windows 11? Microsoft hopes you might change your mind

Windows 11 is bringing the ability to banish the clutter from the widgets panel to all users, you’ll doubtless be pleased to hear – maybe opening up this part of the interface to being used by a lot more folks.

Previously, we heard about the option to remove the news feed and adverts from the widgets panel – so it purely plays host to widgets, and nothing else – was going to be part of a package of measures for Windows 11 users in the European Economic Area (EEA).

However, it seems this is a change rolling out to all Windows 11 users, as Microsoft advised in a blog post for the new preview build in the Beta channel (22635.2841), as part of some fresh introductions to settings for the widget board.

Microsoft tells us: “One of the new settings enables you to just show widgets on your widgets board,” adding that: “The new settings experience is not limited by region.”

Note that this is in the process of being rolled out, so not all testers in the Beta channel will have it yet. Of course, it’ll take further time to be pushed to the Release Preview channel, and then onto the finished version of Windows 11 (hopefully).

Other tweaks to widget settings include the ability to change the Microsoft account used to pipe through the news feed (if you want it), so you don’t have to be stuck with the account that’s signed into Windows 11.

There are also some tweaks for Copilot, including the AI now appearing in the Alt-Tab menu (for quickly switching between apps in Windows 11), and the ability to use Copilot across multiple screens.

For the full lowdown on all the bits and pieces Microsoft is working on with this preview version, check out the blog post.

Analysis: A hopeful sign?

It seems like Microsoft is listening to feedback, because while widgets can be a useful little extra for Windows 11, there are certainly users who have shied away from the widgets panel due to its pollution with news content pulled from MSN (and ads to make matters worse).

It’s interesting to see this happen just after the negative reaction to the changes being brought in for the EEA, and not other Windows 11 users, who would very much like these choices. So, maybe more of these options will be widely rolled out, after all. We remain unconvinced about that – as the motivation behind them is to comply with regulations in Europe – but who knows.

These are some very useful features, like being able to rid the Windows 11 search box of Bing (and its web results), or the choice to be able to uninstall Microsoft’s Edge browser. Time will tell, but the testing channels are worth watching closely going forward.

In terms of widgets themselves, another useful change rumored in the past is the ability to move them off their panel and pin them to the desktop.

Via Windows Central

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10 best widgets for iPhone and iPad: our picks for the top choices

One of the best features of iOS and iPadOS is the ability to add widgets to your home screen. The fact that you can place them pretty much anywhere you want gives users more control over customization than ever before.

With widgets available for just about anything you can think of the sheer number of options can make this a slightly bewildering proposition. Which ones do you choose? How do you know if they are any good? 

That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite widgets, to help you narrow it down a bit. Here are our picks for the best widgets for iPhone and iPad.

What is a widget?

If you’ve never used these before, a widget is basically an extension of an app. It provides a window that gives specific information from the app at a glance, so you don't have to open the app to find what you're looking for. Widgets exist for pretty much anything you can imagine – weather, photography, fitness, news, or stocks and shares, to give just a few examples.

While there are some widgets preinstalled on the iPhone and iPad, many apps offer the option of adding a widget once you’ve downloaded them. This massively widens your choice and allows you to personalize your selections to really fit your needs. To start you off, here are some that we recommend. 

10. Night Sky

Night Sky iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Night Sky)

Night Sky is an app that tells you all about the heavens. Use it to learn about stars, planets, satellites, and more, with the aid of augmented reality and other great features.

The widget is relatively basic but will let you know about any upcoming and live events, passing satellites, and the time of sunrise and sunset each day. It’s a great combo for anybody who wants to know a little bit more about the wonders of the universe. (The only thing missing is a voiceover from Professor Brian Cox.) The premium version has even more widgets to offer on top.

9. Photo Widget: Simple

Photowidget iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Photowidget)

While there is a stock photo widget preinstalled on iPhones and iPad, it's pretty rudimentary. If you want to curate your own albums and dictate how often the image changes Photo Widget: Simple will do the job nicely. It’s free to download and use as well. 

You can even use it to create entire themes for your iPhone or iPad. Wallpapers, app icons, and other widgets – countdown, constellation, calendar, clock, memo, and to-do list – can all be customized from here. It's a great widget for several reasons.

8. Carrot Weather

CARROT iOS Widgets

(Image credit: CARROT)

Carrot Weather is, quite simply, our favorite weather app. It recently won Apple Watch App of the Year at the 2021 Apple App Store Awards and a 2021 Apple Design Award, and with good reason. Carrot Weather combines a wicked sense of humor with accurate weather forecasts, as well as a clean interface.

The widget is only available as part of the premium service for £4.99 a month, but in our view, it’s well worth it. The widget is customizable, and lets you see the weather forecast at a glance, without needing to open the app. This is exactly what you want from a weather widget and this one does it with a bit of extra personality.

7. Fitness

Fitness OS Widgets

(Image credit: Apple)

Fitness comes pre-loaded on iOS as it's made by Apple, which is great for a couple of reasons. One, it is optimized for syncing your Apple Watch with your iPhone. And two, it doesn’t cost anything to use. If you’re a fitness enthusiast or looking for a nudge to help you make some healthier choices, this is a great widget to use.

At a glance, it will give you access to information such as calories burned, active minutes, and how long you’ve spent standing. There’s an alternative option of showing the Progress Ring, which gives a quick visual representation of how close you are to completing your pre-set goals for the day.

6. Find My

Find My iOS Widget

(Image credit: Apple)

The Find My app from Apple may not be one you use on a regular basis, but when you need it, it’s worth its weight in gold. You can use it to keep track of things you are worried about losing – your AirPods, Apple Watch, or something with an AirTag attached to it. You can even use it to keep a close eye on people – for example, making sure your child gets home safely from school. 

The widget gives you all this information, without needing to load the app. The widgets come in two flavors – People and Items – so you can decide whether you want one or both on your home screen. 

5. Google Maps

Google Maps iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Google)

Google Maps is a fantastic tool wherever you are in the world, and it gives you a wide variety of widgets to choose from. This includes a Google Travel Times widget, which tells you how long it will take you to get from one place to another.

You can access a widget that will tell you about things like local traffic conditions, shop opening hours, and restaurant reviews in the local area. And there's a widget that lets you find nearby places such as groceries, restaurants, and petrol stations. That's a wealth of widgets for all your travel needs. 

4. Flipboard

Flipboard iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Flipboard)

Flipboard is an award-winning app that draws from thousands of different sources to curate news and information to suit your interests. Set up the topics you’d like to follow and the major headlines from those subjects will appear on your Home Screen, thanks to the widget.

The widget is available in four different sizes. You can choose from a thumbnail with a single headline up to a much larger roundup of four of the latest stories. You can also choose from four different feeds: your own ‘For You’ feed, the ‘Daily Edition’ for the latest news, ‘10 For Today’ for a selection of in-depth stories, or ‘Flipboard Picks’ for a set of stories specially selected by Flipboard staff.

3. Calm

Calm iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Calm)

Let’s face it, the world is a stressful place to be at the moment. This is why we love Calm, the recipient of multiple Apple awards. The Calm widget lets you access Daily Calm with a single tap, as well as breathing exercises and Sleep Stories. 

Daily Calm is a 10-minute-long guided meditation, while Sleep Stories are bedtime stories read by well-known celebrities, such as Stephen Fry, Matthew McConaughey, and Leona Lewis. If you choose to subscribe, you get access to all of Calm’s content. You can pay £28.99 for an annual subscription or a one-off £299.99 payment gives you access forever.

2. Spark – Email App by Readdle

Spark iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Spark)

Spark – Email App by Readdle is a super smooth way to organize your inbox. It helps to prioritize your email, notifies you about emails from people you know, and ignores the spam, among a host of other great features. You can also connect all your email accounts, so no more bouncing from one app to another.

The widgets build on this, by allowing you to choose up to three of them for quick access. The developers themselves particularly love Recently Seen, Attachments, and Calendar. You can also decide whether to have a small widget that tells you how many emails you’ve got or a larger list of what’s waiting in your inbox. It’s a great tool for seeing what’s important at a glance.

1. Widgetsmith

Widgetsmith iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Widgetsmith)

Widgetsmith is a superb tool for customizing widgets for your home screen. And it covers all sorts of topics – weather, astronomy, and calendars are just a few examples. You can even set the widgets to change through the course of the day.

So Widgetsmith might show you the weather when you get up in the morning, before switching to your calendar as you get through all your meetings, and then switch again to show you your reminders for the next day as you enter the evening. Some additional features, such as Tide and Weather hosted data, are available for a premium.

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