When Microsoft revealed the Widgets feature of the upcoming Windows 11 operating system, they hinted at the possibility that third-party widgets could become a thing in the future.
Widget, for those who haven’t seen it, is an interface in Windows 11 that is pinned to the taskbar by default. Activate it and you see news, stock info, weather forecast and more.
All data comes from Microsoft services at this time and users can enable or disable certain modules to customize what is displayed. If you are not interested in sports or news, you can turn off these options to hide them.
Third-party widgets will display like Microsoft widgets in the interface when they are installed. A recent leak suggestions that Microsoft will accept different types of widget technologies – packaged apps, unpackaged apps, and the web – and that users will primarily find them on the Microsoft Store and the Parts Panel.
Developers can create widgets for anything from displaying hardware stats to custom RSS feeds and service-specific widgets that deliver content directly to the Windows desktop.
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Support for third-party add-ons can potentially make the Add-ons feature even more useful. Hardware companies and OEMs can provide widgets for their components and devices, e.g. SSD cards, temperature sensors, information about driver updates, as a alternative to relying on apps to provide that. It can reduce the number of apps that launch on the same system by default if done properly.
There are downsides. One is that all information is only available after activating the widget icon or a gesture. Microsoft previously supported widgets in older versions of Windows, and they could be configured to be permanently visible on the screen. Third-party solutions like Rainmeter also support this. Support for utilities, the name Microsoft used to describe these little tools, has been removed for security reasons according to Microsoft.
Using the Widgets interface is not necessarily faster than using the browser to look up information, especially if the browser is always open.
Microsoft has not disclosed information about the limitations that third-party widget developers have when creating widgets. Are these extensions limited to using Microsoft Edge and Bing Search, or are the developers free when it comes to them? Microsoft has created an artificial protocol for certain links on Windows 11 systems that will only open in Microsoft Edge, although there is no technical reason for that. Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner, for example, has been publicly criticized for this behavior.
Now you: Do you use widgets? Do you want third party support?