As a preamble, remember that to install Windows 11, it is necessary to use a computer that meets the hardware conditions requested by Microsoft. To find out if your machine is compatible, Microsoft offers the PC Health Check tool, which is quite easy to learn.
Tutorial – Check the compatibility of your PC for the switch to Windows 11 Tutorial – How to update Windows 10 to Windows 11?
A new simplified interface
Microsoft had promised a total overhaul of the user interface and, indeed, many aesthetic elements have been revised for the pleasure of the eyes, but also the ears since all the sounds of the OS (start-up, warnings, notifications …) have been replaced by different and softer tones.
To begin with, when you open Windows, you see that the taskbar is now centered. It is however possible to set it to the left in the settings if you are nostalgic for Windows 10. We have also activated the new dark theme to show that it is perfectly integrated into all applications.
The Start menu has changed a lot and no longer displays a multitude of tabs, but only two categories of applications: pinned ones and Windows recommendations (those used recently, for example). Of course, it is possible to customize this menu by adding, removing or moving applications.
The watchword is simplification and this is felt in the File Explorer in particular. Exit complex menus and submenus, there are only a few icons left in the banner linked to basic functions such as copy, paste, rename, etc.
Right-clicking is no exception to the rule and options installed by third-party software are no longer directly displayed. They are now accessible by clicking on Show more options.
You will no doubt have noticed that the windows are now all rounded. Active applications are also indicated in the taskbar by a small gray dot located under their icon. This becomes a mini progress bar when the application in question performs certain tasks such as transferring files or downloading.
Finally, some built-in apps like Calculator, Calendar and Mail have also undergone a facelift to match the rest of the OS.
Better multitasking management
To improve multitasking, Microsoft has implemented Snap Layouts, or anchors in the language of Molière. These are preconfigured window layouts that allow you to neatly place your windows and applications on the desktop so that they are all visible.
To access this function, hover over the Maximize button in a window to take advantage of the different possible layouts. Their number varies depending on the definition of the screen. Once the layout is selected, the tool guides the user to place the windows one by one. You can also invoke this function with the Windows-Z keyboard shortcut.
Another novelty is “docking”. This very practical option allows Windows 11 to manage the connection and disconnection of a second screen while preserving the layout of the windows from one configuration to another. So if you’ve placed four apps in each corner of your second display’s desktop and unplugged it, windows will automatically minimize to the taskbar and return to their original place when you connect the monitor again. You can also define if the applications are reduced or migrated on the main screen.
A Desktop button appears in the taskbar between those of search and widgets. It allows you to create and access Virtual Offices more easily. It is now also possible to apply a theme for each of them in order to better identify them.
O joy, widgets are back! Please note, these are not Windows Vista floating widgets. In Windows 11, they are confined to the left of the screen within a banner. You can call them up by clicking on the dedicated button in the taskbar or by using the Windows-W keyboard shortcut.
At the moment, the list of widgets is relatively limited with a calendar, a todo list, advice, traffic, weather or sports scores. Thus, all these widgets appear on the upper part of the window, while below a customizable news feed runs almost endlessly. At the moment, it is not possible to customize widgets, add or remove them. It’s a bit strange and should change soon, hopefully.
Also hopefully the developers will come up with more interesting widgets, because currently this window doesn’t differ much from an information portal like Bing’s.
More intuitive settings
Microsoft has finally reworked its settings panel. The previous menu introduced with Windows 8 did indeed have a taste of unfinished business and existed in the shadow of the older generation control panel.
This redesign makes it easier to find the parameter you want to change and, above all, the user no longer gets lost in the different menus. The route taken is displayed at the top, the settings categories on the left and the home page offers a summary of the PC with the most common settings.
New tools are welcome, like a new battery manager for laptops. It gives relevant information to improve autonomy and detailed to know which applications consume the most energy. An energy saving mode is introduced and is activated at 20% (default) of battery capacity.
Quick settings are also entering the taskbar. A click on the wifi, sound or battery icon pulls down the menu. Microsoft is also largely inspired here by what is done in the competition. It is thus possible to adjust the volume and the brightness. Now, up to 12 buttons can also switch features like wifi, bluetooth – finally! -, airplane mode, etc. The Windows-A keyboard shortcut is used to display these quick settings: those who used it to bring up notifications will now have to crack a Windows-N.
Improvements welcome in typing
In Windows 11, new three and four finger gestures are emerging. By sliding three fingers on the touchpad from top to bottom, all windows are reduced / enlarged. A three-finger swipe left or right allows you to switch from one application to another.
With four fingers, it is in the virtual offices that we will be able to navigate. A down gesture also minimizes windows, while a four finger up gesture displays the task view (Windows-Tab), a horizontal gesture for navigating between Virtual Desktops.
Voice input has also been improved; the easiest way to activate it is to use the Windows-H keyboard shortcut. Once on the way, you will have to enter this shortcut each time you want to use it. In the settings, it is possible to activate it permanently and to add the consideration of punctuation.
For use in tablet mode, virtual keyboards are also revised with new themes and more customization at the display level to avoid hiding interesting content.
Still concerning the input, we note the creation of a new Windows-Space shortcut which offers to switch from one language to another. So, if you are multilingual, you can surf from one jargon to another very quickly.
The Clipboard has some new features and can still be opened with the Windows-V keyboard shortcut. New tabs are appearing with emojis, gifs, kaomojis (¯_ (ツ) / ¯) and special symbols, including accentuated capitals.
Microsoft Store redesigned
The Microsoft Store sees its interface completely revisited with a banner on the left displaying the categories. Everything becomes more attractive and abandons the display in tiles.
You will now be able to find Win32 applications, these famous executable files (.exe) that you download from the publishers’ site. Today, they can be downloaded directly from the Store and it is therefore no longer necessary to go in search of the publisher’s site to find a trustworthy executable – Obs Studio and Zoom have thus made their appearance, by example. These programs are installed in the Program Files folder instead of the protected folder dedicated to Microsoft Store applications.
Xbox Game Pass, Chat, but no Android apps at the moment
Microsoft now natively integrates the Xbox application and Game Pass in the taskbar, as well as the Chat application (or Conversation in French). This goes through Teams, which was largely democratized during the coronavirus pandemic and excludes Skype, which is no longer preinstalled with Windows.
Finally, Android apps had to be able to be installed directly on Windows, a flagship measure announced by Microsoft in June 2021, but the implementation of this feature has been postponed to 2022 for the moment.