Take Microsoft’s Windows 11 for a test drive


For technical critics, criticizing a new operating system is a bit of an absurd ritual.

It’s like being a professional home inspector delivering a report that always looks 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 major issues. You’re moving in anyway, so you’re going to have to learn to live with it.

This is because operating systems are essentially where your digital life takes place. If you have a personal computer designed to run Windows, you will likely continue to use the next version of Windows, whether good or bad.

This is how I felt trying 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, people-centric design. (It’s nothing new that tech companies constantly remind us that their products were designed for people, as opposed to my Labrador retriever.) The software will be a free update for many Windows personal computers this holiday season. .

What’s new in Windows are productivity tools, like the ability to instantly minimize and rearrange windows, and support for Android mobile apps. Yet Windows 11 is ultimately an evolution. While there are improvements, some parts are frustrating and familiar.

I tested an unfinished first version of Windows 11 for a week. There are highs, like a design that makes software behave the same as mobile devices, and lows, like the outdated concept of widgets, which are essentially miniature apps that live in a dashboard on the web. your screen.

Here is my inspection report summarizing the good, the meh and the ugly.

Microsoft executives have called Windows 11 the new start for people-centric personal computing. The cheesy pun was intended to highlight the biggest design change in Windows: the iconic Start button, which has traditionally been pressed in the lower left corner, has moved down to the center. And the Start button no longer loads a list of settings and apps; it displays a folder of your applications.

This is the same interface we use on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, which features a tray of important apps at the bottom center of the screen. It’s still a welcome change. The Start button in previous versions of Windows opened up a whole list of apps and settings that were tedious to scroll through.

The most interesting new design change is a feature called Snap Layouts, which I loved. In the upper right corner of an app, when you hover your mouse cursor over the Maximize Window button, a grid opens to display different layouts that automatically minimize or reposition the app.

So if you want to reposition an app window so that it only occupies the left side of the screen, you click on the corresponding icon to align it in that position. It’s much faster than moving a window and dragging a corner to the right size.

Many additions to Windows 11, including support for Android apps, were designed to keep people up to date with their machines, said Yusuf Mehdi, an executive at Microsoft. When ordering an Uber, for example, you no longer need to pick up an Android phone to call the car and can do so directly from the Uber app on the Windows machine.

Still, many of the new features didn’t keep me posted.

One of them is the ability to create multiple office spaces, which Microsoft calls task views. The idea is that you can have a desktop screen for every aspect of your life. A desktop can be dedicated to work and show shortcuts to your email and calendar apps. Another could be devoted to your personal life and show shortcuts to all your games.

It all sounds good, but dividing my life into separate desktop screens quickly turned boring. Switching to a specific screen and searching for the right app to launch took a lot longer than using the search tool to quickly find and open an app.

Windows 11 also reintroduces the widget, a concept that the Apple and Google operating systems have long used. Widgets are basically a lightweight app that always stays open, like a weather app, calendar, or ticker, so you can instantly check out important information. To display the widgets, you click a button that displays a drawer of all working side by side.

I’ve never gotten into the habit of using widgets on any of my smartphones or computers because they seem superfluous to me – and it was the same with Windows 11. Widgets display a small amount of information, as a cropped view of your calendar to show today’s 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 of my events for the month.

Microsoft plans to allow Windows 11 users to access Amazon’s app store to download Android apps. It wasn’t available for testing yet, but I’m predicting it might interrupt your feed with widgets. Let’s say you like a great Android to-do list app and add all your to-do items to it. If the same app isn’t also available as a widget, you won’t be able to view your to-do list in the widget dashboard. Why bother with widgets?

This is still just the start, as Windows 11 is officially due out during the holiday season and a lot about the software is subject to change. But one issue that’s unlikely to change is that for security reasons personal computers must, at a minimum, include fairly recent chips from Intel and AMD to install Windows 11.

This 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 to benefit from the benefits. better security benefits and new operating system features.

In other words, unlike previous updates that were free, Windows 11 may mean you’ll have to pay for a truck to move into a house that looks quite familiar to you, with new window dressing.

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