If Windows 11 were a product with a slogan, it would be “same Windows, now 50% less ugly.” With Windows 11 finally, upon us, the question on the lips of many is: is it worth the upgrade?
Instead of starting from scratch, Microsoft took Windows 10 (which was already quite good), pulled some levers, put some finesse on the UI and modernised a few parts of the 35-year-old operating system (which was starting to show its age).
In the short time I have been using Windows 11, I mostly like it. Is it a groundbreaking operating system? Not really. They could have released this as a significant update for Windows 10, but I can understand the new version number given the UI is different.
The first thing you will notice with Windows 11 (especially if you’re upgrading from Windows 10) is the UI isn’t flat like Windows 10. Application windows and buttons have rounded corners. The taskbar now resembles that of macOS with its centred icons.
That’s the thing that takes the most getting used to. I am a Mac user, but I am primarily Windows in my day to day development activities. One day in, and I am still instinctively trying to click the far left of the bottom bar to get to the start menu. The muscle memory I’ve formed with Windows 10 shows when I interact with the taskbar.
While Microsoft has added the ability to move the icons back to the left, I will ride things out a little longer and see if I get used to the new positioning of the icons. I have always been a fan of how macOS has the taskbar down the bottom, so eventually, things will be fine once I unlearn Windows 10.
One addition that will be useful for those who forgot it existed is hovering over the maximise window button of an application will now present screen snapping options.
This feature existed in Windows 10, but apparently, not everyone knew it existed. It’s user-friendly additions like these that make Windows 11 feel fresher than 10.
There’s a sleek new File Explorer.
This is one of my favourite changes in Windows 11: the redesigned File Explorer. The File Explorer in Windows 10 was the same old File Explorer from prior versions of Windows, and the icons which look like they were lifted out of Windows 95 are now nowhere to be seen.
Gone is that terrible ribbon toolbar, replaced by simple buttons and icons, making the File Explorer less bloated and cleaner. The File Explorer has been long overdue for an overhaul, and I would love to see Microsoft eventually take this even further.
Poke around the operating system long enough, and you’ll discover Microsoft has tweaked quite a few parts of the operating system. While on the surface, it might appear to be Windows 10 with some nice new window dressing, it’s a step in a new direction. Design matters and I am glad Microsoft finally sees that.
The subtle animations when you open applications, the noticeable speed improvements in Microsoft Edge and revised privacy settings make it a worthy upgrade. Did I mention it’s free? If you like Windows 10, you will like Windows 11.