Widgets are like miniature apps that run right inside your Notification Center on iPad and iPhone. They can display all sorts of information at a glance, in a single convenient location, so you can spend less time fumbling through apps and more time working. And while they've long been staples of Android, Apple just added the tools this fall with the release of iOS 8, the latest version of its mobile operating system.
Android lets you run widgets right on your home screen, but iOS widgets run inside the revamped Notifications Center, under the new "Today" tab. By default, this tab displays the Calendar, Stocks and Reminder widgets, but those just scratch the surface of Apple's growing widget ecosystem.
To add or remove a widget, scroll to the bottom of the Today view and select "edit." But remember: You can only install a widget if you have its corresponding app installed first. With that in mind, read on for the best productivity-boosting iOS apps with built-in widgets.
Evernote - Free
Evernote is one of the best productivity tools on iOS, letting you dictate or manually enter notes, snap photos and create to-do lists on the fly. It features text identification, so it can recognize printed and handwritten notes, then index them so they're fully searchable later. Just type in a keyword to look for a specific note, whether it's a PDF, a typed memo or a note scrawled on a scrap of paper. And Evernote now includes a handy widget for the iOS 8 Notification Center, which lets you quickly save a typed note or photo to the app, or create a short to-do list, with no need to load the full app.
Widget for Twitter - $0.99
Maintaining a presence on social media platforms like Twitter can be a crucial part of running a small business. And while the stock iOS Twitter app is a great tool for monitoring your Twitter feed and sending out updates, Widget for Twitter makes it even better by placing those tools at your fingertips inside the Notification Center on your device. You can use the widget to glance through your main Twitter feed, which displays new tweets as well as embedded photos. If you want to reply, just tap a tweet to be redirected to the main Twitter app.
Calendars 5 - $6.99
If you're not content with the capabilities of Apple's Calendar widget, try replacing it with the Calendars 5 widget. This lets you view your schedule for the day and add new events right from the Notification Center. And the app itself includes some interesting features the stock Calendar app lacks, including a built-in task manager, which lets you easily create to-do lists with tasks to check off throughout the day. Another handy feature is the ability to use natural language while creating an appointment. For example, you can type, "Meet with sales team every Monday and Friday at 2 p.m.," and those appointments will be automatically added to your calendar.
Yahoo Weather - Free
Apple's stock weather widget is shown inside the iOS 8 Notification Center by default, but it's pretty basic. It displays an icon depicting the current weather conditions and a text description of the day's forecast — and that's it. The Yahoo Weather widget is a bit more robust. In addition to the high and low temperature for the day and evening, it also shows the current temperature, a bit of information that's conspicuously missing from the stock widget. The Yahoo Weather widget is also a lot prettier; it actually pulls a piece of photography from Flickr that matches current location and weather conditions, often with eye-catching results. The Yahoo Weather app itself might also be the best weather app on iOS, thanks to its visually striking, easy-to-use interface.
PCalc Lite - Free
A calculator can come in handy in all sorts of situations, but pausing what you're doing to find and launch a dedicated calculator app can be a pain. PCalc Lite is an extremely feature-rich calculator app that's great on its own. And now it supports a handy widget that you can dock inside the Notification Center on your iPhone or iPad. Whenever you need to perform a quick calculation, just swipe down from the top of your screen to quickly access the PCalc widget. Unless you need a calculator with advanced scientific features, make sure to grab the Lite version -- the full version of PCalc costs $9.99.
Hours - $4.99
Hours is a handy time-tracking app that lets you quickly build a schedule for the day and stick to it. Instead of just building a list of tasks to accomplish like other to-do apps, Hours actually uses timers to motivate you to complete the task in the allotted time. Just add a task to your schedule and specify how much time you want to spend on it, then click the clock to start the countdown. It's a great tool to help you complete tasks efficiently and, hopefully, snub out moments of procrastination. The Notification Center widget lets you view your tasks at a glance, and start each countdown without launching the full app.
Dropbox - Free
If you want to make your work files accessible from anywhere on your iPhone or iPad, Dropbox is a good bet. The cloud storage app lets you view and download documents, PDFs, photos and other files stored in your account. It also functions as a reliable backup service, since you can recover deleted files and revert to previously saved versions right from the iOS app. You can also add files to your "favorites" list for offline viewing later on. And now the app includes an iOS 8 widget, which gives you quick access to recently uploaded files, and lets you upload files stored on your iPhone or iPad to Dropbox with a few quick taps.
Originally published on Business News Daily.