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Posts tagged with "widgets"

Looks Like Rain: Visualizing the Weather on a Color-Coded Timeline

I’m always excited when a new weather app is released, especially when it’s a weather app that looks different from most of its counterparts. Looks Like Rain by Thinkbits is beautifully designed, and it certainly looks different, to say the least. The layout of the app is clean, the elements are well-spaced, and the color palette has clearly been composed with care. Most importantly, though, I’m absolutely loving its unique approach to visualizing the weather forecast on a color-coded timeline.

I’ve been using this brand-new weather app for the past few weeks on the iPhone, the iPad, and the Mac, and it has already earned a permanent place in the rotation of my favorite weather apps.

Let’s check it out.

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TV Remote: Control Your TV From Your Lock Screen, Home Screen, and Live Activities

Developers have come up with endlessly clever uses for interactive widgets. I love testing them all, but one type is beginning to stick more than others. It’s the widgets for apps that require quick interactions when you’re in the middle of something else. Turning off the lights in my home office when I’m finished working for the day, toggling work timers as I switch from task to task, and then checking off those tasks as I complete them are all perfect interactions for widgets that require minimal switching away from whatever I’m doing. Hopefully, that means fewer distractions and, in turn, a more productive day.

But not everything is about peak efficiency and checklists. Sometimes, you just want to relax, which widgets can help with, too. One of my favorite apps to help with that, which recently added interactive widget support, is TV Remote by Adam Foot. Foot’s app is one I already used with my LG C2 TV, but it’s the app’s new widgets that have graduated it to a regular part of my TV routine.

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Hue Widgets’ Interactive Widgets Are the Easiest Way to Control Complex Hue Lighting Scenes

I’ve never been a big fan of the Philips Hue app. It has improved over time, and I appreciate its fine-grained control over my lights and its Shortcuts support, but the app has always felt a little clunky. That’s why I was happy when I discovered Hue Widgets over a year ago now. It’s a simple widget creation tool that lets you activate your Hue lights and scenes from your iPhone’s Home Screen, which is a much easier and nicer experience than using the Hue app. Better yet, with iOS 17, the app’s widgets are interactive, so lights and scenes can be triggered without ever opening the app.

Many Hue lights support features you can’t control from Apple’s Home app. For instance, many Hue lights can create animated and multi-color gradient lighting scenes that aren’t supported by HomeKit. These extended features can be accessed in the official Hue app, but it doesn’t have widgets, which is a faster and easier way to control your lighting and where Hue Widgets comes in.

Controlling lights and scenes from Home Widgets.

Controlling lights and scenes from Home Widgets.

The Hue Widgets app has two main tabs: a list of the rooms in your home, and an interface for creating widgets. The Home tab allows you to turn on an entire room or zone’s lights or control them individually, turning lights and scenes on and off and adjusting brightness levels, light temperatures, and colors. The official Hue app works similarly, but Hue Widgets’ interface is simpler and faster.

Building a widget.

Building a widget.

However, I’ve spent most of my time in the Widgets tab. Here, you can set up small, medium, or large widgets to control your Hue lights. The small version of the widget controls one light or scene, while the medium and large sizes control four and eight, respectively. After you pick the widget size you want, it appears in the Widget tab’s main interface. Then, tapping on each widget’s tiles walks you through picking a room and light or scene to control. Hue Widgets also lets you assign a color for each tile in your widget. It’s a quick and simple process but requires you to set up your lights and scenes in the Hue app first because Hue Widgets acts as a controller for the Hue app, not a replacement. When you’re satisfied with the widgets you’ve designed, return to your iPhone’s Home Screen to add one of the widgets you built, choosing the size you created in the app.

One thing I wish I could change in Hue Widgets is how it names widgets. Each is named automatically along the lines of ‘Small Widget #1’ and ‘Small Widget #2.’ If you create a lot of widgets, this isn’t ideal because it makes it hard to remember which widget is which. I’d prefer to assign more memorable names myself. I’d also love to see Hue Widgets on the iPad, where it could offer an extra-large widget.

Hue Widgets pairs nicely with Home Widget, which [I recently reviewed](https://www.macstories.net/reviews/home-widget-unlocks-homekit-device-control-that-apples-home-app-doesnt-offer/).

Hue Widgets pairs nicely with Home Widget, which I recently reviewed.

I was a fan of Hue Widgets before iOS 17, but having tried the interactive versions of its widgets, I can already tell I will be using them a lot more than before. Paired with the recent addition of Matter support for Hue hubs, which seems to have improved the responsiveness of my lighting, Hue Widgets has become a core part of my growing home automation setup.

Hue Widgets is available on the App Store for $1.99.


macOS Sonoma: The MacStories Review

In one sense, the story of this year’s macOS update is that there is no story, but that’s not exactly right. Instead, it’s a bunch of stories. It’s the tail end of the realignment of macOS with Apple’s other OSes that began with macOS Catalina in 2019. However, Sonoma is also part of a work-at-home story accelerated by COVID-19. The OS is also linked to the story of visionOS, only part of which has been revealed. Sonoma is a bundle of narrative threads built on the foundation of past releases, adding up to a collection of updates that will be less disruptive for most Mac users than recent macOS updates. Instead, Sonoma is packed with a variety of useful new features that help draw it closer to iPadOS and iOS than ever before, design enhancements, and a few disappointing omissions.

The timing for a more modest macOS update is right. In recent years, Mac users have had to adjust to substantial redesigns of everything from their favorite system apps to the Finder’s windows and toolbars. The changes were inescapable and necessary to harmonize the Mac with Apple’s other products, but also disruptive for some long-time users.

Sonoma adds a vast collection of new wallpaper and screensaver options.

Sonoma adds a vast collection of new wallpaper and screensaver options.

With macOS Sonoma, the biggest design shifts seem to be behind us – at least for the time being. Interactive widgets on the desktop are a big change this year, but it’s not like macOS dumps a bunch of them on your desktop by default. If you never want to see a widget anywhere near your desktop, you don’t have to. Other than the subtle way the login screen has changed and the new screensavers and wallpapers that are available, the core macOS experience has barely changed.

Instead, this year’s update is primarily about refining and building upon the foundation of the past few years, coupled with a handful of more significant updates to system apps. So, while the marquee features and design changes may be less notable than in recent years, there is still a long list of new and refreshed items that touch nearly every aspect of the OS, so let’s dive in.

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Widgle’s Four Photo-Based Widget Games Deliver Simple, Fun Interactive Diversions

Widgle is a collection of four simple puzzle games for the iPhone and iPad that integrate with your photos. As I mentioned in connection with Widgetsmith’s Tile game, interactive widgets’ system-imposed button and toggle limitation severely constrains the kinds of games that can be built as a widget, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be fun. Widgle’s four games, a tile sliding puzzle, a maze, a lights out-style game, and a matching game each come in small and large sizes.

Tile Slide (left) and Lights On (right).

Tile Slide (left) and Lights On (right).

The Tile Slide game uses a photo of your choosing, scrambles the tiles, and overlays numbers, which can optionally be turned off in the widget’s settings. There’s one free space, and by tapping tiles, you can try to put them back in the correct order, reassembling your image. There are four grid options, too, a couple of which are only available in the large version of the widget.

Lights On begins with one of your photos divided into a grid with some of the squares missing. Tapping on a square inverts the others around it, and with some careful poking, you can reassemble your entire photo so it includes no blanks. Like Tile Slide, there are four grid size options, with two exclusive to the large-sized widget.

Maze Master (left) and Match Up (right).

Maze Master (left) and Match Up (right).

Maze Master overlays directional arrows around the edges of the widget, so you can guide your character through a maze backed by one of your photos. There are three difficulty levels to choose from and six different emoji characters available.

Finally, Match Up starts with a grid of squares with question marks in their centers. Tap squares to reveal the hidden emoji underneath. Find a matching pair of emoji, and the squares reveal part of one of your photos.

As I mentioned at the top. Widgle’s games are very simple classics, but I’ve still enjoyed idly playing with them when I need a break. The inclusion of photos, which can be picked in the main Widgle app, makes each game feel more personal.

Widgle is available on the App Store as a free download with an In-App Purchase of $1.99 to customize the puzzle with your photos.


Home Widget Unlocks HomeKit Device Control That Apple’s Home App Doesn’t Offer

You might have wondered what would become of widget-focused apps like Home Widget when Apple announced at WWDC that a Home widget was coming to iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma. I did too. But, even though the Home widget works well, it’s limited, leaving room for developers like Clément Marty to take their widgets to an entirely different level.

If you’re a home automation nerd, you’ll quickly run into the Home widget’s limitations. For instance, it’s great for toggling lights on and off, but it can’t dim your lights or change their color. Home Widget goes beyond the binary choice of on or off across a spectrum of features, making it indispensable for home automation fans.

Let’s see what it can do.

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Timery’s Updated Widgets Enable Starting and Stopping Timers, Pagination, and More

It’s interesting to compare Timery 1.6, Joe Hribar’s time tracking app for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch, with Widgetsmith. David Smith’s app uses interactivity across a wide range of different types of widgets, allowing for a highly personalized approach to your Home Screen. Timery is a little different. It’s just as customizable, if not more so, but in a deep, focused way that makes it hands-down the most customizable and useful way to track time from a widget.

If you had asked me how I used Timery in the spring, I would have said I primarily use the Mac app. That’s changed drastically over the summer. My answer now is that I’m primarily a Timery widget user.

What I love about the app’s widgets is that they allow you to create a set of widgets that work how you use the app and nothing more. One of Timery’s strengths has always been its rich set of features that make it valuable to a broad cross-section of users. However, that means there is more to Timery than most people need. But with the app’s widgets, it’s possible to pare the app down to just the components that are essential to you, which is the ultimate in customization.

That doesn’t mean you won’t use the main app ever again. Some people may, but I certainly haven’t. Instead, it’s been more of a focus shift that allows me to continue whatever I’m working on, switching timers as needed on the fly from whichever device I have handy at the moment without opening the app most of the time. Timery’s update is a stellar release, which also comes with a new watchOS app that fans of the app are going to love.

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