Microsoft has finally officially announced Windows 11 after weeks of speculation, rumor, and a leak too. The new operating system offers a refreshed look, a new user interface, and a bevy of new features too. Best of all, it's going to be free for all existing owners of Windows 10 PCs. That means if you're eying up one of the best home computers (opens in new tab) right now, you won't have to worry about missing out on the latest version of Windows when it launches later this year.
So, what will Windows 11 offer? Quite a lot, it turns out. One of the biggest changes is its new look. The Start menu will now be in the center of the screen as we saw as part of the Windows 11 leak last week (opens in new tab). The general consensus seems to be that this should be far more practical for those using touchscreens to interact with Windows although we're not convinced that many people have strayed away from the conventional mouse or trackpad option just yet.
Still, if one of the best laptops (opens in new tab) is in your future, it may well come equipped with a touchscreen so the change of Start menu could work for you. It's also now 'cloud powered' which means it'll dynamically change depending on the time of day and what you're doing too.
Elsewhere, other visual changes include a choice of light or dark modes, rounded corners, and a more unified design. Widgets make a return too with more dynamic changes throughout the day plus the ability to see the content you may or may not desperately need to check out on a regular basis. We're talking things like the weather, maps, news, and search results.
Step away from the visual flourishes and Windows 11 has a lot more going for it than you might initially expect. It's promising to be 'the most secure release yet', as you'd expect, but it'll do so with updates that are 40% smaller which is bound to be useful for many of us. There are also new multitasking features such as Snap Layouts which enable you to arrange multiple windows across the screen in columns or sections rather than simply side by side. That could be perfect for the hard workers amongst us as well as those juggling a work assignment and some streaming content too. Alongside that is Snap Groups where you can return to previously snapped windows from the dock instead of having to snap them back together again.
Other adjustments include Microsoft Teams becoming a much more integral part of the operating system. It'll now be contained within the dock (the taskbar to you and me) so you can dive into meetings and calls quickly. There's also a redesign for the Microsoft Store and, more crucially, you'll be able to use Android apps within Windows 11 now. Confusingly, it's done so via the Microsoft Store's search tool and then via the Amazon App Store, but it's a big move if you're keen to use your phone apps via your laptop or PC.
Finally, gaming will be a much bigger focus here too with the Windows 10 Xbox app replaced by a new and hopefully superior Game Pass app. HDR will also be supported on compatible machines so your games will look better.
That's a lot to take in and we're expecting to see more news and views on Windows 11 as it nears release. While a definite release date has yet to be confirmed, it's looking likely to be around late November or early December. That's because Microsoft has used the ever vague term of 'this holiday season'. Who can resist a new operating system for Christmas? Fair point, but still, it should be rather interesting.