Widgets 2.7 — The Merry Christmas Update

Christmas Tree and Gift Box Emoji with Widgets App IconThis is the time of the year where people decorate for the holidays. It’s not just Christmas lights on trees, or Hanukkah lights in the windows, the seasonal festivities permeate throughout society. You can hear it on the radio, you can see it on TV shows, and even websites join in on the fun. This year, I wanted to do something Christmasy on the Mac App Store. With the version 2.7 update of Widgets, that goal was accomplished.

At first, I wanted to make a Christmas Card app. That project was started, but it was quickly cancelled. Such a project would need to be gorgeous — wonderful music, pretty artwork, fantastic design. When it was realized how much work and effort would be needed to complete the project, and the path to success was unclear, attention went back to Widgets.

Perhaps I could give the Widgets app a snowy effect? No, that’s not right. Widgets is meant to be lightweight. Hundreds of animated snowflakes would start crunching the life out of batteries and CPUs. Besides, that’s a seasonal effect. Couldn’t there be something that is useful all year long?

That’s when I decided to add a “Bible” widget. As the saying goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But also, ever see bible verses on a hat, bumper sticker, in a tweet, or on a t-shirt? How would I look that up without the Internet? With the new widget, it’s quite easy.

That’s when the direction of this app started to change. On the Mac App Store, the secondary category for the Widgets app was “Productivity”. But when thinking about it, that’s not really the best descriptor for Widgets. It’s more “Reference” related. And sure enough, what’s the “Top Paid” reference app in the United States? It’s a bible app. Later, I looked again. What else did I see there… dictionary apps… calendar apps… that’s quite similar to the functionality of the Widgets app.

This is not a declaration of competition. Much like a regular screwdriver will likely beat a multitool screwdriver, a dedicated bible app is likely to be better than the Widgets app bible. Right now, the Widgets app only has the “King James Version” of the bible.

That’s where the change of direction comes into play. I’ve essentially been building an offline search engine. In a sense, it’s an app for preppers and survivalists. The Widgets app is meant to (mostly) work when the Internet is down. Typing in those dictionary words, those bible verses, those contacts, the app doesn’t even flinch. The speed is amazing.

The question then becomes, “How much data do I want to put in the app?” After giving it careful thought, I’m thinking a lot… A LOT!

Then I thought about how that information could be easier to access. I’m not ready to discuss the details yet, but it was mind-blowing. I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t felt like that in a long time. I was excited. I just kept thinking about the possibilities.

For now, Widgets is playing catchup. Apple released their “WidgetKit” version of widgets. Back in 2019, when Apple killed Dashboard, the Widget app was created as an alternative. But because of the name, there could be confusion between Photics widgets and Apple-based widgets. That’s why it was considered imperative to include some WidgetKit widgets in the Widgets app.

Confused? Maybe this video will help…

With one app, now there are two types of Widgets. In the “Notification Center”, widgets are meant to be glanceable. Shown in the video are the “Calendar Grid” and “System Stats” widgets. They’re meant to be used in the Notification Center.

But in the Widget app by Photics, Widgets can be Interactive. They can be mini-apps. Apple went hardcore with their stance towards widgets. They even removed the Calculator from the Notification Center. For over two decades, Apple’s trusty calculator widget was used by people all over the world. Now? What will they do?

There are alternatives. The Widget App is one of those alternatives. And with each new update, the app becomes more useful. It’s kinda wild to think about. This project is just getting started. With Apple’s WidgetKit, the importance of widgets is enhanced. That alone represents significant potential. But there’s something else, something bigger, a direction that the main tech companies haven’t moved into yet. Maybe it’s niche, maybe it’s not. But based on what I’m seeing in the world today, it could be a necessity.