Windows 11 is here: everything you need to know

(CNN Business) – Windows looks much better than before.

Microsoft officially announced this Thursday its most recent update of the operating system for PC, called Windows 11. It includes visual improvements, Microsoft Teams integration for people who work from home and a new Microsoft store, among other changes. However, the live broadcast that had glitches during the event made the ads difficult for some viewers to see.

“The team was obsessed with every pixel,” said Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, during the event. “All these details coming together, the transitions, the user interface, how it all flows together, is meant to give you an incredible sense of calm.”

Some of the updates revealed Thursday were published in a leak earlier this month.

These are some of the big takeaways from the Windows 11 event:

The new “instant layouts” will make it easier for Windows users to navigate between multiple applications open at the same time.

User interface updates

Perhaps one of the most important changes Windows 11 will bring is a Start menu and a new Start button that is centered on the taskbar. The menu opens a window with pinned applications, recently opened “recommended” documents, and a search bar. Let’s toast to living mosaics.

The company announced new “instant layouts”, which give the user various window options from the “maximize” button so they can choose from multiple templates to display two, three or four open applications on their screen. It’s an improvement over having to drag multiple windows to the sides of the screen and then manually resize everything.

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Snap Groups will save the app collection and layout a person was using, allowing them to easily revert to those settings if they have to pause to work on something else. And if someone is using a monitor that they have to disconnect from, when they dock it again, the instant layout they were using before will also return.

Another improvement that will make it easier to switch between tasks: saved desktops with personalized wallpapers for home, school, work, and games.

The system will also feature “smoother visual effects,” including rounded corners in applications and icons to enhance the appearance of Windows, and will return the translucent layers of the Vista era for certain windows for certain windows giving them a layered look.

And Windows widgets will bring a personalized source of information powered by artificial intelligence – including weather, calendar, traffic reports and news – to users’ screens. It’s an improvement, but not substantially different from Windows 10’s Cortana and the new taskbar app.

Windows 11

Windows users will be able to access Teams directly from their taskbar.

Teams integration

Microsoft Teams will integrate directly into Windows 11 and will have its own icon on the taskbar.

“You can chat, call, make video calls with anyone anywhere in the world” on any platform or device, including Windows, iOS, Android or others, said Panay.

“This innovation is timely for the covid world, which has (re) established the centrality of the PC to the future of work and digital life,” said Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst JP Gownder.

Windows 11

Various updates to Windows 11 will make it easier to use devices without a keyboard.

Windows without keyboard

For people who use their Windows device like a tablet, Windows 11 will largely maintain the same visual appearance when the keyboard is disconnected from the device.

Users can still use “snap” to navigate between various open applications, and if they rotate the screen, those instant applications will be stacked vertically for easier viewing.

Windows 11 also features a new floating keyboard and voice typing that can automatically score and follow voice commands, such as “delete that word.”

Windows 11

Xbox Game Pass will now be built into Windows 11.

Video game

Windows 11 will bring an “Auto HDR” function for gamers which will automatically enhance the color and lighting of video game screens, a technology first introduced on Microsoft’s Xbox consoles.

Xbox Game Pass will now be integrated into Windows 11 to give subscribers access to a library of hundreds of video games on their PCs.

Windows 11

The Microsoft Store received a major renovation.

New Microsoft Store

The company rebuilt the Microsoft Store “from scratch” with speed in mind, Panay said.

Consumers will also now have more app options with the new Microsoft Store, which will now include Android apps from the Amazon App Store. That means that users will be able to access thousands of Android apps on their PC.

During its event, Microsoft took a not-so-subtle blow to Apple’s App Store when it announced that, in the new Microsoft Store, developers can create their own payment systems for their applications and Microsoft will take zero commission. Apple has been criticized by developers for the fee it assumes for the sales of applications within its store for iOS.

“We love that the Microsoft Store continues to be more open, inviting our developers, inviting more applications to the store, inviting you as our customer to use whatever application you like,” said Panay.

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Microsoft’s stores haven’t exactly been overwhelmingly successful. Most applications continue to download the old-fashioned way: as .exe files from the Internet, outside of Microsoft’s control. As Microsoft opens its store to developers, it hopes to change that, improving the customer experience, a kind of one-stop shop for everything on your PC.


Windows 11 comes six years after Microsoft last revamped its operating system with Windows 10, a major update that is now used on about 1.3 billion devices worldwide, according to CCS Insight. Compared to the substantial change from Windows 8 to Windows 10, Windows 11 is not a “revolutionary step,” said CCS CEO Geoff Blaber.

“Windows 11 is an iterative version,” he added. “Microsoft is making adjustments in areas that have the potential to move the needle in user experience, engagement, and the growing reach of Office 365 applications.”

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Improving the experience for PC users is important after a year in which everyone has spent more time on their devices. Global PC sales grew 13% year-over-year in 2020, the highest growth rate in a decade, according to data from market research firm International Data Corporation.

The Windows 11 announcement also comes just weeks after rival Apple announced a set of updates for its macOS, including an improved FaceTime experience, AirPlay, and visual enhancements in Safari.

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