What you can already see from the next Windows 11

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Windows 11, which Microsoft released in October 2021, may look very chic in the eyes of many users, but it hasn’t been functionally convincing everywhere – in particular, the taskbar and Start menu leave a lot to be desired in terms of customizability. The next major release in the fall of 2022 is still a long way off, but what Microsoft posted on the Dev Channel of the Windows Insider beta testing program with build number 22563 is a pretty good indication of what Microsoft is working on – no tangible improvements to the taskbar yet, but there are many other optimizations.

Microsoft blog posts about the new test builds are filled with tiny details, such as animations that look smoother when placing windows in sections of the screen (anchor layouts), that the Run dialog (Windows+R) now has a Windows 11-style title bar or this window switching with Alt+Tab now marks the selected window with an accent color border. Therefore, we have collected here changes that exceed the limit of perception. They may look tiny, but they are practical in everyday life: for example, if you mark a file in Explorer, Ctrl+Shift+C gets the full path to the clipboard. This is clearly not about those minimal changes that Windows 11 received in mid-February with an optional cumulative update.

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First of all, Microsoft is trying to gradually fine-tune the look and feel of the Windows 11 interface. A few examples: The volume overlay that previously appeared in the upper left corner of the image when pressing the volume keys is now Windows 11 style and is located at the bottom center above the taskbar. The context menu of the shopping cart follows the new explorer design. Task Manager has received a Windows 11 design that doesn’t change anything in terms of its feature set, which hasn’t changed much since Windows 8. File Explorer can now show the cloud storage level in the OneDrive folder. And: The button in the properties of the disk, which used to open disk cleanup, now leads to the “System / Memory” settings, from where you can also delete temporary files. But the classic disk cleanup remained in the system; you open it with windows key, cleanmgr, type.

The Start menu can do a bit more than before: the ratio of the top (pinned apps) to the bottom (recommended) area can be changed in three steps, but the height and width of the Start menu still can’t. Pinned icons can be grouped into folders, but folders can’t be named yet – but Microsoft wants to change that. In addition, the Start menu responds to swipe gestures to show and hide, as well as show all apps. From a taskbar perspective, there’s not much going on: you can specify whether application icons on the taskbar are allowed to flash when they need attention, and whether hovering over the search icon should show a few recent search terms.

With the next release of Windows 11, Microsoft is adapting the 3D display to a new design.

With the next release of Windows 11, Microsoft is adapting the 3D display to a new design.

Anchor layouts, used to position windows in predefined parts of the screen, could previously only be displayed when hovering over the maximize button. This is not practical on touch, so anchor layout selection now also appears when you grab a window by its title bar and move it to the top of the screen.

Anyone who would like to have a spotlight feature that provides the lock screen with new background images every day, for the desktop, can hope: you can now select “Windows Spotlight” as your background image in the settings, which gives you five photos to change every day. The switching frequency is not yet adjustable. The current image can at least be modified and evaluated using a movable desktop icon that is automatically displayed when the spotlight is active.

With minor tweaks, Microsoft is also aiming for a smooth experience. Notification Assistance, which can turn off notifications while playing, working, and more, is now simply called Do Not Disturb. Its options no longer have a separate menu item in Settings under System, but can be found under Notifications. The “Focus” feature now has its own section in the settings. Focus sessions are designed to make focused work easier by holding notifications from the user for an adjustable period of time and optionally providing suitable background music from Spotify. Until now, focus sessions could only be launched through the watch app; now it also works through quick access in the calendar that appears after clicking on the clock on the taskbar. There’s also a quick-acting Do Not Disturb switch in the slightly redesigned notification area.

Microsoft is adding a new “voice access” to speech recognition for text entry and device control. It also works locally and without a cloud connection, but so far only understands English – as well as the new “live subtitles” that in the future will recognize what was said in the audio output and record it in a line of text at the top of the page. screen.

The Windows Sandbox mini-virtualization tool should no longer show two entries in the taskbar (one of which was just a messed up boot logo anyway). If a sandbox window is in the foreground, it now catches all hotkeys like a Hyper-V window, and path information in configuration files (.wsb extension) can now also use environment variables. It should also be possible to restart the virtual environment from the sandbox, as real PCs do: the environment does not lose changes already made.

Anchor groups that place windows in predefined layouts will also be enabled in the future if you drag the window with its title bar up.,

Anchor groups that place windows in predefined layouts will also be enabled in the future if you drag a window with its title bar up.

Last but not least, Microsoft has promised a nasty change that will also affect business users: in the future, Windows 11 Pro must expect a Microsoft account when initially set up as a single-user computer, similar to what is already common in Home. Version. In the current Insider Build 22563 at the time of going to press, we have not been able to figure this out yet – it remains to be seen if it will still be possible to force a local account with a simple manipulation (just enter “Microsoft” as an email address and something as a password).

With the move from Windows 10 to 11, Microsoft has kept the classic Control Panel the way it was. Now there is a small change: the Programs and Features page for uninstalling software and updates is now deprecated, all this is only possible in the settings under Applications / Installed applications or in the Windows update history. The Devices and Printers Control Panel page is similar. It leads to the “Bluetooth and Devices” settings section. Also, there is no longer a toggle for being able to sync activity history with other devices using a Microsoft account. Microsoft has already announced the deprecation of this feature.

In the next Windows 11, the Start menu should be more flexible and features for focused work should be more accessible.

In the next Windows 11, the Start menu should be more flexible and features for focused work should be more accessible.

The rest of the settings changes are pretty minor: the toggle for clipboard sync via Microsoft account will now be located in the clipboard settings, Other Users and Family Options now have separate pages, and options for the On-Screen Keyboard such as key sounds, capital letters at the beginning of sentences, etc., is now in the Time and Language/Input section. The developer options under Privacy have been visually redesigned.

Most of the changes made so far for the next release of Windows 11 are not bad, if not spectacular – the system is just getting rid of a few old parts. However, I would like Microsoft to respond to the sharp criticism of the taskbar. The idea of ​​forcing Pro users to have a Microsoft account in the future seems pointless to us – if this change makes it into production, Microsoft will likely alienate other users who don’t need it.


c’t 7/2022


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