We take a tour of what's new in Windows 11: Start Menu, Explorer, Notifications Panel, Quick Toggles, and more
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The new Explorer seems more fluid and responsive, but crashed on me once when I tried to paste several files.
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.
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 also adds several accessibility options such as filters for color blindness, captions, audio notifications.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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?Advertisement