Add widgets to your Android notification bar

By JR Raphael (@jr_raphael)

Android Notification Bar

Android's notification bar puts all sorts of info at your fingertips -- and with one simple tweak, you can make it do even more.

All you need is a free little app called Notification Toggle. With it, you can perform functions like activating Wi-Fi, toggling Bluetooth, or launching commonly used programs from anywhere on your phone; all you have to do is pull down the bar at the top of your screen, and the function you want will be waiting right there.

Android Notification Bar: Creating Your Custom Setup

Setting up your new custom Android notification bar is easy. Once you've installed the Notification Toggle app, open it and you'll see a list of all the widgets you can activate. In addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggling, you can create Android notification bar switches for things like silencing your phone, making your screen more or less bright, toggling flight mode, and flipping on an LED flashlight.

Android Notification Bar 1

I like using the actions in the app's "Single Notifications" section; they put individual functions in the notification area that require only a single tap to access. Having quick and easy access to something like Wi-Fi comes in handy for me all the time; with the switch right in my Android notification bar, I don't have to stop whatever I'm doing and go back to my home screen to turn Wi-Fi on or off.

Android Notification Bar 2

Beneath the "Single Notifications" section, you'll see a place where you can add a one-touch Android notification bar widget for any app on your phone. If you have something that you use regularly while in the middle of other tasks -- say, the system calculator -- placing it here could be pretty convenient.

Android Notification Bar 3

Notification Toggle can also create an "all-in-one" widget. This takes a series of items and places them side-by-side on a single line on the Android notification bar.

Android Notification Bar 4

The all-in-one widget looks nice, but personally, I find it to be far less useful than the individual items. The reason: You can't just tap one of the icons in the all-in-one bar to activate it; instead, tapping an item pulls up a larger menu on which you then have to make your selection again. That added step, small as it may seem, takes away a lot of the convenience.

Android Notification Bar 5

Android notification bar widgets have long been available in third-party ROMs and certain manufacturer-added skins, but this tool lets you get the same kind of customizable functionality in any Android setup. Plus, unlike other utilities I've seen, it doesn't create clutter by adding always-present icons to the top of your display; the widgets show up only when you pull down the notification panel. And in my testing, Notification Toggle has had no noticeable impact on Android battery life or system performance, even on an older phone like the original Motorola Droid.

There are a few other apps that offer similar functionality, such as the popular Widgetsoid program. If you're feeling adventurous, you might want to check some of them out as well.

Android Power Twitter

In my experience, though, Notification Toggle is the simplest and most direct way of getting useful widgets into your notification bar. Its one-touch actions also set it apart from much of the competition.

You can download Notification Toggle for free in the Android Market.

More Android Power Tips & Tricks:

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at eSarcasm, his geek-humor getaway.

Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

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