I’m testing Windows 11 on a 2017 Surface Pro. Technically, it doesn’t meet Microsoft’s minimum requirements for the update, but the company even lets unsupported machines run Developer Preview. The company says it is doing this to assess what other machines might be able to run Windows 11. It looks like they might change the minimum requirements by the end of the operating system for release later this year. My Surface Pro’s specs are pretty poor, it has 1.6GHz Intel Core m3, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. It’s not a speed demon, but it worked fine on Windows 10 and shows no signs of slowing down with Windows 11.
A new design language
Windows has never been “beautiful”. It has always been a mixture of different eras dating back to the 90s with paint on the surface. Windows 10 has done a good job covering some of the mess and making the operating system more usable. But by far the biggest feature of Windows 11 is its new design language that spans the entire system.
It’s still familiar and recognizable as Windows, but it feels like they really care about the look and feel of this operating system in a way they didn’t. before. The company has implemented a new look for the taskbar and start menu. The icons have fun new playful animations, and many also have a new look with more personality and depth. The default wallpapers included in Windows 11 also complement the new taskbar very well. the Edge has them all available for download if you want to use them on your devices.
Microsoft has included a powerful new theme system that combines specific wallpapers with colors and styles that go well together. The new design is almost fully customizable, unlike macOS.
The new start menu and taskbar
I never liked the Start menu. It always seemed a little ugly and cheap. The macOS dock has always been great and I still prefer it. But the new taskbar has a centered design that looks more like the macOS dock. The new Start menu itself is also very different from previous iterations. It’s smarter and comes with recommended files and apps, along with a section for pinning your favorite apps. He’s ditching smart tiles altogether, making him less dynamic, but that actually seems to be working in his favor.
It’s centered like the new taskbar icons and looks more like the Chrome OS launcher than the Windows 10 Start menu. It’s not that much simpler, and so much better. The search is also centered and looks like the Start menu. It is also faster.
Another new feature of the design is the rounded corners throughout the system. Like macOS since 2000, Windows now has windows with rounded corners. They are not as smooth as those in macOS, but they make the operating system more natural and less harsh. Combined with the new animations on app icons, boards, etc., this makes the experience really enjoyable. Using Windows 11 as in the past with previous versions doesn’t seem like a chore.
Existing apps also get the new rounded corners to keep everything up to date in the Windows 11 environment. They also updated the control bar and the design of the notifications that appear in the right slide of the taskbar. It complements the new widget tray that slides out from the left side. I didn’t find it particularly useful, however, it’s nowhere near as powerful as macOS’s widgets in Big Sur.
Cleaner File Explorer
One of the things I’ve always hated about Windows is File Explorer. It never lived up to macOS Finder, and it still doesn’t. However, it does get a major improvement in Windows 11 which makes it cleaner and easier to use. But basically it’s still the same Windows File Explorer.
They replaced the ugly ribbon that has lived on the toolbar for centuries with a series of shortcut buttons for things like cut, copy, and paste, as well as sharing and layout options. Overall it looks and feels better. But Microsoft still has a long way to go before it reaches the same level as the Finder. I think they should start from scratch and create a whole new file explorer app for the future.
What could Apple learn?
I wish I didn’t say anything, but there are some things in Windows 11 that Apple should be thinking about. The most important is personalization. Apple has made a habit of removing customization options on macOS over the past few years. I’d love to see them bring back the ability to easily change app icons, set themes, and customize colors. Right now the system is quite limited to dark mode or light mode, system color and wallpaper.
Another thing I would like to see is more gaming in macOS. macOS is bright, sparkling, and colorful and it should have animations that reflect that. Windows 11 offers a lot of delightfully unexpected animations, for example when you click on the icons on the taskbar.
Finally, let’s talk about the Start menu. I don’t want a Start menu on Mac. But I would like Apple to finally update the Launchpad. I would love for Apple to take the new app library design from iPadOS 15 and bring it to macOS in the future. I also wish it didn’t take up the entire screen, covering my windows and content.
Windows 11 is a substantial update to a platform that has become increasingly important due to the pandemic. It includes app quality of life improvements, a new design, and features like the ability to run Android software. It’s a worthy competitor to macOS Monterey, and I’m curious to see how both operating systems evolve while they’re in beta for the rest of the summer.
If you want to try Windows 11 on your PC, you can do so by joining the Windows Insider program in the Settings app. Make sure to set your update channel to “dev”. Then you will see the preview of Windows 11 appear in the software update.
What do you think of the new design of Windows 11? Do you think it’s a worthy competitor of macOS Monterey? What features of Windows 11 would you like to see in macOS? Let us know in the comments below!
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