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How to Customize Android's Home Screens 2 - Widgets

Let's continue with a very powerful concept: widgets.

Add a widget

One of the major strengths of Android is the ability to use widgets alongside app icons. Widgets are small, continually running app windows, which means they can display live data, they are not just static icons. Widgets can simply display information, or you can tap them to launch programs. For example: Tap the clock on the home screen and you're taken to the clock app. From there you have access to the desk clock, world clock, alarm, stopwatch and timer. Widgets from different developers can check your mail, display your calendar and notify you of new Twitter posts.

On most Android 2.3 systems you can use the same long-press as we described in the previous chapter for shortcuts to apps. We'll show some examples later in this chapter. But the preferred method is the one used in Android 4, you open the App Drawer in the same way as above when you added an app. On top of the App Drawer you see a tab for widgets, pick that.

Add Widgets on tablet

Widgets can have various sizes and some are resizable. You may see one single widget with many different size options marked as columns*rows. So for example "mywidget 2*3" means the widget will use 2 columns and 3 rows of your home screen. To add a widget just hold its icon until the screen changes, then drag it to the position on one of your home screens, just as you would do for an app shortcut. You move and remove widgets in the same way as you remove app shortcuts as described above.

If there isn't room where you dropped it, the widget won't get added to the Home screen. You may be asked to make further choices before the widget activates. For example, if you add a weather widget it may ask you for which location(s) it should show the weather, if it should show the temperature in Centigrade or Fahrenheit etc. Some of the widgets are scrollable too in Android 4. That means you can scroll info up or down inside the widget's space. Android 4 allows resizable widgets. That means you just press the widget, then you will see a border around it with handles that you can drag to change the size of the widget, as shown in the example below. This is very handy for widgets like Gmail, calendar and weather where you may want to use larger areas.

Resize widget

Alternative method

In the same way that you can use the long-press method to add shortcuts to apps you can also use it to add widgets. Let's start by looking at a Samsung TouchWiz example:

Long-Press on Home Screen -> Widgets -> Choose Widget

1 Select Widgets 2 Choose Widget

As you can see, you first get a pop-up menu, where you can choose what to add, select Widgets, then pick the Widget you want by sweeping to the left or right. Here's another example with an Android 2.3 system running CM7.1. The same principle and method applies, but the screens look different and you swipe up and down to pick your widget instead of sideways.

1 Select Widgets 2 Choose Widget