Must-have Android apps

The best Android widgets for busy professionals

Turn your Android home screen into a powerful productivity hub with these exceptional, business-friendly widgets.

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Google Maps (Traffic)

One of the simplest but most powerful widgets out there is an unassuming option buried within Google Maps: the Maps Traffic widget. Toss it onto your home screen, and it'll look like a regular shortcut-style icon — because, well, it basically is a shortcut.

But what it does is take you directly into Maps' nearby traffic feature, so you can see precisely what the traffic is like in your current area at any given moment. It's a helpful way to check in on road conditions and see if it's a good time to head out the door for your evening commute — or if it'd be worth waiting a while or finding an alternate route.

The Maps Traffic widget is free and bundled into the main Google Maps app.

MSN Money or Investing.com

Investors, take note: Two worthwhile widgets can help you keep tabs on stocks of interest right from your phone's home screen.

The first, MSN Money, gives you super-simple small square widgets with up-to-date info on a single stock in each. If you have only a few stocks you need to monitor, it's a great way to track them without any fuss or wasted space. And if you want extra info on any of the stocks, you can simply tap the associated widget to pull up all sorts of data within the full app.

The second, Investing.com, provides a more standard scrolling-box view where you can see current info on as many stocks as you'd like. And just like with MSN Money, you can tap on any line to pull up more detailed info.

android widgets msn money investing JR Raphael/IDG

MSN Money, left, and Investing.com, right, offer different solutions to the same problem.

The main difference is just the simple single box vs. the scrolling list configuration — and also the fact that the full Investing.com app (though not the widget) includes ads, unless you want to pony up 64 bucks a year for an ad-free experience.

Android widgets for advanced functions

Authy

Keep your two-factor authentication codes handy with Authy's immensely practical widget, which puts a scrollable list of your 2FA-enabled accounts on your home screen and then lets you pull up and copy codes for any account with a quick tap. (If you keep your 2FA data password- or fingerprint-protected — which you most certainly should — you'll have to provide authentication before any codes are accessible.)

Authy, if you aren't familiar, is essentially a better version of Google's own Authenticator app. And two-factor authentication is something you should absolutely be using wherever possible.

Google Drive (Scan)

The next time you find yourself holding a piece of physical paper you need to save — be it a receipt, a business card, or even a bar napkin on which someone's written incredibly important information (as one does) — the Google Drive Scan widget will be your new best friend.

The widget, part of the main Drive app, doesn't look like much on your home screen. But tap it, and a camera viewfinder will immediately appear. Hold your phone over your paper, hit the shutter icon on your screen, and that's pretty much it: Tap once more to confirm, and the image will be saved as a PDF to your Drive storage — in whatever folder you specified when you first set the widget up.

(You can also opt to crop the image, if needed, or "scan" additional images to be attached as extra pages in the PDF.)

The best part? Thanks to Google's character recognition system, you can then search Drive for any word shown on the paper to quickly find the PDF in the future. And if you ever want to convert all of the image's text into plain, editable text within a document, you can do that, too.

There are other apps that offer a more feature-rich Android scanning experience, but when it comes to quick capturing with one-tap access, Google Drive's widget is the way to go.

IFTTT

IFTTT is short for "If This, Then That" — and its Android widget is overflowing with productivity-oriented possibilities.

The IFTTT widget can be configured to perform dozens of different time-saving tasks. You could create an IFTTT widget that serves as a quick-add function for Google Calendar events, for instance, and one that gives you a one-tap command for quickly posting messages to a specific Slack channel.

android widgets ifttt JR Raphael/IDG

IFTTT's widget can automate and simplify all sorts of time-consuming tasks.

There's a widget for tracking your work hours in Google Sheets and another for emailing a fast note to yourself. There's even an IFTTT widget for making your phone ring in case you ever need an excuse to shuffle out of an endless meeting. (Don't worry — I won't tell.)

Install the app, add a widget, and start exploring. The options are practically endless.

Sesame Universal Search and Shortcuts

Last but not least is perhaps the most powerful and versatile Android widget of 'em all — a search bar called Sesame. You can think of it as a pumped-up version of the regular Google search bar that's present on many Android home screens, with lots of added oomph: In addition to searching the web, as the Google widget does, Sesame's widget will let you search your apps, your contacts, and even your calendar events. It indexes specific areas within apps, too, so you could start typing the first couple letters of a Slack team, for instance, and it'd pop up a direct link to take you right to that part of Slack.

android widgets sesame JR Raphael/IDG

Tap the Sesame bar (seen at the top of the left image) and type in one or two letters, and you'll be able to get to almost any part of your phone in a flash (as illustrated in the image at right).

The widget itself just looks like a search bar, and you can customize its appearance however you like. It can even have an icon on its edge to pull up Google Assistant, just like the regular Google search bar does.

Sesame comes with a free two-week trial. After that, it costs $3.50 to continue using — money that's arguably well spent for all the seconds you'll save.

This article was originally published in August 2018 and updated in July 2020.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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