Windows 11's Start Menu could soon show information in a floating sidebar

Martin Brinkmann
May 10, 2024
Updated • May 11, 2024
Windows 11 News

Microsoft introduced support for what it calls Start Menu Companions in a recent Windows 11 beta build. This feature adds a sidebar to the Start Menu that display information, for instance from widgets.

The last major overhaul of the Windows Start menu launched with the release of Windows 11. Microsoft removed several features of the Windows 10 Start menu, including support for live tiles and customization options. It did introduce the split design that shows pinned apps at the top and recommendations at the bottom.

I called the Windows 11 Start menu barely usable back in 2021 when it first launched. While Microsoft did improve it, some criticism still stands to this day.

Start Menu Companions in Windows 11 Start

Twitter user Albacore discovered the new feature in Windows 11 Beta build 26212. A screenshot attached to the Twitter message shows weather and stock market information in the floating sidebar.

He writes: "It's time for the Start menu to become extensible!?
Windows 11 ? build 26212 quietly introduces support for "Start Menu Companions." They're apps that provide Adaptive Cards which display on a floating island (docked ?? or ??) alongside Start
Used Widgets data as a quick demo ?"

Windows 11 users may configure the feature under Settings > Personalization > Start. There they find a list of companions that they may display on the left or right side of the Windows 11 Start menu.

There appears be an option to turn off the feature entirely. When turned off, the Start Menu shows up as before when activated.

Still in development

The Start Companion feature is still in development. There is a chance that it changes before release and there is even a chance that it gets pulled by Microsoft before it lands in stable versions of Windows 11.

The adaptive cards that testers can display are limited and look like a mini-version of the Widgets panel.  When it launches, it could even replace widgets entirely for some users.

Support for third-party adaptive cards could improve the reach and usefulness of the feature. Microsoft hoped the same for Widgets, but support for third-party widgets is fairly limited still at this point.

Only a handful of widgets can be installed from the Microsoft Store at this point, and they are pretty basic.

Closing Words

Start Menu Companions is an optional feature that users can turn off. Most will probably do that, unless remarkable adaptive cards are unveiled at one point that add value for the user.

Maybe a list of recent downloads, run programs, or notifications could be displayed there.

With Microsoft, there is also the chance of ads making an appearance eventually. See how to turn off Start Menu ads in Windows 11 for instructions to disable those.

All in all, this feature has to prove itself before it could become a truly useful expansion of the Start menu of the operating system.

If you ask me, I'd like to see the recommended section moved there entirely.

What do you think about the new feature? Anything that you have in mind that you would find useful to display there?

Article Name
Windows 11's Start Menu could soon show information in a floating sidebar
The Windows 11 Start Menu could soon display a floating sidebar that displays adaptive cards, such as weather or stock information.
Ghacks Technology News

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  1. Tim said on May 18, 2024 at 8:44 am

    That menu looks so huge. Eventually it might get as big as Gnome’s application screen. Your computer mouse will be quite busy if they decide to enlarge the widget.

  2. GAFAM=Evil said on May 16, 2024 at 5:15 am

    Stick with Win 10 LTSC IoT until support ends in 2032, and then check what the OS field looks like at that time. By then Win 11 or 12 will be a combination between WebTV and a 1984 Telescreen, so Linux will be your only alternative.

  3. M$ is Mordor said on May 13, 2024 at 5:59 am

    Is it true M$ harvests all of your hardware (devices) and BIOS information? Does it really phone home all of that stuff? I read somewhere that it did.

    Another reason to use Linux/BSD.

  4. John said on May 13, 2024 at 2:28 am

    BonziBuddy or GTFO. :)

    1. Bobo said on May 13, 2024 at 9:05 am

      =) We’re really not far off from the horror days of old when starting a Windows computer in 2024. Then fire up Edge and watch the horror unfold before your very eyes. It’s like getting shot in the face with a crap-shotgun. I work with computers, I know what I’m doing, and even for me it takes many hours to set up a customers computer to a usable and somewhat pleasant state, where a clean install is not an option. I wish I could say linux is perfect in this regard but that’s not true. Most distros are filled to the brim with software they decided the users will want/need and you still get the crap that Firefox and other browsers shove in your face while starting them for the first time. All default settings are just garbage. There’s not one distro on this planet that has a very slim and good set of useful, needed software from the get go and where every setting is privacy-friendly. Not one. I hate that, with a vengeance. Why ship a firewall if it’s not ON by default? Why is KDE wallet demanding a password 200 times a day? Why is swappiness set to “shoot me in the foot” by default? Every damn OS and program is a (s)tinker-show and you have to dance around everything for ages to get it right. Sadly, I care about these things. Most do not. One day, when a very good linux distro comes my way, I will do a respin of it and share it with the world. It will be glorious. One day…

      1. Paul said on May 13, 2024 at 4:28 pm

        is this where you got your nick from?
        Bobo said on May 11, 2024 at 11:04 pm
        Was indeed really funny
        Your reply to John G. ended with.
        Why people aren’t out in the streets protesting this is a mystery.
        Bobo you are the people, start a revolution, be the leader, the few linux users and people who must use windows because there government tells them to, will follow your quest.
        And then you wrote
        uBobo said on May 13, 2024 at 9:05 am
        One day, when a very good linux distro comes my way, I will do a respin of it and share it with the world. It will be glorious. One day…
        I’m not tech savvy but if you think you can respin a linux distro the way you want, there is allot of FOSS available to do so why wait start your on Bobo linux, I’m looking forward to it

  5. John said on May 13, 2024 at 2:27 am

    Remember when they tried rolling out widgets as a big feature in Windows Vista?

    How about when they tried to have rectangles with automatically updated information in Windows 8, tiled above, beneath, and to either side of each other?

    Funny how features that have already failed keep coming back.

    1. bruh said on May 13, 2024 at 12:55 pm

      Failure is a fun word, define success. “Widgets” of the Windows Vista and Seven era were interesting, they lived in a little menu specially made for them, and it was an open effort to which anybody could contribute and create, there are hundreds of 3rd party widgets out there, many still downloadable – some were utilities, some were for laughter. For example, a little camera preview window, no need to go to a website or open a full-fledged program to test or check your webcam.

      Perhaps if Microsoft made a few really “killer” ones which were shipped with the OS, it would have opened the door for better mass adoption. Perhaps windows should have come with one or two widgets turned on by default – but they weren’t intrusive back then, they trusted the user to make the best decision, trusted that the user would learn the ins and outs of their OS at least a little bit.

      Just because a small amount of people use something, doesn’t mean it is a failure. Failure is when nobody uses something and nobody ever used it to begin with (remember windows cardspace?).

      Microsoft later abandoned the concept because they were so unrestricted that people could make malicious widgets, so it was a security concern – which is obviously wrong, you need a certain element of “wild west” if you want to encourage creativity and innovation, “safety over function” is pathetic, spineless, but unfortunately is the status quo currently – which is why all later iterations and attempts to re-make widgets have not been worth anyone’s time.

      So it depends on your definitions of success or failure, I don’t think it’s fair to call widgets a failure. It was one of the many niche furnishings available to the discerning (or curious) user, which an operating system surely should have, as not everything has to be serious.

  6. Bobo said on May 11, 2024 at 11:04 pm

    They should just go ahead and do what they wanted to do forever: To start your computer, you have to watch an ad. To choose a program from the startmenu, you have to watch an ad. To interact with your files, you have to watch an ad. To watch your holidayvideo, you first have to watch an ad. To listen to your music, first you must watch an ad and then you must listen to an ad. Want to install a driver? Watch an ad first. To uninstall a program, yep: Ad. Watch it. To turn off your computer, you must watch an ad. If you unplug your computer while the powering off-ad is running you will have to watch 5 ads the next time you turn on your computer. …and they say linux is shit…

    1. Tom Hawack said on May 13, 2024 at 12:08 am

      I agree with John G. aside the fact it doesn’t make me laugh. There is obviously an increasing financial hysteria in America and all means considered legitimate as long as conducted by the rules, or are they always ? Trials appear regularly. Advertisement is a major component. It’s becoming obsessional, nuts, totally disconnected from people’s expectations in terms of sanity, but totally connected in terms of dependency if not addiction. But no bubble, besides maybe the universe, expands infinitely, which means that either it will shrink or explode. Which of the two and when, no idea.
      Meanwhile, there are alternatives for those who wish to remain in the digital arena but in a more peaceful and private way. @Bobo is right : think Linux. GAFAM are getting totally mad.

    2. John G. said on May 12, 2024 at 1:57 pm

      Best comment of the month. Just can’t stop laughing. You made an amazing way to say the truth with some good sense of humour. You have made my sunday, seriously! Thanks!

      1. Bobo said on May 12, 2024 at 6:36 pm

        @John G.
        Yeah, we laugh now but there’s no no doubt in my mind they are working on replacing boot screens and shutdown dialogs with ads. I mean that’s like a 20-30 second window of opportunity right there. I read recently that Google are testing ads on paused YouTube videos, the greedy bastards in Redmond are keeping their eyes peeled on that too I’m sure. Amazing they haven’t yet shoved an ad in the small file copying window… Ad-screensavers will also be a thing in the near future. Why people aren’t out in the streets protesting this is a mystery.

      2. John G. said on May 13, 2024 at 5:58 pm

        @Bobo, sadly you are right. I meant that it’s better to laugh than to cry, mostly because Microsoft doesn’t care a cent our opinion as users. We are the last link of the chain. So sadly, again, you are right however I prefer take this absolute madness with some humour.

  7. Stu said on May 11, 2024 at 5:26 pm

    When I click “Show Recommendations” off in settings, I would like its panel to disappear and give me two more rows of pins. And the start menu should be resizable.
    As for most used apps, I know what they are without reminders and most of them auto start on boot.

    Anything I lost from Win 10 (can’t remember what anymore), I have restored with AHK macros activated by hot keys on my mechanical fully programmable 44 key keyboard. I still have three empty levels so I can add over 120 more hot keys. And yes, when they are added one at a time I remember where they are. Keycaps are all blank to avoid distraction.

  8. VioletMoon said on May 11, 2024 at 12:39 am

    “has to proof itself”–has to prove itself

    proof vs. prove


    I think the little companion idea is a bit nerdy; however, some user may spend most of their time staring at the wallpaper and desktop icons, if any. These widgets and adaptive cards could then prove most valuable. Say a user logs in once a week–then the nifty cards could remind him/her via AI voice where he/she left off.

    Lots of potential!

  9. Micro$oft said on May 10, 2024 at 10:53 pm

    This is becoming absurd! Can they please stop with these pointless changes that no one asked for!!! They need to check out StartAllBack or Start11 to understand what people actually want from the Windows UI. I’m guessing not, given that the Windows team currently appears to be made up of scamming web developers who never used Windows before. It’s as if Microsoft hired the crooks that produce phishing websites and other dangerous content on the internet to work on Windows 11.

  10. John said on May 10, 2024 at 10:04 pm

    More information in this floating sidebar? Or just a way for Microsoft to inject more future ad space into Windows?

  11. TelV said on May 10, 2024 at 7:13 pm

    The stuff that was really useful like easily accessible Toolbars (right click the taskbar) have been removed and replaced with crap that nobody wants or is ever likely to use.

    Do something useful for once Microsoft and give us back our toolbars which were also available to create your own custom versions. The rest of the other useless crap you can stick where the Sun don’t shine.

  12. Dexios said on May 10, 2024 at 5:40 pm

    Oooh noooo again crap bloatware…

  13. Baddo said on May 10, 2024 at 5:23 pm

    LOL, back to square one. MS has no clue what to do with Windows.

  14. Tachy said on May 10, 2024 at 3:10 pm

    …and how much will it cost me not to see this?

    Seems M.$ is moving from advertising to extortion.

  15. Nosedive said on May 10, 2024 at 2:25 pm

    It looks more like an adware panel. Why is it not connected to the panel? More intern level nonsense from Microsoft. Who is coming up with these dumb ideas? At Microsoft, where are the grownups? I would be ashamed to say I work at Microsoft nowadays.

    People are requesting customizations that Windows 11 has taken away from them from Windows 10. This is just another stupid dark pattern so users accidently click on MSN garbage.

  16. John G. said on May 10, 2024 at 12:48 pm

    Again another creepypasta horror history from Microsoft.
    Nadella, please, give up!

    Thanks for the article. :]

  17. Mystique said on May 10, 2024 at 11:51 am

    Don’t even bother with the default start menu that Microsoft vomits up as they are simply trying their best to place ads in every single aspect of windows and this is undoubtedly another opportunity for them to do so. At best it’s another questionably terrible design choice from a company that is out of touch with its past and the present reality. Nobody asked for this!

    Open-Shell Menu (Freeware/open source), StartAllBack (does more than just the start menu and is relatively cheap), Start11 (Stardock), Start menu X (Free/paid Options).

    My recommendation is the first two options from personal experience.

  18. Wuwu said on May 10, 2024 at 11:10 am

    Oh joy! Another bit of cr@p to disable.

  19. 45 RPM said on May 10, 2024 at 8:43 am

    It’s almost like the entire UI/UX teams at Microsoft are bored and don’t have anything they need to do, so they’re just making crap up to fill their shift. And also they have no idea what anyone actually might want.

    1. bruh said on May 13, 2024 at 1:00 pm

      What improvements and innovations could there be after aero snap, aero peek, aero glass, etc. There are no new lands to discover or conquer (so it might seem), so they got drunk and started urinating in the public fountain, so to speak.

      By the way, a lot of talent was dumped after the failure of Windows 8, as well as internal processes for quality assurance, etc, were changed and “streamlined”, which is why Windows has had a certain jank feel to it ever since.

      1. Bobo said on May 14, 2024 at 8:09 am


        Aeroshake! Remember that? Must have been fun for users detoxing from alcohol.

      2. bruh said on May 14, 2024 at 11:06 am


        One of the only features I actually turn off thru group policy, it’s a cool feature but I love occasionally shaking tabs around when I get bored of staring at a screen.

        Btw why “remember”, it’s still present in modern windows, last I checked?

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