Microsoft unveiled Windows 11, the next major version of its long-running desktop operating system, today. The new version includes several enhancements, including a redesigned user interface, updated window management features, and even Android app support.
The redesigned taskbar and Start menu are the first things you’ll notice right away. All previous Windows versions had a left-aligned taskbar icon placement, but Windows 11 has a centered taskbar icon placement, similar to macOS. The miscellaneous items, such as clocks and icons, are still on the right, leaving the left side feeling completely empty.
The new Start menu, which drops right in the middle with a completely redesigned UI, is front and center of this design. The search bar is at the top of the new menu, followed by pinned apps and a long list of suggested items. From here, you can still change your user profile and turn off your computer.
The rest of the user interface has also been repainted. The windows now have rounded corners that are much more prominent than in previous versions of Windows, especially when compared to the sharp edges of Windows 10. With multiple applications sporting a soft frosted glass look, the UI has become even more transparent, almost evoking memories of Windows Vista. Themes have been revamped, and they can now have a greater impact on the UI’s appearance.
Snap Layouts, Snap Groups, and Desktop are new features in Windows 11 that make it simple to quickly arrange multiple windows around your desktop. It will also remember this layout so that it can be transferred from one monitor to the next.
Moving on from the user interface, Microsoft is also using this opportunity to integrate its own Microsoft Teams app into the operating system. Teams is a messaging/video call app built into the taskbar that you can use to call or text your friends, family, or coworkers.
Widgets are also coming to Windows 11. These widgets have their own screen, which can be dragged in from the left edge of the screen at any time. Widgets will provide quick glanceable information from all of your apps that support this feature, as seen on other platforms.
Microsoft has also improved touchscreen device support. When the OS detects that you have switched to tablet mode, such as on computers with detachable touchscreen displays, it will change the layout. A new one-handed keyboard has also improved voice and text typing. Select pen models will provide haptic feedback to those who use a stylus.
For gamers, Microsoft is bringing the Auto HDR feature from its Xbox Series consoles over, allowing HDR output even from games that don’t support it. DirectStorage, which takes advantage of modern NVMe SSD storage and significantly speeds up game load times, was originally designed for Xbox consoles and is now available on PC. Game Pass, a video game subscription service, will be integrated into the OS via the new Xbox app.
Microsoft’s Store app for Windows 11 has also been updated. The main new feature here is the support for Android apps. While it has a brand new UI that is designed to load and work faster, the main new feature here is the support for Android apps. Existing Android apps will be available through the Microsoft Store and will run on Windows 11 without any modifications thanks to a partnership with Amazon and Intel.
Overall, Windows 11 appears to be a significant update to the Windows operating system. Unfortunately, Microsoft did not provide an exact release date, only stating that it will begin this holiday season and last until 2022. Anyone who is currently using Windows 10 will be able to upgrade for free.