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Widgets are just what they sound like: little widgets of application goodness. Widgets are really just little windows that plug into different screens of the WordPress environment and allow the user to see information or interact with WordPress in some way. You might see a widget that shows some site stats in the admin, or you may want to present a widget in the sidebar that has links to different category posts. Since WordPress 2.2, widgets have been a built-in part of the WordPress experience. Let's take a look at widgets. Logging into the WordPress dashboard is the first time you'll see widgets.
All of these are dashboard widgets, and we'll talk specifically about how to plug those into the WordPress environment later. If you want to go in and see the widgets for the front-end of the web site, in the Appearance menu, there is a submenu called Widgets, which will open the Widgets subpanel. On the left will always be a list of your available widgets and inactive widgets, which you can basically drag there, and it will keep their settings, but take them off of the interface. On the right side, you'll have different areas where your widgets can go.
What exists here depend on the theme you're using. In the default Twenty Ten theme that comes with WordPress 3.0, we have a few different areas where we can place widgets, but you can see by default most everything is placed in the Primary Widget Area, which is the right side of the screen. If you want to open your WordPress web site, you can Command+Click on Mac or Ctrl+Click on Windows to launch a new tab. You can see over here, these are all of our widgets: Recent Posts, Recent Comments, Archive, Categories, and Meta.
We can edit this information by opening the widget in the Widget subpanel, and if there are any options, they'll appear. For example, Categories, we can change to show them as a dropdown. Meta, it doesn't really make sense, when really these are just Important Links. When I return to the front-end and refresh it, you'll then see my Categories have appeared in a dropdown list, and my Link menu has changed to Important Links. If you want to move your widgets into different areas, you simply open the area where you want to place them, and drag the widget into there.
In addition, you can drop other elements from here directly into the Widget Area. We'll cover this one later. When you go back to the front-end, you will then see the new widgets have been added in the appropriate place. Widgets are a way of encapsulating application bits to be embedded into WordPress in different places. Some widgets, like the WordPress Stats Widget, work directly in the admin. Others you can embed into your site in all kinds of different places.
It's easy to add and remove widgets from the site using the Widgets subpanel. All in all, widgets are a flexible way for administrators to customize their WordPress sites.
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