We take a tour of what's new in Windows 11: Start Menu, Explorer, Notifications Panel, Quick Toggles, and more

Microsoft announced its new Windows 11 operating system last week, and the first Windows 11 Insider Preview was released yesterday. We're going to take a tour of the changes it brings.

We take a tour of what's new in Windows 11

Centered Taskbar and Start Menu

This is the elephant in the room. Some people may like it, but I think many people don't. It is clear why Microsoft went with a centered taskbar, it's easier to use on touchscreen devices. Don't worry, you can switch to the good old left-aligned icons, from the Taskbar settings, but there is no option anymore to set the taskbar to the side or top. Bottom is the only location.

Windows 11 Taskbar icons on the left

The Windows 11 Start Menu is clean, and though it lacks tiles, you can pin shortcuts for quick access. I've already read dozens of complaints about tiles missing in Windows 11. Remember when the Windows 10 Start Menu was criticized for being bloated, and the tiles were ugly? I'd say the we've come full circle.

Windows 11 - Start button context menu

Right-clicking the Start button displays a fly out similar to Windows 10's menu, but the new one has a compact design with rounded corners, an aspect that you will see in various elements of Windows 11. The Search tool is fairly identical to Windows 10's, you can still use the Start menu to run searches in Windows 11.

Task View

Task View has improved in Windows 11, and allows you to set a different desktop background per desktop. You can access it with the old hotkey Win + Tab.

Windows 11 - Task View

Widgets

Have you used the News and Weather toolbar in Windows 10? Well, that's very similar to the Widgets panel in Windows 11. But it looks better on the latter with the new design, the frosted glass background, the cool sliding animation. And you can add and more widgets for the Calendar, ToDo, Tips, Traffic, Esports, Weather, Watchlist and Photos.

Windows 11 - Widgets

Microsoft Store

The Microsoft Store layout has a sidebar to go to the home page, switch between Apps, Gaming and the Entertainment section. It has small banners compared to gigantic tiles for the apps. The Store layout I used this morning had an option to wishlist apps from the Store, but maybe it was pushed too early, because I can't find the option anymore.

Windows 11 - New Microsoft Store

To add an app or game to the wishlist, visit its page and click the Add to Wishlist button. Your wishlist can be shared with your friends or make it public. The Store app has an option to notify you when an item in your wishlist goes on sale.

File Explorer

Windows 11's File Explorer has a new interface with flat icons including those on the toolbar. The right-click context-menu has aso been revamped, and has rounded corners. Clicking the "show more options" menu item, displays the old menu, which is obviously a bug. The shell menu has some icons at the top for quick actions to cut, copy, paste, rename, share and delete files.

Windows 11 - File Explorer

The new Explorer seems more fluid and responsive, but crashed on me once when I tried to paste several files.

Windows 11 - File Explorer context menu

Settings

The Settings app which was briefly shown by Microsoft, has been completely overhauled. It has colorful icons on the sidebar, and breadcrumbs at the top of the window, to display where you are, and how you got there. e.g. Apps > Default Apps.

Windows 11 Settings

The right pane in the Settings app has black and white icons, but the list is easier to navigate than the old UI.

Windows 11 Settings - Accessibility options

Windows 11 also adds several accessibility options such as filters for color blindness, captions, audio notifications.

Windows 11 Settings - Accessibility options - Color blindness

Notification Panel and Quick Toggles

This was new to me, the Action Center in Windows 11 has a new GUI. It is divided into two, the bottom part has the calendar, while the one at the top has your notifications.
Clicking one of the system icons in the tray brings up the quick toggles. The rounded corners are noticeable here too, and I have to admit, it makes the operating system much better looking than Windows 10.

Windows 11 Notifications Panel and Calendar

The quick toggles currently available in the OS include Night Light, Focus Assist, Accessibility (contains many toggles), Connect (Wireless casting), and an audio slider. You can edit the layout, by pinning and unpinning the options in the panel. It's a bit odd that Airplane mode and the network adapters aren't accessible from the panel. The Show Desktop option can be accessed by right-clicking the caret icon, I'm not sure that I like this and probably won't be the only one who feels this way.

Windows 11 Quick Toggles

Snap Layouts and Snap Groups

Windows 11 brings many ways to Snap windows easily. Martin has written an article that explains how Snap Options work. Win + Z triggers the snap options. Once you have snapped 2 or more programs, you can access it or switch to other Snap Groups from the task bar.

Themes

Themes add a bit of color to your desktop, there are 6 to choose from, three of which are light themes, and the other 3 provide dark modes.

Windows 11 Themes Personalization

They can be personalized and are loads better than Windows 10's themes. Windows 11 also brings some new Sounds, including a startup sound. It's a nice touch.

Windows 11 - Themes

Windows Defender, Recycle Bin, Disk Cleanup, Device Manager, and Control Panel remain similar to those in Windows 10, though the Windows 11 versions of these programs have some new icons. The Insider Preview build has a few bugs here and there, most of which are related to the visuals, i.e., menus, buttons, etc.

Have you tried Windows 11 yet? What do you think about it?

Summary
We take a tour of what's new in Windows 11: Start Menu, Explorer, Notifications Panel, Quick Toggles, and more
Article Name
We take a tour of what's new in Windows 11: Start Menu, Explorer, Notifications Panel, Quick Toggles, and more
Description
We take a tour of some of the new features that haven't been talked about including the new Notifications Panel, Quick Toggles, and more.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Anonymous said on June 30, 2021 at 6:50 am
    Reply

    Airplane mode and WiFi are accessible in Quick Settings on my device.

    https://imgur.com/a/7iCsWbu

  2. kxk said on June 30, 2021 at 7:07 am
    Reply

    I’ve used small taskbar and never combine labels since it was introduced in Windows. I seriously hope they bring this back. Otherwise W11 is fantastic.

  3. Arif said on June 30, 2021 at 8:07 am
    Reply

    Can anyone help me? I have installed windows 11 but I cant find how to hide some of icons in my system tray.

    1. easy peasy said on July 1, 2021 at 1:19 am
      Reply

      Use black electrical tape to cover them. Just cut to size, apply, done.

      You’re welcome.

  4. Dumbledalf said on June 30, 2021 at 9:39 am
    Reply

    I’m still annoyed that windows title bars are still solid and don’t use a blur effect.

  5. TelV said on June 30, 2021 at 9:48 am
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    I don’t see the color black on the filters screenshot. Is that option available? I hate those pale grey fonts: it’s so tiring on my old eyes.

  6. Ray said on June 30, 2021 at 10:05 am
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    Is the older Control Panel still accessible in Windows 11? I still use that sometimes because of muscle memory and because options like Sound are better laid out and do not have an equivalent in Windows 10.

    1. Tom said on June 30, 2021 at 2:58 pm
      Reply

      Yes

  7. Pedro said on June 30, 2021 at 10:57 am
    Reply

    I’m liking a lot of what I’m seeing. Hopefully they release the API for the widgets to other developers. If they do that, W11 is winner.
    Also, tabs for Windows Explorer would be welcome.
    I wonder how are the options to disable telemetry?

    1. Yuliya said on July 1, 2021 at 2:21 am
      Reply

      They slightly altered them one option is missing. On Enterprise in the past there was:
      0 security/off
      1 basic
      2 enhanced
      3 full

      Now W11 Enterprise has only three options, one of which is off. I can’t tell which option is gone, but knowing Microsoft, the equivalent of basic probably is gone.

  8. Reader said on June 30, 2021 at 11:23 am
    Reply

    The overall look is really nice, but so much function is missing, or made very inefficient (at least in the I way use may machine).

    The new File Explorer menu (including the extended menu) and the the right click shell context menus seem to be missing the option to “move” a file. I can only see copy, and the “show more options” in the right click menu gives an option to Move to One Drive only. What if you want to move something to another location than One Drive e.g. an external drive? Dragging and dropping to an external drive in the tree or to another explorer window only seems to copy, so can’t even do it that way.

    Lots of functions have been removed from File Explorer that I found useful. Missing is the drop down menu for properties, which allows you to “remove properties”, without first having to open properties, click to the relevant tab, then click on a link to open another window where you can finally get to the bit where you can remove properties. Not only does Win 11 make you do it this long way, there are even extra clicks in the explorer menu or the right click menu to get to “properties” in the first place.

    Similarly for the Delete button. No drop down arrow with a menu to “permanently delete”. Now you have to go to the recycle bin to do that. Wondering if this is intentional by MS so there are no accidental permanent deletes. I don’t mind this too much actually.

    The select all and select none options have also gone from explorer, which is also something I use a lot.

    It feels like MS are giving cut down versions of what we had before – a bit like how the store app versions of some programmes are as compared with the 32bit/64bit versions. I get the de-cluttering and beautifying, but removing functions or making functions require many more steps than they used to is rather annoying. I take function and efficiency over prettiness.

    The start menu as it is, is not useful in the way the Win 10 is. I get some people hate the tiles. I didn’t find them objectionable if the live feature was turned off and they were all resized to small. There needs to be a way to pin apps/icons and then group them for those who used and really valued that. They don’t have to be tiles – icons would be fine, as long as they can be grouped. Now your options are a cluttered up taskbar (which is a pet hate of mine), or icons all over the desktop – which I also dislike, and also cannot be grouped. Also the recommended section if not used, leaves a big empty grey area on the start menu.

    The widget menu is probably not something I’d use, but it’s nice for those that would.

    1. Haakon said on June 30, 2021 at 8:27 pm
      Reply

      “What if you want to move something to another location…”

      Can you right-click, cut the file and then right-click, paste it into the other location? Our ancestors did it that way. Maybe MS wants us to remind us of our roots.

    2. matthiew said on July 1, 2021 at 3:35 am
      Reply

      What is the purpose of the “remove properties” function? This is the first I have ever heard of it and I can’t figure out how it would be useful to anybody.

      BTW, “permanently delete” can be achieved by pressing Shift+Delete on the keyboard. I can understand why some people would miss the button, but personally I won’t because I prefer to use the keyboard shortcut.

      Also, desktop icons can be grouped with an app called Fences. If you have a lot of stuff on your Desktop and want to keep it organised, I highly recommend it :)

  9. enjoyy said on June 30, 2021 at 12:06 pm
    Reply

    Enjoy your baked in telemetry.

  10. Anonymous said on June 30, 2021 at 12:43 pm
    Reply

    The taskbar and start menu is the worst part of Windows 11. I hope they revert it back the original.

    1. Mike said on June 30, 2021 at 1:55 pm
      Reply

      The Start Menu was terrible in Windows 10 also, and completely missing in 8. The last version that had a decent start menu was Windows 7. Fortunately programs like Startisback and OpenShell can restore it.

    2. DaveyK said on June 30, 2021 at 5:14 pm
      Reply

      Define “original”, because Windows 10’s taskbar and Start menu are also pretty awful. I do agree the Start menu from W11 doesn’t look too great either of course, I have to be honest that I still prefer the clean and functional design from Windows 7 here.

  11. Adam Smith said on June 30, 2021 at 1:04 pm
    Reply

    I agree with the comments
    Please stop these articles which are reading like marketing pamphlets from Microsoft
    Please instead tell us
    1)The options or third party applications that stop telemetry
    2)The must have Windows 11 features that make the upgrade from our already stable systems worthwhile

    Remember that needless upgrades can render older hardware peripherals and older software nonfunctional

    This is exactly the same when Microsoft was marketing Windows Vista and Windows 8. THERE WERE NO BENEFITS IN UPGRADING THAT MADE UP FOR THE SIGNIFICANT DISADVANTAGES

    1. Rush said on July 1, 2021 at 9:48 pm
      Reply

      My guess…..(the former Ghacks would never do this but since…)

      Softonic acquired ghacks.net, maybe they are getting fee from M$for ” M?a?r?k?e?t?i?n?g? writing about Win11 ”

      I will say this tho, users that are interested in Windows 11, there is a wealth of info here

  12. Debbie Does Redmond said on June 30, 2021 at 1:27 pm
    Reply

    Oh microsoft, microsoft.. you’re SO gonna end up in porn.

  13. anona said on June 30, 2021 at 2:16 pm
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    So… I like to have my WINDOWS shown on the taskbar, not just APPS. Also known as “don’t group windows” and “always show labels”. It seems this option is gone in Windows 11?

  14. Tom said on June 30, 2021 at 2:59 pm
    Reply

    You can bypass TPM and SecureBoot when installing Windows 11 on unsupported hardware:

    During installation press Shift+F10, open registry and create key LabConfig under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Setup

    There add:
    “BypassTPMCheck”=dword:00000001
    “BypassSecureBootCheck”=dword:00000001

    1. TPM POLICE said on July 1, 2021 at 1:13 am
      Reply

      When “during installation” can you do that?

  15. ho said on June 30, 2021 at 3:51 pm
    Reply

    BUG10+Round-corner Skin.

  16. Windows 10 user said on July 1, 2021 at 1:04 am
    Reply

    Have you tried Windows 11 yet?

    No. It’s not even done yet.

    What do you think about it?

    I don’t care. Perhaps in 2025 I will care.

    Also, when you write that article about how to make Windows 10 look like Windows 11, I’m not going to care about that either.

  17. Yuliya said on July 1, 2021 at 2:24 am
    Reply

    I hate it like you wouldn’t believe. Look at this nonsense: https://i.imgur.com/GEykgEe.gif

  18. Fryingscot2 said on July 1, 2021 at 1:33 pm
    Reply

    So File Explorer is still not tabbed?

  19. Mavoy said on July 1, 2021 at 1:34 pm
    Reply

    Enjoying majority of it. Don’t really mind the new Start menu, since I prefer to use Launchy anyway. The only two complaints: I really can’t stand “show more options” thing and I hope it will be fixed, either officially or unofficialy. I can take care of clearing context menu on my own. Finally, do we really need to combine Action Center and the calendar bar?

  20. common sense computing said on July 1, 2021 at 2:51 pm
    Reply

    Another Windows downgrade, going downhill since 7.

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