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Third-party widgets are coming to Windows 11, which might actually make them useful

Microsoft will allow third-party apps to bundle their own widgets starting later this year.
Enlarge / Microsoft will allow third-party apps to bundle their own widgets starting later this year.


When Windows 11 did away with support for Live Tiles, Microsoft attempted to relocate some of that quick, glance-able information into a new Widgets menu that lives in the taskbar alongside the Start and search menus. Our main issue with widgets in our Windows 11 review was that they were limited to Microsoft’s apps and services, with no mechanism for third parties to develop their own widgets.

That will change later this year, according to an announcement made at Microsoft’s Build developer conference. Third parties will be able to develop their own Windows 11 widgets “beginning later this year.” This suggests that it will be among the tweaks and new features coming for Windows 11 22H2, the operating system’s first big yearly update.

Widgets can be packaged as companions for traditional Win32 apps and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), and they’ll use the Adaptive Cards platform that Microsoft created to enable cross-platform widgets and UI previews.

Windows 11’s current widgets are all supplied by Microsoft and rely on Microsoft’s services for information and personalization. Widgets for basic info like sports scores and weather are modestly useful, but the ones that pull news and other content from Microsoft Start are less so, especially if you don’t sign in with a Microsoft account and the feeds aren’t personalized.

Of course, just because third parties can support Windows 11 widgets doesn’t mean they will. From Windows Vista and 7’s Gadgets to the macOS Dashboard, widgets in desktop operating systems have fizzled plenty of times before. Microsoft will need to convince major developers to hop on board for this time to be different.

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