Widgets, what they are and how they work


We use them daily.

On your smartphone and tablet, on your computer or with a browser. Few, however, are those who know exactly what they are. When we talk about widgets in programming, we are referring to elements of the graphical user interface that allow you to interact with applications and the operating system.

Widgets show information – as in the case of the weather widget, for example – and invite the user to perform a certain set of operations.

A typical widget may contain buttons, dialog boxes, pop-up and selection windows, and other graphics.

In the variegated world of web 2.0, therefore, when we talk about widgets we refer to small applications that allow access, in a faster and more functional way, to larger applications or parts of it (the weather widget, for example, allows to view the current temperature and weather situation, while for extended forecasts you will still be forced to access the application).

Mobile widget

Are widgets applications?

As we have just seen, widgets and apps are not exactly the same thing, even if they can be considered as related “objects”.

Are widgets applicationsIn the mobile world, for example, we are led to think of widgets and apps as elements that improve the user experience, even if in reality this is not exactly the case: widgets can be compared to “windows on the courtyard ”which allow you to view only a portion of the surrounding world; apps, on the other hand, can be compared to the “surrounding world” and require the user to interact more “in depth”.

  • Desktop widgets

Some widgets are designed and developed to be displayed directly on the desktop of your operating system. “Born” with OS X and subsequently spread both on Windows (introduced with Vista) and on various Linux distributions, desktop widgets are small applications that provide specific information to the user of a functional nature (the temperatures of the processor or GPU, for example) or entertainment.

  • The OS X dashboard

For widgets to be displayed, the operating system must have a “widget engine” that manages them and selects information within larger programs: Mac users, for example, they will be more than familiar with the Dashboard, the native widget engine of OS X systems. From 2004 to 2001 Google released its own widget engine (called Google desktop) that allowed you to search for messages and email addresses, web page files and more. inside your computer.

Web widgets

The evolution in the field of widgets has led to the development of so-called web widgets, or portions of code that, inserted within a portal page or website, can provide additional information to the Internet user.

Web widgets work as mini-applications useful, for example, to provide the user with a search engine within the portal, or to view the latest articles posted on the site or, again, the list of friends (or fans) on Facebook.


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