How to use desktop widgets in macOS Sonoma

How to use desktop widgets in macOS Sonoma

Apple’s updated widgets in macOS Sonoma are not only now available on your Mac desktop, but they’re also interactive instead of just displaying information. Here’s how to use it.

You can drag widgets anywhere, but Apple wants them to be tidy

The main advantage of macOS Sonoma is the fact that you can now take a widget – a small application information window – and place it anywhere on your desktop. Previously, widgets were only in a sidebar that you had to drag from the right of the screen, and they were probably out of sight, out of mind.

As helpful as these tools are, the truth is that they have been a hindrance in more ways than one. You had to remember it was there, then swipe with your fingers on the trackpad, or click on the date in your Mac’s menu bar.

Thus, Apple was right that the new system of making them permanently visible was important.

But it’s the interaction that nails it. Instead of only being able to see the status of the lights, for example, in the Home app widget, you can now turn them on or off, directly in the widget on your desktop.

Interactive tools will take some time to become popular, as developers have to work on updates. In macOS Sonoma, you can place, use, and replace desktop widgets instantly.

To get started, right-click on your desktop

How to use desktop widgets in macOS Sonoma

To get started, right-click on any empty space on your desktop.

  1. From the menu that appears, tap Edit widget
  2. From the pop-up tool chooser that appears, scroll or search for one
  3. Click on the widget and choose from the sizes and types offered
  4. Drag this tool to anywhere on the desktop

The first time you do this, you can place the widget anywhere on the screen. This is also true with the second or subsequent tool, but there is little difference once you already have one.

As you drag the second widget toward where you placed the first, Apple offers some help. A white outline appears as a widget where Apple suggests you place it.

This suggestion will change during the drawing. The outline will appear on the side, above or below the first tool, and is aesthetically arranged to be in exactly the right position, with the correct gap between tools.

If you want to put it where Apple suggests, the widget will lock into place.

Old widgets are still available

Apple’s new system is an addition to previous tools, not a replacement. So the current sidebar, which was the only place you could have widgets, is still available – with one simple change.

You can still call it up by swiping the right place on the trackpad, or by tapping on the date at the top right of the menu bar. When you do this, the sidebar appears, displaying alongside recent notifications any widgets you’ve selected.

What’s new is that if you so choose, you can click and drag any of these tools to your desktop. Note that you’re actually dragging it from the sidebar and you’ll have to add it again later if you want.

Now iPhone widgets are also available

Widgets come with apps. If you don’t have the app, you won’t be able to get the tool – except in a specific new situation.

Under macOS Sonoma, you can install a widget without needing a Mac app — if you have an iPhone app. Assuming you have the iPhone app, and you’re signed in to the same Apple ID on both that app and your Mac, you can use iOS tools on macOS Sonoma.

You need to bring your iPhone close to your Mac to get started. But then, iPhone widgets are only available on macOS Sonoma.

This is amazingly smart, but it may not be all that practical. Typically, you’ll click on this tool and get nothing but a message telling you to open the app on your iPhone.

Use new interactive widgets

So far, the gadget can display information, such as weather, news headlines, or the status of HomeKit devices. It was possible to click on them, but in each case, the widgets would just launch their main application.

There is one light on in this house, and you can turn it off with one click

This still happens, unless you click in the right place. For example, in Apple’s Home widget, you can now click a button and turn the light on or off.

You can turn this light on, and the Home widget buttons will show you that you’ve done so, but you won’t have to go to the full Home app. It’s all part of the tool without you having to set up anything else.

Change and delete widgets

Most tools offer at least some customizability, and you can check this by right-clicking on them. If there are options, the tool will display them.

This is done skillfully, but the tools at the top and left are dimmed because you’re in a document somewhere else

If you decide you don’t want the tool where it currently is, you can drag it to another location.

Then if you really want to get rid of the tool, you have two options. You can hover over the tool, right-click and select Remove widget From the list.

Or if you right-click on any empty part of the desktop, you can choose Edit widgets. This is just like you did when you first added a widget, but now any widget you have will get a delete icon in the upper left corner.

It’s an important update to the widgets

Aside from interactivity, there is no visible change in widgets with macOS Sonoma. There are still no new feature sizes or arrangements in the tool.

But being interactive is huge. And being able to put it on your desktop, where you can always see it, will change the way you use tools.

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