Long after Windows 10’s release in 2015, exciting times are here again for Windows users – Microsoft has officially unveiled Windows 11, the new operating system that will replace Windows 10.
With the official unveiling of the new successor of the operating systm, it’s time to delve into the full scope of the update. Years ago, Microsoft had promised that Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows, to be only augmented further by incremental updates. This begs the question, what makes Windows 11 worth the big bang release? It’s time for the full scoop.
To start right off the bat with the most obvious, Windows 11 is built on the same core architecture as its predecessor, but with a whole new look and change in user experience.
The first thing you are going to notice as the new OS boots up is the change in the Start Menu and taskbar. The Start Menu takes the center stage, literally, now being in the middle of the taskbar along with the other icons, following the design language of macOS and ChromeOS. This comes across as a welcome change, having a clean aesthetic appeal.
However, a big concern for many users will be the inconvenience of muscle memory from decades of moving to the lower-left corner to reach the Start menu, (I can already foresee the messages on the forums and Reddit) but to alleviate their concerns, Microsoft has thrown in the ability to revert back to the side layout. The bad news though, is that the taskbar can no longer be pinned to any of the sides of the screen and need to stay at the bottom only.
File explorer retains most of its arrangement, with the three panes still remaining intact, but the ribbons and shortcut menus do get a design refresh, making them much easier to look at. Clicking on the Start Menu previously displayed the list of programs installed on the computer, along with the live tiles, weather, and some Microsoft apps. Now it primarily shows the apps that have been pinned by the user, with the search bar to help locate the apps used less frequently.
Another nifty but amazing addition is the recommendations option, which displays the recent documents or projects, which makes the overall experience a lot more personal and, of course, convenient. This may come across as nitpicking, but this seems more of a feature that should be in the Search Menu rather than the Start Menu. Speaking of search, the button is no longer a giant horizontal box sticking out like a sore thumb, rather a small icon that just blends in rather beautifully. These little changes show a very user-friendly and appealing design thinking from Microsoft, which is highly likely to resonate positively with the users.
It’s time to bid Cortana goodbye from the built-in app section of Windows 11, although it is unclear how much grief her passing will generate, for those who will be hit the hardest, they can always download it back from the store.
Improved multitasking with Snap Desktop
It remains a mystery who liked the whole scruffy process of dragging and dropping apps on the desktop to view multiple windows simultaneously, but that has been improved by a lot. Windows 11 has introduced a tiling template option that gives users the option to now view and arrange three to four windows in preset positions. This sweet little feature allows seamless snapping and also restoration of app windows with just one click.
Multi-monitor support has also improved significantly. Remember how haphazardly all the apps and software get scattered on one screen when external/additional monitors are disconnected? In Windows 11, all those apps are quietly minimized instead, instantly returning to their previous states when reconnected to the external monitor. While this may seem trivial, it is indeed a subtly brilliant tweak to the user experience.
Teams Chat integration
With remote work becoming more and more prevalent worldwide, Microsoft Teams has seen a surge in users, replacing the likes of Zoom, Skype, and Slack. Windows 11 has decided to bring its native communication app to the forefront, with options to chat and call being integrated into the main taskbar. This makes quick messaging a breeze, even allowing calls to be made directly to video or audio to iOS and Android devices, regardless of whether the other party has the app installed or not.
Android apps…on Windows?
One of the biggest changes that came to Windows 11 is the Windows Subsystem for Android, which brings native support for Android apps to Windows. Android apps can be installed from the Amazon App Store, or sideloaded from installer packages. The addition of native Android app support makes the list of available apps for Windows an even bigger one. The Microsoft Store itself also gets a design rehaul that makes its interface much cleaner and vastly more coherent. The newly designed store also makes it easier to find apps and movies, which are not available on the Windows 10 store. The Microsoft Store is now home to many more native apps like Zoom, Adobe Creative Cloud etc., along with mobile apps, which still utilize the vertical layout, as they have not been optimized for computers yet.
Task View and Widgets
Another great addition to Windows 11 is Task View. For users who want to separate their virtual desktops for different purposes, things have never been more convenient. There can be a work desktop, a gaming one, and so on for any purpose needed by the user. The new widgets come off more as gimmicks than anything else, they are still limited to weather conditions, money markets and news updates. Microsoft might be trying to oversell this a little.
Most of the highlights so far have been the big differences between the two builds, but there are also some minor changes lurking around for those who want to be completely in the know about making the jump to Windows 11. Some features from Windows 10 have actually been removed in Windows 11, such as inter-device wallpaper sync, Internet Explorer (well, alright, about time), and apps like OneNote for Windows 10, Skype, 3D Viewer, and even essentials like Paint! There are a plethora of other little-used apps that are being removed, but they are still available on the store.
Gamers can rejoice at the knowledge that there are some game-specific features that come with Windows 11, such as Auto HDR and Direct Storage for much faster loading of games from the graphics cards.
All this being rainbows and butterflies, Microsoft has sadly also left some archaic bits and pieces among the layers of the new OS, some of which date back to nearly a decade. These little tidbits can be found in the Control Panel and network wizards, to mention a few, but thankfully most users would not encounter them in everyday use. With all this said, what about the actual update process?
Just like the upgrades that came before this, Windows 11 is also free for Windows 10. But before getting too excited, there’s a catch. The update requires the computer to pass Microsoft’s PC Health Check App and also requires a hardware feature called TPM 2.0, which is missing in older hardware. At the time being, the update is in its beta phase and anyone opting into it (through the Windows Insider Program) will definitely be faced with a lot of bugs, and it is strongly recommended for enthusiasts to wait till the stable version comes on. This along with the fact that Windows 10 will continue receiving support for four more years is definitely good news.
The final verdict
Windows 11 is probably the best looking Windows to hit the market, with sweet upgrades to the overall UI/UX more than welcome, along with window management features taking a leap towards the better. A solid update, yes, but the changes are (still) not significant enough to induce any fear of missing out just yet for existing users of Windows 10.