Daily Tip: How to get custom Notification Center widgets in iOS 5 [Jailbreak]

Jailbroken iOS 5 and curious how to get custom Notification Center widgets up and running? Right now, Apple has only included weather and stocks widgets and hasn't shown any signs of extending an API to 3rd party developers for building their own. However, as soon as iOS 5 was jailbroken a few developers started tinkering around and found it was rather easy to build their own custom widgets, and we're already starting to see some interesting things come out of developers. We'll show you how to add them to your custom Notification Center... after the jump!

To get started, first check out our iOS 5 jailbreak how to and then fire up Cydia. Note: these widgets are fairly new athere are still some bugs that need to be worked out, but for the most part they're interesting and useful.

The widgets we'll go over are developed by @qwertyoruiop, so you'll have to add his beta repo to get access. Just follow these quick steps to add the correct Cydia repository before getting started.

  1. Open Cydia and tap the 'Manage' tab.
  2. Tap 'Sources'
  3. Tap 'Edit' in the top-right corner.
  4. Tap 'Add' and input http://qwertyoruiop.com/beta/

The first widget is one I'd definitely suggest getting...

UISettings

UISettings is a great widget that offers most of your settings toggles right from within Notification Center. Much akin to SBSettings, UISettings lets you toggle WiFi or Bluetooth, respring, reboot, adjust brightness/volume and more. You swipe to reveal more toggles, and turning your WiFi or Bluetooth radios on/off is very fast.

The developer is actively working on improving UISettings and we're betting he'll keep up with Apple's iOS 5 betas as they roll out. The only issue (if you can even call it an "issue") is the icons used aren't the best looking, but they're currently a big step up from the initial release last week. We're also looking into the possibility of manually changing the icons via SSH and we'll have a guide up if we determine it's possible.

MusicCenter

MusicCenter offers now playing information in the Notification Center with playback options available by swiping to the left. It's great if you need more track identifier data over what's shown in the native app switcher when swiping left, and also comes with a Twitter option to tweet what's playing from the official Twitter for iPhone app.

I found the playback controls to be quite buggy, but I think it was more due to the button design than anything else. The playback control buttons are too small, making it difficult for those with larger thumbs to get the button press exact. Additional bugs were noticed after my iPhone crashed into safe mode when I tried to disable the widget, and in one case I had to completely reboot my iPhone after disabling it.

This one needs a little more work, but the concept is great for quickly getting to track information on what's currently playing without going into the Music app.

BatteryCenter

BetteryCenter is a very simple widget to display your current battery percentage. BatteryCenter shows a battery icon on the left and the percentage on the right. It will also tell you whether the device is charging or unplugged.

For most, this widget might seem useless since the information it displays is also included in the status bar. But for some, it serves a purpose if you don't want the percentage displayed on the status bar, as some status bar icons tend to get "pushed" out of the way when too many icons are being displayed (including the percentage indicator). I personally use BatteryCenter for this very reason, and have since disabled the battery percentage in the status bar since it's no longer needed. I also ran into zero bugs with this widget.

RSSWidget

RSSWidget is a simple RSS reader for Notification Center that displays a single RSS feed, letting you swipe between recent articles with the post's title and first few lines displayed. Tapping an article takes you straight into Mobile Safari to read the full post.

I noticed a few small bugs with this one as well, in that some RSS feeds with links in the first few lines get displayed as HTML code, making it difficult to read without going into Safari to view the full post. This is very noticeable on blog posts that start with a photo (see above image). I also had occasional crashes to safe mode when enabling or disabling the widget, similar to buggy behavior in MusicCenter.

This is a great widget for getting news at-a-glance or keeping up with your favorite RSS feed, but it also needs a little work. Follow these quick steps in order to change the RSS feed displayed.

  1. Download iFile from Cydia (link)
  2. Open iFile and navigate to /System/Library/WeeAppPlugins/RSSWidget.bundle/
  3. Tap on com.idevhaice.rsswidget.plist and open with the Text Viewer
  4. Get into editing mode by tapping 'Edit' in the top-right corner
  5. Scroll down until you find http://www.9to5mac.com/feed and replace the pre-existing address with your favorite feed. For quick reference, our feed is http://feeds.feedburner.com/theiphoneblog

It would be nice if there was a shortcut setting to change the RSS feed a little quicker, but for now you'll have to do it through iFile or via SSH.

That's it! These new Notification Center widgets are looking good, and there's more to come from other great jailbreak developers. If we left anything out, or if you know of other cool Notification Center widgets for iOS 5 then let us know in the comments!

Tips of the day will range from beginner-level 101 to advanced-level ninjary. If you already know this tip, keep the link handy as a quick way to help a friend. If you have a tip of your own you’d like to suggest, add them to the comments or send them in to news@tipb.com. (If it’s especially awesome and previously unknown to us, we’ll even give ya a reward…)

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Andrew Wray

Andrew Wray is a Salt Lake City, Utah based writer who focuses on news, how-tos, and jailbreak. Andrew also enjoys running, spending time with his daughter, and jamming out on his guitar. He works in a management position for Unisys Technical Services, a subsidiary of Unisys Corporation.

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Reader comments

Daily Tip: How to get custom Notification Center widgets in iOS 5 [Jailbreak]

7 Comments

Apple didn't show signs of allowing developers to make native apps, yet they still opened the API.
This, for now, is another reason for me to jailbreak iOS5 once both it and the untethered jailbreak are available. I would love to have the ability to change wifi or bluetooth devices via Notification center.

Should be pretty clear that Apple plans to do this but it just wasn't fully baked for release when the SDK was shown at WWDC. if they only wanted this to be about notifications, they would have not put widgets there at all. This was clearly Apple's way of "seeding the market" with ideas.