Hands On In its advertising for Windows 11, Microsoft has focused on “simplified design and user experience” of the operating system along with a few headline features: a centered Start menu that looks more like a dock from other operating systems, Android apps in the Microsoft Store. , Teams Chat in the Taskbar, Widgets and more.
Android software support aside, these are relatively superficial features, and Microsoft will not dare to make changes that could ruin application compatibility with Windows 10. The IT titan already triggered a setback by saying that 7th generation Intel Core processors will not be sufficient to run the new Windows, although there are signs that the company is open to “adjustments we should make to our minimum system requirements”
El Reg living on the Edge on a Windows 11 desktop … Click to enlarge
We’ve run the latest preview of Windows 11 (21H2 Pro, OS build 22000.71) along with the updated Office insider, and while it’s generally uncomfortable, there are small changes that we think may be annoying – but note that everything here can be changed as this is just a preview. A full official release will be landed by the end of this year.
For example, it is second nature for someone to right-click on the taskbar to summon Task Manager, perhaps in the hope of discovering why a supposedly fast PC behaves as if it were wading through glue. But the corresponding pop-up menu in Windows 11 has only two entries, Adjust Date and Time and Notification Settings. Task processing? We may have to get used to typing Windows + X, which addresses what is sometimes called the Power Menu, with quick access to a variety of apps and settings, including Task Manager.
Right click on the taskbar and this bad menu is all you get
We have not yet discovered how to access one of our favorite settings, which is “Always show all icons in the notification area.” The notification area is at the bottom right of the screen, where background applications often display an icon with a right-click menu.
Showing these icons provides insight into what is running; but the default is to hide them behind a pop-up menu. In Windows 11, it appears that this area is renamed to “Taskbar Corner”, and the “Taskbar Corner Overlay” pop-up menu, and while you can still choose which icons are displayed, there is no option we can see to display them all by default .
Taskbar Overflow Options
If the centered Start menu and taskbar icons do not suit you, you can slide them to the left, as in Windows 10, in Windows 11 personalization settings.
Those curious can find the official list of removed and outdated features here. Remote features include quick status on the lock screen, S mode (except the home version), tablet mode and the ability to adjust the taskbar other than to the bottom of the screen.
Tablet mode is a sad story. Although Windows 8 failed to convince users for all sorts of reasons, it was cleverly designed for touch users, more than any version of Windows before or since (except maybe Windows Phone). Tablet mode was intended to restore a touch-friendly experience in Windows 10, but never worked properly and caused confusion.
That said, Redmond appears to have a replacement in the form of “new functionality and the ability to fix and loosen the keyboard,” as this Microsoft representative notes. These include remote icons and new gestures, and possibly a new touch keyboard. Microsoft wants this in mind for its newer and newer Surface devices.
The Start menu in Windows 11 is not necessarily an improvement. The Start menu was brilliant in Windows 95, brutally transformed in Windows 8, and was reinvented in Windows 10 as an application menu with an optional adjustable and customizable panel on one side to maintain some compatibility with Windows 8 Live Tiles.
Outside the box, the Windows 10 Start panel is an annoyance, but with a little effort it can be turned into a useful application launcher, with named groups and icons that in some cases come in four sizes: small, medium, wide or large. The Photo app is an example, which can not only be set large, but which will also browse photos and recently added photos.
In Windows 11, Live Tiles, named groups and resizable sizes have been swept away. The new Start menu has little to customize, although users can still pin apps to a fixed area in the top half, which scrolls when full (a grid of 6 x 3 icons on our system). Plenty of space is given to a “recommended” panel with questionable value. There’s also a small “All Apps” button, similar to the classic pop-up menu from before, and “Type here to search”, which searches across applications, documents, web, settings and more, providing the user a confusion of the results.
Settings app better, File Explorer worse?
One thing is at least better in Windows 11. The design is much cleaner, for those parts of the software that use the modern user interface, such as the system Settings application; it makes windows 10 look homemade by comparison.
The Settings applet looks much better in Windows 11 than in Windows 10
This settings applet should be friendlier than the classic control panel, which on Windows 11 looks almost identical to the Windows 10 control panel, save for a few icon changes that are neither better nor worse. For some network settings, it is still necessary to go to the Control Panel “Network Connections”, although the Windows 11 modern settings app provides some network configuration options not found in the Windows 10 settings, including adapter options such as DHCP, DNS, interface activation and disable, and more.
Even Windows Backup is still there in Control Panel, under the mysterious label “Backup and Restore (Windows 7).” This is the same as on Windows 10, but it’s worth mentioning here, since unlike the heavily promoted file history in the Settings applet, this old backup is actually a full backup of the system that can be stored on a drive and taken offline – just that in these days of ransomware. Note that when you search for backup in the Settings applet, you will only find “Back up and sync your settings”, at least in the Windows 11 Pro setup. To find the full backup feature, users need to find Control Panel and then search for backup. Alternatively, you can write
sdclt at the command prompt.
This is the type of discrepancy that keeps Microsoft partners in business. Also note that although this type of full backup has been phased out, users installing the presumably hot and current Azure Backup software will find that it looks incredibly similar, even if it targets Azure storage instead of a local drive.
Another thing to mention is the Snap Navigator. Hold the mouse over the maximize button in a window, and a Snap window will appear, allowing users to resize and place the window in one of several positions. Useful? Some may like it, even though we did not find much value in it. For those who work with a huge screen, it can be useful.
Hover over a maximizer button and this Snap navigator will appear
Windows File Explorer is redesigned in Windows 11. This is where some users spend a lot of time while others barely know what it is. It packs many features: file management (copy, paste and move), file security, document preview, document search and more.
This dreaded cascading menu is a feature of the new File Explorer
The new design no longer has a ribbon menu, and at first glance it seems less functional: there are only a few icons above the top. That said, several of the buttons have drop-down menus, such as for sorting and grouping, layout and selection.
It seems that everything is still there; the band is no longer in fashion, and instead of going back to the old-style drop-down menus, Microsofties has chosen a hybrid where the menus fall from the buttons. Improvement? One can see that the designers aim for a simple, clean look; but what is lost is discoverability, something the ribbon design was good at showing up. The new File Explorer is not a success.
Will Windows 11 always be a free upgrade from Windows 10? According to an official document available from some OEMs, declaring itself “CELA [Corporate External and Legal Affairs] approved, the “free upgrade offer does not have a specific qualification system end date. However, Microsoft reserves the right to eventually terminate support for the free offer. This end date will be within one year of general availability.”
The document also states that: “You do not need to upgrade to Windows 11. We will continue to support Windows 10 until October 14, 2025.” Follow these instructions to retrieve a copy of the preview. ®