Back in 2015, Microsoft told us Windows 10 was it, they were done with the ongoing name changes to Windows and we’d simply have 2 major updates to the operating system each year. Well it seems they’re not back tracking on that statement and Windows 11 will be a thing.
Officially the Windows 11 announcement and big unveil will occur on June 24th (or June 25th in Australia). The next version of Windows wasn’t waiting around, with a leaked copy of an early build, making its way to the internet overnight. It’s not a coincidence that the event is scheduled for 11am (ET).
Naturally there’s a lot of exploring to see what’s new and different in the next release, after all, if you’re going to increment the major release number, it better be worth it right?
So far what we’ve seen are some significant changes to the UI, with the most obvious being the centered taskbar icons. Gone are live tiles in the start menu, instead replaced with almost an Office 365-style dialog, that offers access to recent apps, along with recent documents.
It shouldn’t go without saying that centering the application icons on the taskbar, definitely looks OSX-like, and Microsoft even go as far as indicating which applications are running with a line underneath the icon. It does seem strange the Windows icon, to launch the start menu, isn’t centered, and have the pinned apps on either side.
Thankfully for those who want to avoid re-training your brain, you can change a setting to return the taskbar start menu and application shortcuts to the left. It looks like there’s still some legacy UI left around, but hopefully that’s long gone by the time Windows 11 ships, which I imagine is sometime in 2022, given half 2021 is now gone and Microsoft love big, long, protracted beta test programs (looking at you Windows Insider).
There’s some fancy new animations when you launch, close or minimise and restore applications. Something new is the options you get when you click the maximise button. Instead of the app just taking over the screen, you’ll be prompted to selected from a region (snap area) in which to expand the application window to.
Currently there’s the same 4 quadrants available in Windows 10, but as someone with an ultra-wide monitor, running 3840×1080, I often manage application windows across the single display into 3 or sometimes 4x zones horizontally. Currently I use FancyZones as part of PowerToys, to carve up your monitor into zones (far more than that standard quadrants that are on offer in Win10. I really hope these make it into the Windows 11 release.
There’s also a whole new set of icons, which do look fresh, but also border on fisher price. but it’s the corner radius that is the big change here. App windows and dialog boxes now have a corner, rather than the clean and modern squared off edges we got in Windows 10 and for me personally, I think these corners, really add little to the experience.
There’s a widgets button to launch what was ‘News and Interests’ that was recently added to the taskbar (that I’m sure most people turned off). Visually there’s a new background part of a new themes engine. As you switch themes, the impact is reflected immediately, making your selections easier. As there is in Windows 10, Windows 11 offers both a light and Dark mode to the UI and my pick is definitely the dark mode, but we’ll need to use it to see how deep the theme goes and how well it works on apps like Windows Explorer.
When you unbox a new device for the first time, you’ll go through an Out-of-box experience to configure the device, connecting it to the web, setting up your user account etc. This has received a massive overhaul in WIndows 11 and is actually really slick, with plenty of feel-good animations and graphics to make the initial experience much friendlier. New during this process is the ability to setup the machine based on a backup, very similar to setting up a new mobile phone.
Brad Sams has a great walk through video of what’s changed in Windows 11, at least the pre-release build that leaked early. Hopefully Microsoft still has some surprises to show off and some big justifications as to why they’re now changing the version number, after telling us they wouldn’t. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any change to the major release cadence going forward as it seems a different team is in charge at Redmond now.
Paul Thurott has a great series of screenshots from Windows 11 on Thurott.com