(Cybertech) – Windows 11 has leaked in its entirety and bizarrely and unusually it’s not just images of the software but a full ISO of the entire 4.8GB OS that has appeared. Like many others, we’ve downloaded it, installed it on our beta machine (a Core i5 Surface Laptop 2) and here are our first impressions.
While Microsoft is bound to pitch Windows 11 as a fully marketed full new version of Windows, the fact is that it’s a design tweak to the existing operating system – it’s most definitely not a revolution. In that sense, it’s unusual for a new version of Windows; 98 to XP or XP to Vista this is not.
This shows in the way that Windows 11 works since it’s very stable and all our apps work without issue.
The most visual change is to the Start menu, which is now much more of an app/recent file launcher than an attempt to show you recent news or stock updates which the Windows 8 Start screen and the Windows 10 Start menu certainly tried.
The Chrome OS-like lighter version of Windows known as Windows 10 X would have had a launcher like this had its introduction not been cancelled. The bottom section of the menu is ‘Recommended’ stuff which will basically gather together anything you’ve recently saved, used or installed.
Many icons have been refreshed as part of a broader design rethink, often to update ancient designs. But dive deep enough and the same underlying Windowsness is still there. Something like Device Manager could still be whipped out of Windows 95.
The icons on the taskbar are now centred – but function the same – though you can shift them back to the left of the bar should you wish in Taskbar settings which we probably will do ourselves.
It feels a little odd to have them centred because we naturally move our cursor to the bottom left to open the Start menu. Again, you can search using the dedicated icon in the taskbar or the Start menu
Task View is still present and correct as is previous versions’ super window snapping. However, there are more options for snapping now thanks to a new dropdown menu in each window like this:
Also new is a Widgets button on the taskbar that opens a large widget drawer on the left side of the screen.
Ours is filled with stories from Microsoft News at present and you can click on the stories and say what you like or remove various news sources. Clicking widgets open the relevant story in Microsoft Edge.
Presumably, this bar will be more powerful as time goes on, but you can control what’s in it right away – not least by managing your interests on your Microsoft Account.
As with Windows 10, a lot of the customisation relies on your account and again it’s really the Live tiles from the Windows 8 and Windows 10 Start screen/Start menu re-heated and re-moulded a little for the 2020s.
Many features might change, of course, as Windows 11 nears launch. Despite it working very well, this operating system clearly wasn’t meant to be installed yet – it has confused Windows Update no end which is still suggesting a Windows 10 insider preview build for us.
Windows Update gives us a little bit of an insight into some internal jargon though – a system update refers to Windows 11 as Windows 10 Version Next.
Some things – like the Microsoft Store – are apparently going to be updated in Windows 11 but it looks exactly the same here. But our early impressions are great – it’s stable, looks good and is a step on from Windows 10, even if it’s a baby step rather than a giant leap.
Writing by Dan Grabham.