Today, the Windows 11 Field Guide hit an interesting milestone: it’s now 500 pages long in PDF form, about the same length as its predecessor. But based on what I still expect to write, it’s possibly only one-half to two-thirds complete. We’ll see.
Here’s what’s happened since the last update.
About two weeks ago, Rafael and I recorded a Windows 11 Field Guide launch video with Leanpub’s Len Epp, and it was posted about a week ago. This is the first episode of new Leanpub Launch series on YouTube, which is interesting. But I was surprised—and pleased—that Len knew enough about the books we’ve published to Leanpub to notice a subtle difference in this book: there’s more editorial content than before.
And … that’ true. It wasn’t by design, not really, but in writing the book, I realized that there were lots of places where I needed to explain why behaviors in Windows 11 itself and Microsoft Edge, especially, are essentially anti-consumer and need to be worked around where possible. And these behaviors require a bit of editorializing. Obviously, there’s always been a bit of this—Windows 10 wasn’t exactly a shining example of good behavior either—but with Windows 11, things have gotten worse. Sometimes subtly, sometimes not.
I try not to be heavy handed with this stuff in the book, just factual. But I feel bad that I need to document how to work around—when you can—the bad bits in Windows 11. I wish it was just better.
Since the last update, I’ve added 10 new chapters: Microsoft Edge Shopping, Microsoft Edge and Web Apps, Recovery Drive, Reset This PC, Microsoft Accounts, Work and School Accounts, Local Accounts, Windows Hello and Dynamic Lock, Email and Other Accounts, and Multiple Accounts. And as you might be able to tell from those names, they span different sections of the book.
Let’s discuss that briefly.
The initial incomplete version of the Windows 11 Field Guide consisted of the first 7 sections in the book: Get to Know Windows 11, Install Windows 11, Upgrade to Windows 11, Personalize Windows 11, Desktop, Multitasking, and Files. It was important to me to get through that much of it upfront since that content pretty much covers the major new changes in Windows 11. (Minus some app updates.)
But looking past those sections, there were (and still are) many more sections to write. The next several are Help and Recovery, Hardware, Accounts, Security and Privacy, Internet and Networking, Apps, and Microsoft Edge. I write out of order, so, to date, I’ve completed the Accounts (6 chapters) and Internet and Networking (6 chapters) sections, and have almost completed Microsoft Edge. But the Edge stuff was so tedious and painful that I branched out to spare my brain. I have completed two of the chapters for Help and Recovery, with three more to go. And none of Hardware (6 or 7 chapters, most very short) or Security and Privacy (four chapters planned). And I also have 2 more Edge chapters to write.
Beyond that group, there are still many more sections planned: Productivity Apps, Digital Media, Xbox and Games, Command Line, Virtualization, Accessibility, and Utilities. And so it will be some number of months before the book is “complete.” Though of course the book is never really complete. At least until Windows 12 happens, at which point I’ll probably move on.
I’m always interested when Microsoft quietly changes the names of things. The notification area of the Taskbar, for example, has had several names over the years, some unofficial, and in Windows 11, Microsoft curiously calls it “the far corner of the Taskbar,” which … is not a name. In that case, I continue to call it by its correct name, in part because that name still does appear in Microsoft’s documentation online. But it’s something I keep my eye on.
Another example came to a head while writing the Accounts section. With Windows 10 and 11, Microsoft has started referring to Microsoft accounts (and work and school accounts) as “online accounts,” because they require a PC to be online to configure such an account for sign-in And it has started referring to local accounts as “offline accounts” because they, in turn, can be configured when a PC is offline. Because there is only one kind of offline account, and because this terminology comes up in Setup, I had shifted to using that term instead of local account. But as I wrote the Accounts section, I realized that the term local account is still used in Windows. And … crap.
So I had to go through the book and see how often I had used the term “offline account.” Not too many, as it turns out, thankfully. And so I changed those as needed to local account, both in the eBook and on Thurrott.com. And then I renamed the then-unpublished Offline Accounts chapter to Local Accounts and moved on.
Another interesting issue I deal with is that everything I write has to actually work and be true; this is a reference, after all. And I know that sounds obvious, but consider one example as the poster child for this issue: in writing about the local accounts noted above, I was reminded that one of the advantages of a Microsoft account is that the PC’s disk is automatically encrypted and the recovery key is saved on your OneDrive. But when you sign into Windows 11 with a local account—which in Windows 11 requires a workaround—the disk is not encrypted.
OK, easy enough to check, right? Not so fast: device encryption, as Microsoft calls this feature, takes two forms, one for Windows 11 Home and one for Windows 11 Pro. In Windows 11 Home, there is no way to manage this feature per se, it’s just on or off. With Windows 11 Pro, you get the BitLocker Drive Encryption control panel to manage this feature (and perform other tasks, like encrypting removable drives).
OK, easy enough to check, right? Just bring up one Windows 11 Home PC and one Windows 11 Pro PC, each with a local account, and see what happens. Again, not so fast: you can’t just add a local account to an existing PC, since that PC’s drive has already been encrypted. Instead, you must wipe one of each type of PC (Windows 11 Home and Pro), configure each at first book only with a local account, and then see what happens. Not just right away, but over time.
And so I did just that. This takes a while, of course, but it’s doable, and I have the PCs lying around for just this purpose. But all that work resulted in just a few lines of text in the book:
“When you sign in with a local account [with Windows 11 Home], your PC’s storage is not encrypted, and cannot be after the fact because the recovery key for this encryption has to be stored online in a Microsoft account.
Tip: If you are using Windows 11 Pro with a local account, you can enable BitLocker drive encryption manually after the initial sign in. This is done via the BitLocker Drive Encryption control panel, which can be found with Search.
And that’s it. That’s all that needs to be said about this. But now I can say it with certainty and move on. That’s what this kind of thing requires. (Maybe I should have added a screenshot. Hm.)
And, of course, I’ll forget the details a few months from now unless this topic somehow comes up in the interim. Which it won’t: I don’t use local accounts because there are so many advantages to using a Microsoft account.
Which is all described in the book, of course. 🙂