The Future of Widgets (Part II)

Stylized Widgets IconEver see the Jetsons? George made sprockets. His competitor made cogs. Me, I make widgets. Fantasy has become reality, as my job is futuristic — but what is the future of the Widgets app? With the release of macOS 11… whew …it’s going to take a lot of work to figure that out. After playing with Apple’s WidgetKit and the default widgets, there are significant challenges to overcome.

The simple reality — and this is not me boasting — is that a widget in the “Widgets” app can be way more powerful than a widget using Apple’s WidgetKit. It’s true. I only need to quote Apple to prove it. Here are some lines from WWDC 2020.

Widgets are not in every second operation. Widgets are not about creating a live running experience on the Home Screen.

Widgets are not mini-apps

That’s a problem, as that’s the opposite vision for the “Widgets” app. The Photics app is meant to be a software-based multitool. The limitation of an Apple widget is further explained in the WidgetKit documentation.

Widgets present read-only information and don’t support interactive elements such as scrolling elements or switches. WidgetKit omits interactive elements when rendering a widget’s content.

The “Widgets” app by Photics is the complete opposite. It’s supposed to feel like an airplane cockpit, where you have an array of dials, switches, gadgets, gizmos, doodads, doohickeys, and thingamabobs. If Apple widgets are “read-only”, and they don’t scroll, then how would the Dictionary widget work? How could I port the “Text-to-Speech” widget or the Unit Converter widget? That last one is huge. People really seem to like that particular widget.

And as I write this, I’m shocked. Where’s the Calculator widget?! Apple, why would you do that? Before the creation of the “Widgets” app, but after Apple killed Dashboard, I used to use the Notification Center calculator. If Apple widgets are not meant to be interactive, what does that mean for the fate of the trusty calculator?

If the death of the dashboard wasn’t enough, I think lots of people are going to be livid over the loss of a calculator widget. Yeah, you can do math in the “Spotlight Search” bar, but that’s awkward. That’s why it’s a good thing that the “Widgets” app exists — it has a handy calculator.

Part of the original vision for “Widgets” was to keep crafting more widgets. As the power of the app grew, more and more people would see the tremendous value. The app would become more popular and more successful. The app is still on that path. As a preview of the next update, here’s a screenshot of the “Web” widget.

Web: Color WidgetIf you’ve used Tumult Hype, you may have seen the “Lightbox” template before. A color picker is useful, especially for web developers, but that didn’t seem to be enough functionality. That why two additional features were added — a Base64 converter and a mini version of KEEN.

That change should tell you the future of the “Widgets” app. Originally, goal for the 10-Year Plan was to create one project a month. When those smaller projects weren’t getting enough attention, the plan switched to one major project per year. That worked for two years. But when deciding what should be the target for 2021, perhaps it shouldn’t be anything new. Perhaps year three of the plan should be a continuing focus on widgets.

A few years back, the direction of this website/business wasn’t clear. But now, it’s exciting to see this app grow. The potential has grown too, as I still think there’s opportunity with Apple’s WidgetKit. That’s why the new “Web” widget hasn’t launched yet. While future development is not guaranteed, the plan is to add a “Bible” widget for Christmas. I’ve been thinking of adding “Word of the Day” and “Bible Verse of the Day” for both of those widgets. Simply displaying a daily message would be translatable to Apple’s WidgetKit.

To avoid confusion, I figured that I should keep you in the loop. When launching the “Widgets” app, I didn’t know that Apple was going to do this. Today, lots of people might be wondering what’s the difference between a Photics widget and an Apple widget. Also, savvy macOS users are hungry for new widgets. The point of this post is to let you know that the Photics app is not forgotten — quite the contrary!

I haven’t set my New Year’s resolution yet, but so far it’s looking like 2021 is the year of the widget.