Microsoft Showed New Windows 11 UI With Floating Taskbar at Ignite

Posted on October 14, 2022 by Laurent Giret in Windows, Windows 11 with 38 Comments

During its Ignite keynote earlier this week, Microsoft briefly showed an image of a new Windows 11 UI with a floating taskbar. The image was shown during a segment about Microsoft’s new Surface Studio 2+, and it caught the eye of some Windows enthusiasts.

At first sight, this new Windows UI doesn’t look much different from the current design of Windows 11. The Start menu and app shortcuts on the taskbar are still centered, though the taskbar is now floating above the bottom of the screen. It also has slightly rounded corners.

If you take a closer look at the image above, you can see that the Widgets menu is gone from the taskbar and there’s a new weather icon at the top left corner of the screen. The system tray area that usually resides on the right corner of the taskbar has also been moved to the top right corner of the screen, a change that’s a bit reminiscent of macOS.

Another interesting change in this image is that the Windows Search icon in the taskbar has been replaced by a floating search box in the top middle of the screen. All in all, these design changes are actually quite significant, but why did Microsoft briefly show this image during its keynote?

In recent years, Microsoft did occasionally show mockups of new design ideas for Windows at Build or other conferences. During the Project Neon/Fluent Design era of Windows 10, you may remember seeing various new app designs that never shipped during Microsoft’s Build keynotes.

According to Windows Central’s Zac Bowden, the Windows 11 UI we’re seeing in this image could be a genuine representation of where Windows design is headed. “Microsoft is still in the prototyping stages for Next Valley, but my sources tell me that the UI briefly shown off at Ignite yesterday is representative of the design goals that Microsoft is hoping to achieve with the next version of Windows,” Bowden wrote.

According to Bowden, Microsoft has been testing different versions of this new Windows UI, with a focus on scalability and convenience for all types of inputs. “I’m told this proposed design prototype aims to achieve an interface that is better optimized for touch without diminishing the experience for mouse and keyboard users. It’s something that Microsoft wants to be able to scale across desktop, laptop, and tablet form factors, including those with foldable displays,” Bowden reported.

Last year, Windows 11 introduced a lot of design changes that probably didn’t resonate with all users. The taskbar is certainly less customizable than before, though Microsoft has been doing work to bring back features that mysteriously disappeared, such as the ability to access Task Manager by right-clicking the taskbar.

As we’ve seen with Windows 8 a decade ago, most Windows users dislike major UI changes, especially when Microsoft mess with core features like the Start Menu. Compared to Windows 10, Windows 11 wasn’t as big of a change, though the OS is still a work in progress.

We’ll likely see Microsoft test new UI changes with Windows Insiders in the near future, though it could be years before the new Windows design we saw at Ignite sees the light of day. Don’t forget that we had to wait many, many years to see File Explorer tabs arrive in Windows.

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