Windows is getting a glow up.
Microsoft’s latest PC operating system update, Windows 11, was officially announced on Thursday. Visual improvements, Microsoft Teams integration for people working from home, and a new Microsoft store are among the changes — though some viewers may have missed some of the announcements due to a shaky livestream of the event.
“The team obsessed over every pixel,” Microsoft (MSFT) Chief Product Officer Panos Panay said during the event. “All of these details coming together, the transitions, the user interface, how it all flows together, is meant to bring you an incredible sense of calm.”
Some of the new features revealed on Thursday were leaked earlier this month.
The following are some of the most important takeaways from the Windows 11 launch event.
One of the most significant changes in Windows 11 is the addition of a Start menu and a new Start button that are centered on the taskbar. The menu opens a window with pinned apps, recently opened documents that have been “recommended,” and a search bar. For live tiles, pour one out.
The company announced new “snap layouts,” which allow users to choose from multiple window layout templates to display two, three, or four open applications on their screen using the “maximize” button. It’s preferable to dragging multiple windows to the sides of your screen and then resizing everything manually.
“Snap Groups” will save the collection of apps and layout that person was using, allowing them to quickly return to it if they need to work on something else. If someone is using a monitor that they must unplug, the snap layout they were using before will return when they re-dock.
Another enhancement that will make switching between tasks easier is the addition of saved desktops with customized wallpapers for home, school, work, and gaming.
The system will also have “softer visuals,” such as rounded corners on apps and icons to improve the look of Windows and a return to Vista-era translucent layers for certain windows to give them a layered appearance.
Windows widgets will deliver a personalized, AI-powered feed of information to users’ screens, including weather, calendar, traffic reports, and news. It’s an improvement, but it’s not that different from Cortana and the new Interests taskbar app in Windows 10.
Microsoft Teams will be integrated directly into Windows 11 and will have its own taskbar icon.
“You can chat, call, video call, with anyone anywhere in the world” on any platform or device, including Windows, iOS, Android or others, Panay said.
“This innovation is well timed for the covid world, which has (re)established the centrality of the PC to the future of work and to digital life,” Forrester VP and principal analyst JP Gownder said.
When the keyboard is removed from a Windows device that is used as a tablet, Windows 11 will retain a similar visual appearance.
Users can still use snap to switch between multiple open apps, and if they rotate the screen, those snapped apps will stack vertically for easier viewing.
In addition, Windows 11 includes a new floating keyboard and voice typing, which can automatically punctuate and follow voice commands like “delete that word.”