Windows 11 Insider Preview hands-on: It's all about flow
We saw a couple weeks ago that pretty much fell off a truck, and while i liked what i saw about windows 11 before, i think the full version of the os that we’re looking at now, which is far more feature complete, just looks like a huge step Forward from windows 10., it may not be really evident at first, but i think once you get into it, both windows die hards and pc newcomers are going to find a lot to like here, Music. So the start of this new interface is pretty much. What we saw in the leak it’s, the new center task bar, which is filled entirely with icons, there’s also the revamp start menu, which has app shortcuts at the top some recommendations, and you can hit a button at the top right to see the full unfiltered start Menu, i think this is going to be the core workflow for a lot of people and it’s probably going to be controversial. You know this is the biggest change microsoft has made to the start menu in a long while and don’t forget that windows 10 start menu itself was a bit of a concession from the windows 8 start page, which everybody hated. Nobody liked that, so this one does away with live tiles, a feature that i don’t think many people actually use so i’m happy to see them gone i’m, happy to see microsoft, kind of streamline things a bit and uh.
You know i feel the same way as i did when we saw the build leak. I typically don’t go fishing around my start menu very much. I normally hit the windows key. Do a search and load up some apps so having just a bunch of shortcuts right at the top of the start menu, i think, is just much more functional and modern. As i started to dive deeper into this windows, 11 preview. You know it just really struck me how incomplete that early build was uh. Even the notifications tray here, which you hit by hitting that button, the lower right hand corner of the taskbar uh that is fundamentally different than the way it was in windows 10.. Now, when you hit that icon, you see your notifications at the top right and they’re very clean and neatly organized, and you see you know the calendar right below that and if you want to see those system shortcuts the things that let you turn wi fi on And off or change bluetooth settings those are now in the system menu which pops up when you hit either your wi fi or networking button, the bottom right or the volume icon or your battery if you’re, on a laptop. So those are all now just like in a nice little menu that pops right up and gives you all the settings right there. It is cleaner than windows 10, which i think is going to make a lot of people happy just because those settings used to be really confusing.
You have to click an extra button to expand them in windows 10. It was kind of sometimes hard to tell what each setting did so now. This cleaner interface, i think, is going to be good for most people. You certainly get fewer settings here in this short system menu, but you know i don’t really mind it too much now. This isn’t actually that new for windows, microsoft, has been pushing. You know an icon focused task bar since windows 7., but with windows, 7, 8 and 10. You also have the ability to enable labels, so you could see what was actually in each window before you clicked on it that’s, something i always just kind of enabled by default, because i have big monitors and especially with ultra wide screens, you have that screen real Estate, it’s really nice to just see what something is before you click it. That is just not an option at all in windows 10, and i think i can see why microsoft is definitely going for a cleaner interface here from what i can tell microsoft. Doesn’T seem that interested in bringing labels back so it’s really for people like me, we just kind of have to learn a new way to use windows, but after using that leak build for a couple weeks and now this insider preview i’m definitely fine with the new Icon centered interface it’s still easy to find things now. It is a little annoying to have to learn to reuse windows in a different way, but you know what i’ll take this, because windows 11 also handles multitasking in a much better way than any windows i’ve seen before it’s.
Really that new, quick snap feature that i really really enjoy. It appears when you hover your mouse over the maximize icon, the top right of every window, and it just basically gives you different portions of the window that you can push that’s. That app into so say. You want safari in the far left, or you want slack on the upper right of your screen, that shortcut just pushes that window there. You don’t have to drag it and wait for the auto snap feature to work. Auto snapping was nice and that’s been around for a while now, but it didn’t always work the way i wanted and certainly didn’t work if you want to like center a window completely, which is an option now in some quick snap menus, what’s, really cool in windows. 11 is that once you quick snap something to a location in window, those other blocks of your screen, they also pop up a sort of mini task manager. So you can see all the other apps you’re running. So if i put microsoft edge on the left on the right side, i can immediately choose to open another browser like chrome or open slack or spotify, or something and within five seconds i can fill my screen with all the apps. I really want to use, and i just find that really useful. Another thing is once you start snapping apps together. That creates a snap group which shows up in your taskbar now, whenever you hover your mouse over those app icons in the taskbar you’ll, see either the individual, app windows or you’ll, see the snap group and that’s useful, because if you open another app and takes up The entire screen, or something or just something you know kind of messes up your entire flow.
You can go back to that shortcut hit the snap group and those windows are right back where they were. It may not seem like much, but i think, for windows, power users. You know it’s the sort of thing that can just make this operating system work better for you and make you more productive and that really was microsoft’s big push with windows 10.. They talked a lot about flow whenever they bring up surface devices. Uh you know flow is the word that they keep saying a lot and i feel like windows. 11 is built in such a way. To just keep me productive. Keep me, you know. Looking the apps, i need to look at if i need to jump back into workspace with those apps it’s, not that tough. Another new addition to windows 11 is a slightly reworked file, explorer which honestly hasn’t changed much over the years. There’S a new menu up top, which is much simpler than windows. 10 version you’ve got a few basic icons for cutting copying and pasting files it’s cleaner than before. Certainly, it is certainly looks nicer than the ribbon, but i do think it’s a little confusing at first there’s one button for renaming files that i just didn’t know what it did until. I actually highlighted the file and i will say right now: in windows, 11 it’s still super buggy. Sometimes i reboot into windows 11 and the old file explorer appears so i’m, not sure what’s happening there.
I chalk it up to a preview bug. Another thing i think a lot of people will notice is the new settings app which is more unified than it was in windows 10.. Now it all is just cleanly on a single screen: there’s navigation on the left, there’s, all your system, you know setting options on the right you can drill down as you need to. That is actually pretty close to the way it worked in windows 10, but in windows 10, when you first hit settings you’re presented with a wall of icons, you know and things to click through it seemed less clean. It seemed a little more confusing. I think windows. 11, just refines that quite a bit and if you’re looking for a specific setting, you can also search for it in the search bar there or the search bar throughout the os too, even the one in the start menu. As for other changes in this preview, there’s a redesigned microsoft store app, which now also has navigation along the left side, rather than the top to me. That’S, just a little easier to use it’s cleaner that whole top hand, navigation that is kind of a remnant from the old metro interface in windows 8, so yeah good to be rid of that completely there’s. Also, the new reworked xbox app, which we saw before in that leaked, build. It still looks good. I think it’s an easy way to find game pass games and you know, games you’ve installed in your system and microsoft also brought back widgets into windows 11, which seemed fine.
Now i think it’s much clearer. What they’re trying to do here, widgets, is something they took away from windows since uh used to be a feature on windows 7. I believe right on the desktop so now they’re in a button that you can hit on the taskbar they pop up. In the left hand side they offer little snippets of information like what’s the weather what’s coming up in your calendar, there’s, even an entry for esports competition. So i don’t know what microsoft is going to do with this. Yet maybe that could be useful for a lot of people. I don’t really foresee myself dealing with widgets too much now to be clear. This is just the first windows insider preview for windows, 11, there’s, still a lot of features we aren’t yet seeing so that includes things like auto hdr, which uh first appeared on the xbox series, s and x uh that brings hdr uh into older games and helps, If you have an hdr monitor, it helps with lighting and just makes things look a little more dynamic that is not available to test just yet i’m, also, really looking forward to trying android apps and windows 11, but that’s not available to test either. I do think like that, has the potential to make windows 11 just a lot more useful as an os, and maybe it can open the doors to playing some nice mobile games too. Just so you don’t have to run something like blue stacks on your system.
To get other games on your windows, pc microsoft, also plans to bake in teams chat right into the windows. 11 taskbar. Eventually i can’t test that just yet, but personally, that’s, not something i’m too excited for mainly because i don’t really use microsoft teams very much. There are also some features i haven’t been able to test with this build. Microsoft is saying when you dock a windows 11 laptop to an external, monitor it more cleanly handles how windows go in and out so it’ll. Remember where you place your windows when you plug a monitor back in and if you unplug a monitor they’ll just come into your taskbar and be minimized. So no more of that really messy jumbly windows. That happens when you disconnect the secondary monitor. That sounds pretty nice and one feature of microsoft never really talked about. Much is this new dynamic, refresh rate feature which will work on high refresh rate monitors, so basically, gaming, laptop monitors or gaming screens um when you’re inking or scrolling it’ll dynamically enable the higher refresh rate, so that looks smoother and then take away that refresh rate when You’Re just reading and that’s something that’s meant to save battery life. I think that could be pretty useful because right now, when i test gaming laptops, i just typically leave the highest refresh rate on which isn’t great for battery life. I get it now, even though this is a really early preview of windows.
11. I’M. Not surprised why microsoft is rolling it out there, so everybody could take a look. It’S, pretty stable i’d be careful about installing it on your primary computer, but it is a way for microsoft to understand how windows 11 is working on hardware that’s out there right now. One thing that’s a little controversial now is that they’re requiring tpm 2.0 and secure boot for the final version of windows. 11. that’s something they didn’t require for this insider preview and i think because microsoft wants to see how the os runs on maybe slightly older hardware or less capable hardware, it’s, also unclear, which cpus are fully going to be supported with windows 11. I believe they’re saying now: if you have an amd, zen, 2 or above processor, or an intel 8th, gen or above you should be fine, but they’re going to really be looking at zen one processors from amd and intel 7gen processors to see how well windows 11 Works there so, even though we’re pretty early i’m expecting to see a lot more updates on this preview and future previews for windows 11, i think the vision for what microsoft is building here is pretty clear, they’re just trying to give us a cleaner, more polished version Of windows that can make everybody more productive, i think that’s a pretty impressive goal for microsoft, because it’s, not typically a company you’d associate with uh, you know really strong design or anything, but now i feel like we’re getting there with windows.
Just using this os feels nice and i feel like that’s a big step forward at the very least right now, i can tell that windows 11 doesn’t just feel like a minor upgrade over windows, 10.