We were able to install a preview of Windows 11 and take a tour of all the new features. Start menu, animations, changes, here is everything you need to discover on Windows 11.
The news quickly spread around the web. On the evening of June 15, a week before Microsoft’s presentation, a preview of Windows 11 was leaked. We were able to get it and install it on a PC to go around the news before the hour. Please note, we do not recommend searching for and installing this version. On the one hand for obvious security reasons, since it does not come from Microsoft directly, but also, because it is a real beta version with its share of bugs.
Windows 11? When does it come out? Will this beta be available?
Before taking a tour of the new features, let’s recall the context of this article. This June 24, 2021, Microsoft will present the next version of Windows known by the code name Sun Valley. Its trade name will be Windows 11 and should mark the start of a new era for Windows.
The version installed by us is build 21996.1. This is one of the last previews planned before the RTM. In other words, the system is already approaching its final version with this version, even if some novelties external to the system itself – we are thinking of the new Microsoft Store in particular – are absent. As expected, a lot of the new stuff we’re going to see actually comes from Windows 10X.
The first configuration
The first time a machine is powered on Windows 11, users will also discover a new version of the configuration steps. Gone are the dark blue of Windows 10 and welcome to a much lighter theme and much more colorful icons to accompany it all.
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We made a video capture of a virtual machine under Windows 11 to discover this experience. The video lacks fluidity, but the problem comes from our virtual machine which does not support 3D graphics acceleration.
In our experience, the steps have not really changed between Windows 10 and Windows 11: you configure your account and the different GDPR options. It is above all an aesthetic overhaul.
The new Start menu: in the center and without tiles
The first novelty that is obvious is the new Windows 11 Start menu. By default, it is found in the center of the screen and it shifts little by little to the left depending on the open applications.
This menu completely changes layout if we compare it with that of Windows 10. No more dynamic tiles that disappear permanently. There is an area with applications or folders pinned in the form of simple shortcuts, and a “recommendations” area which mainly includes the latest applications installed and recently opened files.
If you are not a fan of the location of the Start menu in the center, and we understand you, don’t panic! A simple parameter allows you to move it to a corner of the screen, where it is much more ergonomic to reach it (hello Fitts’ law in software design).
We will also notice the separation of the Start menu with the rest of the taskbar and the rounded corners which will now be the standard on this Windows 11.
A successful dark theme
The choice between light theme and dark theme is still there. It goes perfectly here with some of the new Windows 11 wallpapers.
Widget menus and notifications
At the start of 2021, Windows 10 received an update with the addition of a widget in the taskbar to provide a summary of the news (with Microsoft News) and the weather.
This was actually just a starting point for Microsoft. We now have a real menu dedicated to widgets like MacOS 11 or to a lesser extent Android. For the moment, this widget menu remains dedicated to news and weather with some customization options (on news sources for example). Apps don’t seem to be able to add their own widgets to it yet.
The notifications menu is still there, at the bottom right. The operation is exactly the same as on Windows 10, but the interface has been revised to stick to the rounded codes of Windows 11.
Search and preinstalled apps
Gone are the days of Cortana’s legacy search bar in the taskbar. There is now only a simple search icon, which can also be triggered by typing a search after pressing the Windows key.
The menu hasn’t changed in terms of functionality, but the aesthetic overhaul does a lot of good. No more different shades of gray in the background, we now have a unified menu with a translucent effect to reveal the background colors.
Microsoft’s default apps like the Xbox app also get a little preview on first launch. This panel is displayed while the Microsoft Store verifies that the preinstalled application is the latest one. This makes it possible to present what the application is for and to put a layer on the associated firm services.
New Windows logo
This novelty is in the order of detail, but it illustrates Microsoft’s desire to turn a page. Windows 11 will benefit from a new logo. As we mentioned in one of our articles, this logo is similar to that of Microsoft and uses the blue of the Windows Event invitation.
Novelties difficult to show
There are new things that are unfortunately quite difficult to show in a written article: the general experience of the system. On a slightly aging laptop PC, this beta version already runs very well with extreme fluidity. I don’t think Windows 11 offers better performance than Windows 10 on an equal machine, but Microsoft has revised all the animations to give that impression of fluidity and modernity. Some will find that we are in the “subterfuge”, in my opinion we are more in a system with better finishes and who think about the user experience more seriously.
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In the same vein, Microsoft has redesigned the system sounds which are now smoother and more pleasant than those of Windows 10. Even the start screen benefits from a little noise that disappeared with Windows 10.
It’s still Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista and XP
Unfortunately, on this beta version, scratching the surface we still find old versions of Windows. If we have no doubt that the final version should permanently remove what remains of Windows 10 or 8, we have more doubts about old systems.
We think of the task manager, the planner or the old control panel which are still there.
Among these historic Windows applications, some such as the control panel have at least the right to new icons. It’s already good.
Missing from this beta
While this beta is approaching final, it does not contain an updated Windows Feature Experience Pack. In addition, Microsoft is preparing important updates for certain applications between now and the release of Windows 11. In other words, there is still something new to discover.
We are thinking in particular of the Microsoft Store, which is expected to be completely overhauled for the summer which should help correct the serious problems of the current Windows store. Remember that in six years, this store has become crucial for the functioning of Windows, since most Microsoft applications use it for updates, but it is still riddled with technical problems to this day. Xbox Game Pass PC gamers know all about this. The redesign should correct these problems.
What’s left to discover at the Windows Event?
The leak of this preview will inevitably have an impact on the event of the Windows Event. Many of the novelties presented here should have been unveiled for the first time on June 24, 2021. However, there are still many elements to discover and the conference will be very interesting.
First, it will be an opportunity for Microsoft to present its vision of Windows 11 and to explain the name change. Above all, we can expect strategic announcements to accompany this change of era: will Windows 11 be free? How does Microsoft want to promote the new Microsoft Store to developers? Panos Panay teams will have to answer these questions.