Almost 25 years ago, I created the SuperSite for Windows so we could discuss “the future of Windows … today.” Here we go again.
Thanks to a leak of Windows 11 build 21996.1, we now have our first peek at the surprise Microsoft was hoping to unveil next week. And it’s pretty much exactly what I expected: A new version of Windows 10 with a slightly revised user interface that features rounded window corners and the new icons we’re familiar with from the Windows Insider Program.
I’ll be installing this build on other PCs in a variety of scenarios, but for the first install I decided to upgrade my daily-use desktop PC of the moment, an HP Z2 SFF G8 Workstation I’m currently evaluating.
The upgrade experience, as you might expect, closing mimics that of Windows 10, and I’ll be surprised if I see any major changes when I do a clean install later today. The only real difference is some animations during the end of the Out Of Box Experience (OOBE), when it displays messages like “Hi” and “This will only take a few minutes” before taking you to the desktop.
As for the desktop, nothing really new here other than the no longer angled Recycle Bin icon.
The Start menu will be familiar to anyone who was paying attention to Windows 10X, and as I had conjectured before, it looks fresh and new in “Big” Windows too.
Note that live tiles are gone, which is perhaps overdue. And that when you select the “All apps” link, you get something very similar to the All apps view in the Windows 10 Start menu.
As noted, window corners are rounded. This effect is mostly OK, but it will take some getting used to.
Some windows look better than others. File Explorer is … a bit busy.
On the taskbar, you’ll see some new icons, including Search, which is at least familiar, and Widgets (!), which, when selected, displays a new version of the news and interests feed, it looks like.
Settings is unchanged in this build, but my understanding is that it will be dramatically updated at some point.
All the tray area pop-ups are likewise identical to Windows 10, but the Action Center, of course, has rounded rectangles everywhere.
Time for some more spelunking. More soon.