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Among iOS 8's many new features are some cool ways to let you interact with your apps without actually having to open them. Interactive notifications are one example, and another is the brand-new widgets available in Notification Center. Apple is a little late to this game—Android has had widgets for years, and users can put them right on their home screens—but at least what we have is both elegant and functional.
Getting started takes a little bit of setup, but once you have it down you will be relying less on the grid of icons and swiping right into your favorite widget for quickly accessing what you need. Even though iOS 8 has only been out a few days there are already several great widgets, so be sure to keep your apps updated so you'll have access to widgets as developers roll them out. The only problem you may run into is managing such a long scroll of them once you find all the ones you like.
It's time to add some widgets
Widgets are enabled by default on iOS 8. To get started, swipe down to the Notification Center, then choose the tab on the left entitled Today. A few of Apple's own selections are already in place, such as the Today Summary, which gives the weather and notifies you of upcoming appointments, Calendar, and Reminders.
There is also a Calendar widget, traffic conditions, and the ability to add in Apple's Reminders app. You can rearrange, add, or remove any of these by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the list, tapping Edit, and then dragging them to a new order, or pressing the plus and minus icons to add or remove widgets from your list.
With that down, it's time to check out some of the better widgets that third-party developers have whipped up. Here is a sampling of what's available, and how this extra functionality can change how you interact with these apps.
Forget searching through your icons to find a calculator. Adding the PCalc widget puts a fully-functioning calculator right in the Notification Center.
Unlike a notification it doesn't kick you out into the app—just swipe down and start punching the buttons. If you don't have PCalc already, it's one of the best calculators on iOS, so go grab it now for $10.
Leave it to Evernote to be ready with excellent iOS 8 integration on day one. If you use the service then installing the widget will change how you interact with Evernote. The widget puts five key actions in the Notification Center: text, camera, photos, reminder, and list.
Just touch one of those commands to make a new note focused on that task. Given that Apple's stock Notes app doesn't do this and the Reminders can be a little buggy, Evernote is an excellent choice as a go-to app for lists, notes, to-dos, and reminders.
Yes, Apple puts weather information by default as part of the Today Summary. Instead, spruce up your widget space by adding in Yahoo Weather.
It puts a bright, well-designed notification that gives you the current temperature and the forecast for the next day. The background images come courtesy of Yahoo's Flickr service, and they're usually gorgeous.
The Kindle widget lets you quickly jump right back into a book you're reading. When you add the widget to the Notification Center it adds in your most recent tomes, a cover icon, and a progress bar indicating how far you have read.
It makes it super convenient to just swipe down and then tap the book you want to jump back into.
If you are a heavy Dropbox user this will be an extremely useful addition to your workflow. When adding the Dropbox widget it will show the five most recent changes to your files.
If you have a shared folder or file it is a great way to quickly glance and see when the most recent changes happened. Just touch on the one you want to see and Dropbox will take you right to it.