Announced in June 2021, the Windows 11 was released to the public on Oct. 4, a day ahead of schedule, with the mission of taking Windows 10 out of Microsoft’s flagship operating system. But don’t think that the changes are limited to visual aspects. New features were also prepared by the company. You can check the main ones in the next lines.
Interface changes (new look)
This is the change that everyone notices first. The design of Windows 11 is more modern compared to the look of Windows 10. In the new version of the operating system, the corners of the windows were slightly rounded, the icons were renewed and small animations try to make the user experience more pleasant.
Generally speaking, the Windows 11 interface follows Fluent Design guidelines, a standard that Microsoft introduced in 2017 to guide the look of its software.
Fluent Design is combined with Mica, a dynamic element that allows applications to assume a background with a semi-transparent or opaque effect. Mica’s effects can be noticed in Edge or in File Explorer, for example.
Taskbar and Start Menu renewed
Perhaps the most impactful change is in the new Start Menu. In Windows 11, the feature can be left-aligned or centered, has a more modern icon and is displayed in a “balloon” (floating window).
In addition, the Start Menu may also have an opaque or semi-transparent background and no longer display dynamic tiles (Live Tiles). On the other hand, recently opened or frequently accessed files gain space there. Shortcuts to essential features such as the settings area and the power button have been moved to the bottom of the menu.
The taskbar keeps up with these changes. It can also display centered icons, has new animations and transition effects, makes icons blink to draw the user’s attention to something important and gives quick access to the Focus Assistant (disables notifications for moments of concentration).
On the other hand, the taskbar cannot be fixed anywhere but at the bottom of the screen, it no longer integrates the agenda with the system calendar and it no longer displays the hours with seconds.
The return of widgets
Introduced in Windows Vista, operating system widgets were discontinued with the arrival of Windows 8. Windows 11 brings the feature back, but in a different way: A screen with widgets appears when the corresponding button is pressed on the taskbar.
There are widgets for weather forecast, news, stock prices, Microsoft 365 files, calendar (hence the removal of this function from the system calendar), among others.
Fit Layouts and Fit Groups
In Windows 11, the experience of working with multiple windows has also been improved. Two new features contribute to this: Snap Layouts and Snap Groups.
The first provides predefined suggestions for organizing the open windows. For example, you can choose a layout that displays four windows at the same time, or one that displays three, with one taking up half the screen.
The second feature follows the same logic as the Adjustment Layouts, with the difference that it allows the user to create groups of applications and define a window layout for each one of them.
New Microsoft Store and Android apps
The Microsoft Store has been rebuilt from scratch to house more apps and media content (such as movies and series). For this, the company relaxed the rules of the store. An example: applications of various types can be published there, such as Win32, .NET, UWP, Java and Progressive Web Apps.
In addition, Microsoft has adopted a policy that maintains 100% of the revenue generated by apps distributed through the store with developers (while the App Store and Google Play Store keep up to 30%).
Another important news: thanks to a partnership with Amazon, the new Microsoft Store will allow the user to install Android apps on Windows 11. These apps are not expected to be released until 2022, however.
Integration with Microsoft Teams
Skype? Nothing! Windows 11 integrates with Microsoft Teams to allow the user to make voice and video calls or participate in chats. Conversations can be conducted individually or in groups, of course. In addition, the tool has integration with calendar and other tools.
Other features include synchronization with Outlook or Skype contacts, reactions with emojis and the option to reply to a message directly in its notification balloon, for example.
Auto HDR and DirectStorage for games
If there’s one thing the Windows ecosystem doesn’t lack, it’s games, you know. In Windows 11, Microsoft wants to make the gaming experience even more interesting.
That’s why the operating system has Auto HDR, a feature hitherto exclusive to the Xbox Series X / S that automatically optimizes color and lighting parameters to make images more vivid.
Another feature brought from the consoles is DirectStorage, which optimizes performance by allowing the GPU to have quick access to the computer’s SSD and thus lessen the processor’s workload.
Windows 11 also has the Xbox Game Pass, which gives you access to more than 100 games for PCs.
Paint, File Explorer and New Face Photos
It’s hard to imagine Windows without Paint. In Windows 11, Paint was not only kept, it has a new look. The tool’s interface matches the visual standard of the operating system, gained a new writing menu and even comes with a dark mode.
It’s not just Paint. Other native tools have also had their look revamped, like Notepad and File Explorer — the latter even got a new, more compact context menu.
The Photos app has not been left behind. In addition to incorporating the new visual standard of Windows 11, the software brings some functional changes, including display of image collections in “carousel” and editing icons that float over the photo (and not above, as in Windows 10).
Dynamic refresh rate (battery thanks)
Some recent smartphones have a very useful feature: Dynamic Refresh Rate (DRR) for the screen. With this functionality, the device can make a game work with a rate of 120 Hz and decrease this frequency to 60 Hz while using the browser, for example.
Well, Windows 11 also supports DRR. The operating system is able to adjust this parameter automatically based on running tasks (provided the device has a screen that supports high refresh rate, of course).
Dynamic update is important to save battery. The higher the refresh rate, the more comfortable and fluid the user is viewing content. The problem is that high rates considerably increase energy consumption, which is why it is prudent to use this resource accordingly.
According to Microsoft, Windows 11 is the most inclusive version of the operating system. Tools like Magnifier, Narrator, Closed Captioning and Windows Speech Recognition have been improved in the new version.
For people who can’t see, Windows 11 brings a new set of sound schemes. For people who are light sensitive or who spend a lot of time in front of the computer, there are new high contrast subjects as well as new dark subjects.
Voice typing and support for third-party screen reading tools are also part of the Windows 11 accessibility features.
It is not uncommon for a new version of software to be heavier than the previous one. But Microsoft suggests that it won’t be that way with Windows 11. On the contrary: the operating system has a number of improvements that improve performance (at least that’s the promise).
These include more efficient process management, prioritization of activities performed in the foreground (to prevent background tasks from taking up too much RAM, for example) and improved communication between software and hardware.
Microsoft also ensured that, despite being more sophisticated, the new visual standard will not harm the performance of Windows 11.
Requirements to run Windows 11
Unfortunately, Windows 11 will not be able to run on all computers that are currently compatible with Windows 10. The new version has a relatively extensive set of requirements.
For starters, Windows 11 is not compatible with Intel and AMD chips released before 2017. In addition, the computer must have a TPM-type security module.
In fact, Microsoft even relaxed the requirement of these two requirements, which, in theory, allows the installation of the operating system on old computers. However, there is a risk that these machines will run out of security updates.
The rest minimum requirements include:
- 1GHz processor with two 64-bit cores;
- 4GB of RAM;
- 64GB of storage;
- HD screen (720p) larger than 9 inches;
- Graphics chip compatible with DirectX 12 or higher and with WDDM 2.0 driver.
Learn more about Windows 11 requirements here.
How to download Windows 11?
The final version of Windows 11 is now available to the public. The system is free for those who have Windows 10, but the computer will only receive the update if it meets the minimum requirements established by Microsoft.
Installation can be done via Windows Update — the operating system itself will notify you that the update is available. Note, however, that the release will be piecemeal, meaning that not all eligible computers will have access to it right away. Microsoft explains why:
The upgrade will then be rolled out over time to market devices based on intelligence models that consider hardware eligibility, reliability metrics, device age, and other factors that impact the upgrade experience.
Microsoft’s plan is to allow all eligible computers to have access to Windows 11 by mid-2022.
Still, it is possible to skip the line and even install the system on “old” PCs — at your own risk and expense. See how in these articles: