As I detailed in a recent episode of AppStories, I’ve spent several weeks tweaking my iPhone’s Home Screen and playing around with different approaches to widgets and app icons. The layout I eventually settled on (which you can find in the AppStories show notes) takes advantage of dark mode to create the illusion of widgets “blending” into the wallpaper – specifically, the Soor widgets at the top of the page. Given how I believe Soor’s developer Tanmay Sonawane has taught Apple a lesson when it comes to building Apple Music widgets for iOS 14, and considering the app’s most recent update, I thought I’d write about these widgets in more detail.
Posts tagged with "widgets"
Using Soor’s Widgets and Magic Mixes
Reeder 5 Review: Read Later Tagging, iCloud Sync, and Design Refinements
Last year we named RSS client Reeder 4 the Best App Update as part of the MacStories Selects awards for a good reason. Reeder has been one of the best-designed RSS apps available for a very long time. With the release of version 4, developer Silvio Rizzi rebuilt the app on a modern foundation from the ground up. Roughly one year later, version 5 is out as a brand new app that takes what Rizzi began last year and extends it further with a host of excellent new features and design refinements.
Timery Debuts Powerful Time Tracking Widgets for iOS 14
Widgets in iOS 14 are a genuine hit, in large part because of the visual customization advantages they provide and the ability to be placed on the Home Screen. Back when they were first announced in June, however, there was concern about one way these new widgets would be a downgrade from their predecessors: widgets in iOS 13 and earlier could offer more interactivity, even to the point of acting as mini-apps.
Due to limitations imposed by Apple on iOS 14 widgets, I was afraid one of my most-used widgets would become far less useful. That widget is for Timery, the Toggl time tracking app. Timery’s iOS 13 widget enabled not only starting and stopping timers right from its widget, but you could also see a real-time view of your current running timer. With iOS 14’s widgets, I feared Timery wouldn’t be able to update its widget’s data often enough to provide a real-time timer view, and I wasn’t sure how convenient the widget would feel when starting a timer would require launching the full Timery app.
Today Timery’s iOS 14 update has arrived, and I’m thrilled to report that my concerns were entirely unfounded. Developer Joe Hribar has managed to work around Apple’s API limitations as well as could be hoped, and deliver new widgets that actually provide more functionality than before.
FoodNoms’ Widgets Thoughtfully Combine Goal Summaries with Actions to Make Food Tracking Easier Than Ever
I first reviewed FoodNoms late last year when it launched and was impressed. The app is a privacy-focused food tracker to help you keep up with your nutritional goals. FoodNoms sets itself apart from its competitors by proving that logging and tracking can come in a user-focused, elegantly designed package. The result is an app that makes forming good eating habits a simpler, better experience than most food tracking apps I’ve tried.
In the months since its launch, FoodNoms has received a long list of useful updates. For instance, there are more ways to save and access the foods you track than ever. Items can be marked as favorites and saved along with other foods as reusable recipes or meals. Also, the app’s search functionality lets you search foods, meals, recipes, and favorites.
One of the shortcomings of FoodNoms that I pointed out in my initial review was that it only included short-term graphs, which made it hard to track trends. That’s been remedied with the inclusion of weekly and monthly charts. The database of foods has also been improved, and a community-driven food database was introduced to allow users to contribute foods. FoodNoms’ Shortcuts actions have been expanded, and alternative icons added too.
Most recently, FoodNoms added widget support, so users can get an overview of progress towards their goals throughout the day and quickly access the app’s functionality. FoodNoms includes four types of widgets: Goal, Goals Summary, Log Food, and Quick Actions.
The Goal widget, which comes in the small size only, is a simple widget that can track a single goal you’ve set for yourself. Perhaps my favorite option that it and the Goals Summary widget share is the ability to pick what happens when the widget is tapped. For the Goal widget, the options are opening the app, going to the Today view, searching, scanning bar codes and food labels, logging a drink, and viewing goal details. The Goals Summary widget includes the same options, with the exception of viewing goal details. Goals Summary also allows two separate nutrient goals to be tracked instead of just one.
Log Food, as you’d expect, lets you pick foods to log. The widget can be set up to offer smart suggestions based on recently-logged foods or show foods of your choice instead. The medium version can fit two foods, while the large version supports four. Tapping on one of the foods takes you directly to it in FoodNom’s database, where you can adjust amounts and other settings before logging it. Of course, if you want more food items on your Home Screen, you can use multiple instances of the Log Food widget and stack them.
The final widget is a medium-sized one that includes six Quick Actions that remind me a little of Anybuffer or Drafts’ quick action widgets. FoodNoms includes actions to start a search, view your library or favorites, access the app’s Quick Entry feature, scan a barcode or nutrition label, and log a drink. The widget is a great way to jump to exactly where you want within FoodNoms with minimal effort.
Between multiple options for tracking your goals and the thoughtful use of actions tied to widgets, FoodNoms offers users a ton of flexibility on their Home Screens. FoodNoms is also a fantastic example of a subscription model that supports ongoing development. The subscription allows developer Ryan Ashcraft to update and refine the app throughout the year with new functionality. In return, users get an excellent food tracker they’ll use multiple times every day that is ad-free and won’t sell their data, which is well worth the app’s $4.99/month or $29.99/year subscription.
GoodLinks Updated with Three-Column iPad Layout, Widgets, and New Keyboard Shortcuts
GoodLinks has only been out since June, but it quickly became my go-to read it later app that I dip in and out of every day. That position has only been reinforced with its frequent updates in the months following release, including its most recent update which adds a new three-column iPad layout, widgets, and new keyboard shortcuts.
The new iPad sidebar design is particularly well-suited to GoodLinks. The first column, which can be hidden, allows users to navigate between Unread, Starred, Untagged, Read, and Tags. The Tags section is collapsible, which declutters the sidebar when you don’t need to view a specific tag.
The second column is the article list that displays the favicon for each post, its title, a short excerpt, image, site and author information, and associated tags. The top of the second column features a button to sort from oldest to newest and vice versa, and one to add new links.
Sticky Widgets Brings Simple Sticky Notes to Your Home Screen
If you’re anything like me, the steady stream of apps adding support for iOS 14 widgets have put your Home Screen in a constant state of flux. Just when I think app releases have settled down and I can step back to consider which widget types I want on my devices, an app with an interesting new widget idea comes along and throws my just-birthed Home Screen strategy for a loop. The latest app continuing that trend is Sticky Widgets.
Sticky Widgets enables placing sticky note-style widgets on your iPhone or iPad Home Screen which can be modified simply by tapping on the widget. It’s utility that’s such an obvious fit for widgets, I’m surprised I haven’t seen a hundred other apps doing the same thing.
What makes Sticky Widgets great is the simplicity of the experience. When I’ve considered the idea of building widgets containing nothing but text, as is possible with several widget creation apps, I’ve always thought that would require writing the text inside an app then manually setting up new widgets every time I wanted to change the text that’s displayed. That sort of workflow felt far too cumbersome, so until now I never set up widgets that displayed static text.
With Sticky Widgets, however, there’s no need to create new widgets every time the text changes. Rather, you can have a single widget that stays in the same place on your Home Screen, and whenever you need to change its text, just tap the widget, type away, and your widget’s been updated with the new text. You don’t need to worry about writing too much or too little text for the widget to display either, because whether you’re using a small, medium, or large widget, text will automatically resize to best fit the widget space.
Sticky Widgets is light on additional features, but that’s fine for a simple utility like this. You can change your widget color between yellow, pink, and blue, and use MarkerFelt, Noteworthy, or the system’s default San Francisco font for your text. One valuable feature is the ability to save different notes for different widgets, which is done by modifying the Note ID from a widget’s configuration screen (long-press the widget and hit Edit Widget). That way you can have multiple different sticky notes if you need them.
Sticky notes have been a tried and true method of remembering important things throughout the day. Historically they’ve been used on computer monitors, desks, refrigerators, or a million other places where we know they’ll catch our eye. With Sticky Widgets, you can bring that same valuable utility to your iPhone or iPad Home Screen.
Sticky Widgets is available on the App Store as a free download.
Apollo Brings the Best of Reddit to iOS 14’s Widgets
Christian Selig, developer of the excellent Reddit client Apollo, has always been deeply connected with his users and Reddit culture on the whole. Many of Apollo’s updates focus on the kind of nit-picky features and tweaks that heavy users of the app and platform care about. So it should come as no surprise that in building iOS 14 widgets for Apollo, Selig took inspiration from some of the things people love most about Reddit.
Apollo offers a whopping seven different types of widgets, roughly half of which are the sort of widgets you would expect – displaying posts from your favorite subreddit or providing launchers into different subreddits – while the other half specialize in bringing the best of Reddit to your Home Screen.
Let’s start with the fun ones: Wallpaper, Showerthoughts, and Jokes.
Lire Brings Its Highly-Customizable RSS Reading Style to an All-New iPad Design and Widgets
I love that there are so many excellent choices of RSS readers on iPhone and iPad. Currently, my favorite in terms of iOS and iPadOS 14 feature adoption is lire, an RSS client that is packed with power user features. With the latest update, the app has been relaunched on the App Store, which means it’s a new purchase, with excellent support for the iPad’s new three-column design and widgets.
RSS readers are perfect for the iPad’s new three-column design. Lire’s left pane includes numerous ways to navigate your feeds, the center pane lists your articles, and the right pane displays each article. The first two columns can be hidden so you can focus on what you’re reading.
Computer Personalization Is a Good Thing, and It’s Nothing New→
Jason Snell at Six Colors, providing some historical context for the current wave of iOS 14 Home Screen customization:
The Mac has a long history of customization. When I became a Mac user in the early 90s, it was de rigueur to give your Mac hard drive a name and a custom icon. Ideally, you had a custom wallpaper pattern or image, too. Apps like SoundMaster let you set custom sounds for various actions. The list went on and on. Your Mac felt like home—and like no one else’s.
What’s more surprising is that Apple was so slow in bringing real customization to the iPhone home screen. If adding widgets to iOS 14 has caused enormous burst of creativity, it’s only because all that desire had built up over years and years with very little outlet.
This is not a surprise. This is not the effect of young whippersnappers raised on social media wanting to do goofy things with their phones. Users of computer platforms have wanted to customize and personalize for decades.
Lots of people are having lots of fun making all kinds of personalized Home Screens and even themed ones. This is made possible by a combination of iOS 14, app launchers configured through Shortcuts with custom icons, and a new crop of widget creation apps.
These Home Screen designs may not be for everyone, but that’s kind of the point: they’re not for everyone, they’re built by and for individual users. Let’s celebrate that creativity, and hope Apple provides better tools for this kind of customization in the future.