For tech critics, criticizing a new operating system is a silly ritual.
It’s like being a professional home inspector who gives a report that goes like this: Here’s what you need to know about the house you’re about to move into. Some parts are great, but there are big problems. You’re moving in anyway, so you’ll have to learn to live with it.
That’s because the operating system is essentially where your digital life takes place. If you own a personal computer designed to run Windows, you will probably continue to use the next version of Windows for better or worse.
That’s how I felt when I tried Windows 11, Microsoft’s first major operating system update in six years. The company marketed it as a fresh start for Windows with a modern, human-centered design. (It’s not new how tech companies keep reminding us that their products are designed for users, rather than for my Labrador retriever.) The software will be a free update for Windows PCs this holiday season.
New to Windows are productivity tools, such as the ability to instantly minimize and rearrange windows, and support for Android mobile apps. However, Windows 11 is ultimately an evolution. Despite the improvements, parts of it feel uncomfortably familiar.
I tested an incomplete version of Windows 11 a week early. There are some highs, like the design that make the software behave like a mobile device, and some lows, like the concept of date widgets, which are essentially miniaturized apps that reside inside the dashboard. control on your screen.
Here is my test report summarizing the good, the bad and the bad.
Microsoft executives have called Windows 11 a new beginning for people-centric personal computing. A goofy pun to highlight the biggest design change in Windows: The iconic Start button, traditionally pressed into the bottom left corner, has moved towards the bottom center. And the Start button no longer loads the list of settings and apps; it shows a directory of your applications.
This is the same interface we use on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, displaying a tray of important apps at the bottom center of the screen. Still, it’s a welcome change. The Start button in previous versions of Windows opened up a laundry list of apps and settings that you found tedious to scroll through.
The most exciting new design change is a feature called Snap Layouts, which I love. In the upper right corner of the app, when you hover your mouse pointer over the magnifying window button, a grid opens to show different arrangements that automatically minimize or reposition the app.
So, if you want to reposition the application window so that it only takes up the left side of the screen, you click the corresponding icon to dock it in that position. That’s much faster than moving a window and dragging a corner to the appropriate size.
Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft executive, said many of the additions to Windows 11, including support for Android apps, are designed to help people use their machines. For example, when you book an Uber, you no longer have to pick up your Android phone to order a ride, you can do it directly from the Uber app on your Windows machine.
However, many new features did not keep me up.
One of them is the ability to create more space on the screen, which Microsoft calls Task Views. The idea is that you can have a desktop monitor for every aspect of your life. A desktop can be devoted to work and shows shortcuts to your email and calendar apps. Another might be for your personal life and show shortcuts to all your games.
This all sounds good, but dividing my life into separate desktop screens quickly gets annoying. Switching to a specific screen and searching for the right app to launch takes longer than using the search engine to quickly find and open an app.
Windows 11 also reintroduces widgets, a concept that Apple and Google operating systems have long used. Essentially, a widget is a lightweight application that is always open, like a weather, calendar, or ticker app, so you can instantly see what’s important. To view the widgets, you click a button that shows a drawer of them all running side-by-side.
I’ve never gotten into the habit of using widgets on any of my smartphones or computers because they feel superfluous – and the same goes for Windows 11. Widgets display a large amount of information small size, like a cropped calendar view to show your current date and next appointment. But whenever I check my calendar widget, I still want to open my full calendar app to see all my events for the month.
Microsoft plans to allow Windows 11 users with access to Amazon’s app store to download Android apps. This is not yet available for testing, but I predict it might break your workflow with widgets. Let’s say you love a great to-do-list Android app and add all your to-dos to it. If the same app isn’t available as a widget, you won’t be able to see your to-do list in the widget dashboard. Why bother with widgets?
These are still early days, as Windows 11 will officially be released during the holiday season, and a lot about the software could change. But one thing that is hard to change is that for security reasons, personal computers must have at least new Intel and AMD chips to install Windows 11.
That means millions of computers running Windows 10 on older hardware, including some that are several years old, won’t be able to run Windows 11. So at some point those users will must purchase a new computer to get stronger security benefits and new features in the operating system.
In other words, unlike previous updates that were free, Windows 11 can mean you have to pay for a van to move into a home that feels pretty familiar, with some doors. new window.