Windows 11 has now been available in the Windows Insider Program #DevChannel for a week and since then it has likely been installed on numerous devices.

As I shared in the first Windows 11 Musings post I made a few days ago, I can account for at least seven installs of this preview build between six physical devices and one virtual machine.

After seeing all the bits and pieces floating around from the leaked build, waiting to get hands on with the first public testing build of Windows 11 was like the anticipation before a birthday or Christmas. Satya Nadella was right at BUILD 2021 in his keynote when he said this was going to be the most significant update to Windows in more than a decade. First impressions are proving that to be true.

The most obvious thing about the work happening in Windows 11 is the visual changes.

Windows 11 Desktop and Start Menu in Light Mode

Windows 11 Default Start Menu and Light Mode

The first one that jumps off the screen is right after logging into the device for the first time is the centered Taskbar and Start Menu. This is also the first time seeing one of the brand-new Windows 11 wallpapers. This is just one of twenty-two new images that shipped with this first preview build.

Note: These two elements of the Windows 11 user interface, the Taskbar and Start Menu, can both be shifted back to the lower left corner of the desktop like it has been since Windows 95.

Windows 11 Taskbar Alignment Settings

Windows 11 Taskbar Alignment Settings

For those interested, here is what it all looks like shifted to the left in Windows 11.

Windows 11 Taskbar on Left

Windows 11 Taskbar on Left

Personally, I am keeping the Taskbar and Start Menu centered because I prefer to try and use the OS as it is being designed versus reverting to old familiar appearances and functionality. Included in that functionality is a Right Click Context Menu and the ability to Drag and Drop app icons to customize the Start Menu appearance.

If you fill all up of the visible Pinned rows with app icons, just keep going because this section is scrollable to access other pinned items that might be off screen by default.

These screenshots are from my Windows 11 Virtual Machine running in Hyper-V, but on my own devices, I have customized the icons on both the Taskbar and Start Menu based on my app usage. Appearance of your default Start Menu and Taskbar will depend upon different factors such as whether you upgraded the device or performed a clean install. I did do upgrades on all of my devices. However, I did a system reset once that was successful to start on a clean slate with Windows 11.

One thing that is obviously missing from the Start Menu in Windows 11 are the Live Tiles. As you might imagine, there has been a mixed reaction about this since the build’s release. For myself, I stopped using Live Tiles a long time ago and instead depended upon the smaller notification bubbles on the Taskbar app icons to indicate activity in that app. Windows 11 continues to support that notification feature so no lost functionality for me, but I am aware that many did use Live Tiles.

Based on the deprecation of other Windows features over the last several years, the loss of Live Tiles is likely related to low usage. That means resources can be shifted to other areas of the OS on implementing and maintaining features which get more usage by end users. Yes, I know that is less than ideal for those who utilize the feature, but this the reality of software development and the maturation of an operating system.

I will highlight other changes on the Windows 11 Taskbar in a future musings post, but here are a few more examples of how things now appear in the Start Menu as part of this preview build of Windows 11.

As you will see in these extra Start Menu screenshots, there is still access to the All Apps listing, Search, and a Recommended listing. The first two do exactly what they sound like. The Recommended list will include recently accessed documents plus recently used and installed apps.

Windows 11 Start Menu Gallery

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