A messy (but surprisingly stable) leak probably wasn’t the way Microsoft wanted to introduce the world to Windows 11, but that didn’t stop the company from launching its new OS today with a ton of fanfare. After all, a new version of Windows doesn’t come around very often, right? So here’s what’s up with Windows 11: Like we saw in the leaked build, it’s clearly evolving everything we saw in Windows 10. But there’s an extra sheen of polish that’s nice to see after spending six years with the last version. The new OS will be a free upgrade for Windows 10 users and start rolling out “this holiday”.
And yes, the centered task bar we saw last week is still, well, front and center. For many users, I’d imagine it’d be a somewhat disconcerting change to break a tradition that started with Windows 95. But after playing with the beta build for over a week now, it’s a change I’ve come to appreciate. (You can also push the taskbar back to the left side of the screen if it really bugs you.) From everything we’ve seen so far, it still looks like you can’t choose to have labels show up on the task bar either, so it’s all icons moving forward.
Personally, I’m more interested in seeing how Windows users feel about the revamped Start menu. The last time Microsoft tried to change that up with the full-screen Start page in Windows 8, it sparked a massive user revolt. Windows 11’s version isn’t as dramatic a change, but it’ll still require some learning.
One new addition is Snap Groups, collections of apps that you can easily access together on the task bar. That’s a smart step forward, since few of us just use one app at a time. I could see whipping together a Snap Group with Slack, Evernote and Chrome to handle my usual workflow. You can also look forward to web-based widgets, which brings up quick bites of information, like the local weather and your calendar, all at a glance.
There’s also exciting news for multi-monitor Windows users: Windows 11 can finally juggle apps across multiple displays without wreaking havoc on your workflow. If you disconnect an external monitor from your laptop, all of the apps from that secondary screen will just be minimized. And during the presentation today, we also saw how the OS can remember exactly where you place specific windows. Hopefully, that means you can quickly get back to work after rebooting or changing resolutions (something gamers do fairly often).