This is the same interface we use on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, which display a tray of important applications at the bottom center of the screen. Still, it’s a welcome change. The Start button in earlier versions of Windows opened a long list of applications and settings that were tedious to navigate through.
The coolest new layout change is a feature called Snap Layouts, which I loved. In the upper right corner of an application, when you hover your mouse cursor over the maximize window button, a grid opens to display different arrangements that automatically shrink or reposition the application. So if you want to reposition an application window so that it occupies only the left side of the screen, click on the corresponding icon to place it in that position. That’s much faster than moving a window and dragging a corner to the proper size.
Many additions to Windows 11, including support for Android apps, were designed to keep people in the flow of their machines, said Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft executive. When you order an Uber, for example, you no longer have to pick up an Android phone to call the car and you can do it directly from the Uber app on the Windows machine.
However, many of the new features did not keep me in the flow.
One of them is the ability to create multiple desktop spaces, which Microsoft calls Task Views. The idea is that you can have a desktop screen for every aspect of your life. A desktop could be dedicated to work and show shortcuts to your email and calendar applications. Another could be dedicated to your personal life and show shortcuts to all your games.
This all sounds good, but dividing my life into separate desktop screens quickly became annoying. Switching to a specific screen and searching for the correct application to launch took much longer than using the search tool to quickly find and open an application.
Windows 11 also reintroduces the widget, a concept that Apple and Google operating systems have long used. Widgets are basically a lightweight app that always stays open, like a weather app, calendar, or stock indicator, so you can instantly see important information. To see the widgets, click a button that shows a drawer of all of them running side by side.
I never got into the habit of using widgets on any of my smartphones or computers because they feel superfluous, and it was the same with Windows 11. Widgets show a small amount of information, like a truncated view of your calendar to show the current date and your next appointment. But every time I checked my calendar widget, I ended up wanting to open my full calendar app anyway to see all my events for the month.
The ugly one
These are still the early days, as Windows 11 will officially launch around the holiday season and much of the software is subject to change. But one problem that is unlikely to change is that, for security reasons, personal computers must, at the very least, include fairly recent chips from Intel and AMD to install Windows 11.
That means that millions of computers running Windows 10 on older hardware, including some that are a few years old, will not be able to run Windows 11. So, at some point, those users will have to buy new computers for greater security benefits and new functions in the operating system.
In other words, unlike previous updates that have been free, Windows 11 may mean you have to pay for a truck to move into a familiar home with a new window design.