“Widgets” sounds like a term from the Jetsons, but it is a legitimate technological term these days. The use of the word just proves that you can make up any goofy word, like “google” or “wii,” and with enough of a marketing push, everyone will take it seriously. “Widget” in computer terminology actually has several meanings, the most prominent two of which are related to programming and desktop computing (the creator and the user).
In programming, a widget is like a container of LEGO blocks, which allows you to put the existing pieces together in order to create something more easily. Imagine if you had to build your own LEGO blocks first, making sure they fit together in enough ways to provide variety. Programming’s like that – before you can create what you want, you must create the tools with which you can create what you want. A programming widget is a simple programming engine or framework that requires little coding to craft and which you can use then to launch applications, especially within a web browser.
Desktop widgets are those tools intended for the user, very simple applications that serve just one purpose. For example, a desktop widget might be an animated clock displaying the time on your desktop or a window that pulls up the latest strip from your favorite comic or a calculator or some other such tool. Like many simplistic innovations, widgets promote cleanliness of the desk(top) and customizability, since you can choose the ones you want and often how they are displayed.
Desktop widgets are useful also because, unlike most programs which demand many of your computer’s resources when in use, widgets are lightweight. They use little space both on the desktop and on the hard drive and require little of the computer’s memory, which means you can leave them running without noticeably affecting your computer’s performance.