Windows 11: Real-World Use

Posted on June 18, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 61 Comments

The Windows 11 leak this past week was good timing for me, as I was able to take it with me on my trip to Mexico City and see what it’s like in the real world.

And I’m happy to report that it’s mostly good news. I’ve only encountered two big bugs that I will chalk up to this being pre-release—and unauthorized—software.

So let’s start there.

The first issue concerns drag and drop. One of my common workflows is to save one or more images to my desktop and then drag them into Affinity Photo so that I can crop and otherwise edit them and then save them in JPEG format so that they can be used on the website. I normally do this by selecting the image(s) on the desktop and dragging them to the Affinity Photo icon that’s pinned to my taskbar; if the application is running, it will come to the forefront so that I can drop the file(s) into the application and edit them.

In Windows 11, this doesn’t work. When I drag the image files to the Affinity Photo taskbar icon, nothing happens. It’s like the application isn’t even running. To be clear, this isn’t an Affinity Photo issue, it happens anytime you try to drag files to a pinned taskbar app.

Fortunately, there’s a workaround. In Windows 11, I can select the image file(s) I want to use in Affinity Photo and begin the drag process with the mouse/touchpad. But then I have to use Alt + Tab to bring Affinity Photo to the forefront. When I do so, I can drop them into the app normally and everything works as before. (If the application is visible onscreen already, this isn’t necessary, as I can just drag directly into the app.)

The second issue is Microsoft Paint. This didn’t occur on my desktop PC, but on the HP Spectre x360 I’m using during my trip, Paint stopped working. There are three problems. First, I usually pin Paint to the taskbar, but it keeps disappearing no matter how many times I re-pin it. Second, there’s no Open option when you right-click an image file; in Windows 10, this would open the image file in Paint. And third, and most problematic, Paint won’t even run anymore, though it did when I first installed Windows 11. It’s in the Start menu, and it’s being updated by the Store. But it will not run.

To workaround my Paint issues, I’ve been using Paint 3D. This lets me paste Print Screen-based screen captures into a new document, crop them, and save them as JPEGs. And while it’s not my favorite app, it does work. I suppose I could install Paint.NET or some other app instead.

Beyond that, Windows 11 is working exactly like Windows 10 does. I very much prefer its centered taskbar icons. But I can see the case for moving at least the Start button to the far left, and I’d like to see some tray area consolidation because all those icons and UI elements take up a lot of space and ruin the centered look of the taskbar.

The rounded corners on windows and some UI elements are kind of hit or miss. I think they look weird, frankly, at least on windows, and the rounded corners seem curiously low-res and pixelated for some reason. It’s not a deal-breaker.

As I noted earlier, there are many little Windows 10 UIs that are missing in Windows 11 (at least for now), and the more I use Windows 11, the more I miss them. One obvious example: I guess I right-clicked the taskbar to run Task Manager more than I realized, since I keep doing that, and the option is gone. (So is virtually every other option that used to be there.) So I have to run it from Start.

Speaking of Start, the simplified new Start menu would probably be problematic for me if I actually used it a lot. I didn’t try to configure Start on my desktop PC, but I’ve been playing around with it on this laptop, and it’s not very refined. It has space for 18 pinned apps, and there are more than 18 pinned by default, so you can swipe over to access the overflow. I started removing the pins I will never use, and now I only have 11 pins, and rather than reflowing and maybe giving more room to the Recommend section—which should be called Recents and only feature recent documents—it just leaves the space empty. That’s dumb.

Hey, it’s early, I know. And it’s highly likely that we’ll learn about more features next week and that further refinements and fixes are on the way. It’s all good. But that’s what I’ve noticed so far.

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Comments (61)

61 responses to “Windows 11: Real-World Use”

  1. micherz

    Is there any particular reason you don't use CTRL-SHIFT-ESC to launch Task Manager? It's a very handy shortcut.

  2. juliusky

    if you want to change the size of the taskbar, you need to modify the “TaskbarSi” value by following these steps:

    • Open the Registry Editor and navigate to the following path:
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\ Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced\
    • Create a new DWORD entry called “TaskbarSi”.

    Change the DWORD value to modify the size of the taskbar:

    • 0 = Small
    • 1 = Medium
    • 2 = Large

    Close the Registry Editor and restart Windows Explorer to see the changes

  3. codymesh

    instead of taking a screenshot and then cropping it, why not just take the cropped screenshot directly with win+shift+s? snip & sketch also lets you crop images - any image.

  4. CRoebuck

    Looks like 10X Start Experience and Taskbar bolted on to Win 10. It looks strangely at odds with the tray area for sure. Who knows, maybe this is a complete red herring and Windows 11 is so much more than what we see here..........maybe........

  5. harmjr

    Please fire who ever made this new start menu and bring over the Microsoft Launcher team to design it.

    Really the farthest most corner of start gets you the all apps.

    • harmjr

      How hard is it all we need is all apps, power options, settings and profile should be the closest items not recommendations.

  6. truerock2

    Paint and Notepad are important applications that must work flawlessly on Windows 11.

    I use each of those applications dozens of times every day.

    I use Paint.NET and Notepad++ when I need more functionality.

    Start Menu

    Recent and Recommended catagories are useless and a waste of space

    I need space for 24 of my most used applications arranged in 4 different groups

    I occasionaly need to go to a more exstensive list of "most used applications" that includes 113 applications.

    Control Panel and Administator Tools is a category of about 60 applications (Device Manager, PowerShell, Disk Manager, etc) that I use several times per week.

    I create "Toolbars" on the Taskbar to create menus that are more functional than the Start menu.

    Unfortunately, those Toolbars do not support "Jump Lists" of pinned and last used files.

    • drdrted

      Excellent suggestions. I use most of them, especially custom toolbars on the taskbar. I didn't come up with this myself, I just copied the model of the old Quick Launch toolbar.

      • truerock2

        I agree. Custom toolbars on the Taskbar are not a perfect solution, but they are better than the Windows 10 Start Menu - in my opinion.

  7. drdrted

    In Win 10, I use Open-Shell and Stardock's Start10. There is already a registry setting that allows Open-Shell to work, and we all know Stardock will deliver a Start11.

    Both of these add-ons are excellent, essentially allowing the return of an improved version of the old Windows XP or Windows NT style.

    They're organized, logical, blessedly *not* graphical and space wasting.

    I know it's only the interface, but I have yet to meet a serious engineer, whether he/she uses Mac, PC, or Linux, who doesn't like the simple information-rich old fashioned menu.

    Besides name calling that implies newer design is always better, what is a logical reason for a productive person not to use these simple modifications that are a better interface for someone working, as opposed to someone who wants to receive commercials and annoying notifications all the time? (I'm only slightly kidding)

    • justme

      I've been using Start10 (and Start8 before it) for a while now. Works like a charm, is organized, and as you point out - thankfully non-graphical.

  8. drdrted

    P.S. On a number of PCs, I have never had either Start8, Start10, Classic-Shell (the original name of Open-Shell) or Open-Shell crash. Never

  9. mniehaus

    Right-click on the Start button to run Task Manager from that menu.

  10. Freezal

    So I have been using it on a surface book for the last few days to test out some of the More administrative features. I break down some of the interesting things that have happened:

    1. You cannot install RSAT tools. - I get error trying in powershell or the GUI.
    2. I have a domain joined system joined to my home domain and in Windows 10 Hello was blocked from working. In 11 Hello completes the setup process and scans my face, but then reports and not enabled becasue my administrator is managing sign in options. But after reboot works to sign me into my pc. (Still unable to manage it in any way)
    3. I have both a Microsoft Personal Account and my home domain is hybrid with Azure AD so a work account added to the accounts. Edge lost its mind and developed 2 different profiles with 2 different Icons on the desktop one syncs(the personal account) the other does not (the work account).

    This is just some of the stuff I noticied giving it a go.......

  11. brothernod

    Continuing the trend of potentially stupid comments (apologies), but I’m curious what Paint offers over Snip and Sketch? That would have been my first thought for screenshot management, especially if Paint wasn’t working.

  12. m250xl

    Hmmm, a string of icons centered across the bottom of the screen, now where have I seen that before?

  13. Christopher Spera

    The Start Menu or Start, is a Windows 95 legacy item that simply works. Its one of the reasons why its stuck around since 1995 in some form (the concept, of course... not the actual design of the Start menu). The biggest issue that Microsoft has is that it continuously wants to change how Start works; but refuses to let go of OTHER legacy design items (like the Desktop. The Desktop is why Windows RT failed... WinRT didn't need and shouldn't have used the Desktop).

    Why am I bringing up all this crap..? Very simple - I don't believe that MS has any clue about what people want and need in the OS that runs the world. They need to stop messing with things that work and start taking a bigger and deeper look into crap in Windows that doesn't work like it should. Rounded corners and such drivel are the least of their worries. I'd just like Windows Update to work correctly without introducing software that breaks more than it fixes.

    But this is just my 2 cents.

    • navarac

      This is what I think most users think, as well. (My 2 cents worth = stop faffing around with eye candy and sort the inconsistencies)

    • ekim

      Exactly! For example, I'm on vacation right now and thought I'd made sure everything I needed was setup on my Surface but have discovered many little things that I forgot to take care of before I left. Mostly customization issues - particularly with Outlook and I wish Microsoft would put more effort into replicating customization settings across devices.

  14. justme

    I pin next to nothing to the taskbar and use the Start Menu almost exclusively. The desktop is my workspace. I find this incarnation of the start menu worse than the native Windows 10 start menu. For me, the Start Menu as shown in these early builds is...a non-starter. I am hoping that Start10 will continue to work.

  15. jasonbuck75

    IMO, Microsoft should move the System Tray up to a thin little bar at the top of the screen, similar to phone OS's. It would clean up the look of the taskbar, and add the ability to display more useful system information while being more user friendly than where it has sat forever.

    • shark47

      I'm surprised that the system tray has -- for the most part -- remained the same, while the rest of the OS has evolved around it. By the way, if they move it to the top, they'll be accused of copying Apple again, but it makes sense to do.

    • boots

      Then we would have less screen space for application windows, and the close button on maximised windows would not sit in the top right corner, so we couldn't quickly close a window with a flick-and-click.

      What would be the benefit of this?

  16. nbplopes

    So now we have everything pushed to the left and a huge space of nothing on the right. Looks like a balanced use of space,

    PS: Just a side note. Apple has been using this scheme of centered app icons along with the do to signal running apps in macOS for over two decades. Never fundamentally changed if not looks and streamlining. Why is MS changing their approach to look and feel like macOS?

    What’s next? CMD-Space to summon search?

  17. RobertJasiek

    The rounded corners of regular windows look terrible and rob workspace. I hope there is an option to have rectangular windows.

    Needless to say, the important questions affect bugs, telemetry, crapware, missing security functionality.

    Concerning security, do integrity levels work properly again in Windows 11 as in Windows 7 but not in Windows 10, in which the explorer's file actions often ignored / violated them? Will the bugs of software restriction policies be fixed? Will AppContainers be available for all software, accessible and documented in the command line? If Microsoft really cared about security, it would provide Dynamic Access Control in all Windows editions instead of only Windows Server.

    • Fuller1754

      I didn't hear anyone complaining about rounded window corners during the 11 years of Windows XP through Windows 7. I'd love to know just how much "work space" these few pixels rob you of.

  18. bettyblue

    "The second issue is Microsoft Paint"

    Really? As you stated use 1000x better product.

  19. hrlngrv

    Who doesn't use the keyboard to launch Task Manager? [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Esc].

    As for the pixelated bottom-right corner of Notepad, I believe that's meant to indicate a windows resize handle. Notepad in Windows 10 has a dotted triangle in the bottom-right corner too. FWIW, Wordpad and Paint show the same in the bottom-right corner, but none of the UWP-ish bundled apps.

    I also don't fully comprehend the logic of the new Windows Tools as opposed to separate folders for accessories, accessibility applets, 'system' applets, Powershell, and what used to be 'admin' tools.

    Re Paint, it's now through the Store, so have you tried to Repair or Reset it?

  20. the_sl0th

    How anyone can use the taskbar with captions disabled is beyond me.....

    • cmdrkeene

      I know what the icons mean, and the captions are always truncated so much to be useless anyway.

      And if you have captions on the taskbar, the thumbnail previews (which normally show the window titles and often have enough space to see the whole thing) lose their own captions so you actually end up even worse off than before.

    • philly30

      Not just that but if you have an app with multiple instances then it combines them and there is no way to undo that

    • Greg Green

      If an icon needs captions it’s a bad icon.

  21. abrarey

    I get the Start in the middle now days screens are getting bigger and make sense to get your sight in the middle, but I would like to see that All Apps button at the botton instead of on the top kind it counterproductive the way it is up there. I heard the search on the start is not working maybe that will be incorporated later on.

    Other than that, is just like Windows 10.

  22. mrkirbs

    My other idea, if Start absolutely cannot be decoupled from the other icons, is to fix Start to the very center of the taskbar. That way it wouldn't move based on how many programs are open, so new muscle memory can be developed

    • boots

      Or they could leave it on the left where it's always been, where it never moves based on how many programs are open, and no new muscle memory would need to be developed. Problem solved.

  23. allanwith

    The start menu looks exactly like what we saw in the 10x preview, which seems way too simplified for my personal taste. No app icon folders like iOS and Android and no way of organizing into a sort of pages or sections, is a little disappointing, to me. I know it's probably more of a superuser kind of thing, which most people wouldn't use, but still... At least on iOS you can have separate pages and it has the auto-collections thing.

    Also, having widgets separate from the start menu is much like MacOS, but now that widgets are coming to the start screen for iOS, it seems like a step back, to me, compared with live tiles.

    I'm assuming you can make the start menu full screen, like on chrome os? Would be helful on tablets, I think.

    As for the refent discussion on Windows Weekly regarding support for dual screen devices,, what I would hope is what they're realy waiting for is a truly next gen ARM processor that would at least make Windows competitive on that front and allow for sleeker hardware with better battery life.

  24. cmdrkeene

    There is a Store app called "TaskbarX" that centers taskbar icons on Windows 10 and it is superb to me. It leaves the Start button left-aligned (maintaining fitts law of easy targeting and for muscle memory), while centering the app icons. Plus it looks more visually balanced with the Start button and the Action Center/notifications button at opposite ends.

    • hrlngrv

      I've seen comments on reddit that Taskbar X doesn't work in Windows 11. Interestingly, Taskbar Eliminator does, and while eliminating the taskbar hides the Start menu button, if running Open Shell, pressing the [Win] key displays the Open Shell menu.

      Anyway, this may open the possibility of combining Taskbar Eliminator to hide Windows's own taskbar and display a 3rd party taskbar replacement. Hopefully Stardock has one ready by September.

  25. mikegalos

    Gee, what a surprise, an unreleased daily pre-alpha build of part of the "Windows 11" shell isn't feature complete.

    Imagine that.

    • pecosbob04

      Do you really think this build is pre-Alpha? Seems more likely to be full on Alpha at least or an early Beta because Paul indicates though some things are broke/missing the release is stable. Is pre-Alpha even a thing as in an official nomenclature?

      • bettyblue

        Do you seriously think this is anything more than the failed Windows 10 X GUI dumped on Windows 10??

        I am not trying to be sarcastic here but if you go back and look at the Windows 10 X screen shots that were floating around this is exactly it....but on top of Windows 10.

        Does anyone really think between the time the announced Windows 10 X was canceled and the then the Jun 24th announcement that they whipped up Windows 11???? They just quickly ported, if there was anything they really needed to do, the GUI from Windows 10 X over to Windows 10.

        As Mary Joe says....lipstick on a pig.

        • pecosbob04

          "Do you seriously think this is anything more than the failed Windows 10 X GUI dumped on Windows 10??"

          No I don't actually. Just taking a shot at the whole notion of the thing being pre-alpha.

  26. Todd Poulson

    Paul, use Jspaint until you can get a reliable Microsoft version for Windows 11. jspaint is a full JavaScript version of Paint with a UI and functionality of days gone by. It will make you flashback to 1998, but the base functionality is there. I find it very useful when I have to work on a Mac, Linux, or Chromebook. Someday Microsoft will realize their killer app is Paint.

  27. rbwatson0

    1. Would love to see an option for just the start icon on the left.
    2. Start menu needs to be resizable. On Paul's screenshots it's as big as the screen, but on my 4K monitor it is annoyingly small.
    3. An option to place either the clock/date or the system icons on the left side of the taskbar to better balance it. (Choice is good!)

    Also, on both computers I installed Windows 11 on - one upgrade, one clean install - the start search function works fine. If you start typing in Start it switches to search.

    And how about this for nit-picky stuff... If you left-click on the power icon on the Start menu, the fly-out menu animates from the bottom upwards and centered over the button. But if you right-click the power icon, the menu animates from the top downwards and is left aligned with the cursor position.

    • juliusky

      if you want to change the size of the taskbar, you need to modify the “TaskbarSi” value by following these steps:

      • Open the Registry Editor and navigate to the following path:
      • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\ Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced\
      • Create a new DWORD entry called “TaskbarSi”.

      Change the DWORD value to modify the size of the taskbar:

      • 0 = Small
      • 1 = Medium
      • 2 = Large

      Close the Registry Editor and restart Windows Explorer to see the changes.

  28. mefree

    What I am REALLY hoping for is optimization. Just like Windows 7 was an optimized version of Windows Vista, I'm hoping that WIndows 11 will be more stable, more efficient with resources (Proc, RAM, Disk I/O, space) so that it will work better on lower powered devices as well as a 'prettier' interface. I use low powered Windows device for many things such as home automation controller tablets, movie poster, etc.

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