Taking Microsoft’s Windows 11 for a Test Drive

For tech reviewers, critiquing a new operating system is an absurd ritual.

It’s like being a professional house inspector who delivers a report like this: Here’s what you need to know about the home you are about to move into. Some parts are significant, but there are substantial problems. You’re moving in any way, so you’ll have to learn to live with it. That’s because operating systems are essentially where your digital life takes place. If you own a computer made to run Windows, you’ll probably keep using the next version, no matter how good or bad.

That’s how I felt as I tried out Windows 11, Microsoft’s first big operating system update in six years. The company has marketed it as a new start to Windows with a modern, people-centric design. (Not new is how tech companies constantly remind us that their products were designed for users instead of being for my Labrador retriever.) The software will be a free update for many Windows personal computers this holiday

Windows 11

season. New to Windows are tools for productivity, like instantly shrinking and reorganizing Windows and support for mobile Android apps. Yet Windows 11 is ultimately an evolution. While there are improvements, parts of it feel frustratingly familiar. Some highs, like a design that makes the software behave similarly to mobile devices, and some lows, like the dated concept of widgets, are essentially miniature apps that live inside a dashboard on your screen. I tested an early, unfinished version of Windows 11 for a week.

Here’s my inspection report summing up the good, the meh, and the ugly.

The Good

The corny wordplay was intended to highlight Windows’s most significant design change: The iconic Start button, traditionally squeezed into the bottom-left corner, has shifted toward the bottom center. And no longer does the Start button load a list of settings and apps; it shows a folder of your apps. Microsoft executives have called Windows 11 a new start to personal computing that centers on people.

This is the same interface we use on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, which showcase a tray of essential apps at the bottom center of the screen. Still, it’s a welcome change. The Start button in previous versions of Windows opened a laundry list of apps and settings that felt tedious to scroll through.

The most interesting new design change is a feature called Snap Layouts, which I loved. When you hover your mouse cursor over the maximize-window button in the upper-right corner of an app, a grid opens up to show different arrangements that automatically shrink down or reposition the app. So if you want to move an app window to take up only the left side of the screen, you click on the corresponding icon to snap it into that position. That’s much quicker than moving a window and dragging a corner to the proper size.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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