Drastic redesigns of Windows have proven disastrous for Microsoft in the past, with Windows 8 the worst case in point. But after testing Windows 11 for myself, I’ve found that, though the interface looks quite different, it doesn’t take long to figure out how things work. At its introduction event, Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay expressed a desire not to alienate longtime Windows aficionados, and that’s a good thing (though almost impossible given the way a lot of people react to change). There’s plenty of innovation in Windows 11 despite this goal to make it feel familiar.
The new operating system starts rolling out as an upgrade to PCs on October 4 at 1 p.m. PT, but you should first determine whether your PC can run Windows 11. The rollout will last into mid-2022, according to Microsoft, as the myriad PC hardware and software configurations are validated for compatibility. Microsoft is also launching a slate of new Surface devices that leverage a lot of the new options in the software. Keep an eye on PCMag’s Windows 11 page for all the relevant tips and news. Now let’s get started with our look at the biggest new changes and features.
The Taskbar icons are now indeed centered and smaller like in Chrome OS, but the Start button is still to the left of the other app icons. Windows get tightly rounded corners, similar to macOS. I’m still not a fan of the always-narrow Taskbar buttons, because having wide ones for running apps makes it instantly clear which icons are simply pinned and which are currently running. The centered look may win me over, however, since they don’t require you to move the mouse cursor across a full screen to launch an app.