Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

Windows 11: It’s okay!

I’m a paid, professional computer nerd. Wrangling Windows PCs into a semblance of good behavior is part-and-parcel of what pays the bills around here. So, since my work-from-home aged PC is new and shiny enough to accept the upgrade, I went ahead and pulled the trigger on the 10-to-11 jump last night.

I’m partway into my first workday on the “new” operating system and… it’s okay! It’s fine. It’s Windows. It does what it says on the tin.

Look, when you’ve been around long enough that your first Windows version began with the number 3, after a while the interface changes stop meaning too very much. Oh, so this one has the icons in the middle of the taskbar instead of on the left. Okay. Oh, so this one has gone back to more rounded corners on the windows. Okay. Oh, they put some color back into parts of the interface again. Okay.

Windows 11’s Explorer window. Note the color-coded content folders. (Wallpaper by Mary Cagle.)

They added some spacing between elements here, reduced spacing there. It’s more refinement than revolution. And you know what? That’s okay, too. More than okay.

The “centered icons” taskbar about which much wringing of hands is seen on the Internet. Copying the Mac UI! Yes, Microsoft’s been doing that for literal decades now, try to keep up.

Those of us who remember some of the great boondoggles in Windows’ version history will be glad of a chance to breathe easy. Windows Millennium Edition, anyone? Heaven help us, Windows Vista? The dreaded version between 7 and 10 which somehow wasn’t 9 because Reasons? It’s still early days but I don’t think 11 is going to wind up lumped in with that roster of disasters when we look back on the history of the operating system.

It’s different, yet the same. Which is, honestly, a good summation of the entire 10-to-11 experience.

With all that said, I have a couple of tips:

  • You can select to put the icons on the taskbar back on the left “like normal” if you want. I’m trying out the default Mac-style centered icons to see if it’ll be better, worse, or a big nothingburger. (I expect “nothingburger” to win this challenge.)
  • What you can’t do is toggle “show all icons in the system tray” like you could before. You must choose one-by-one, which is… only mildly annoying, honestly. I liked being lazy and just saying “show me everything,” but I’ll live without that option.
  • There’s a desktop-Linux-y “multiple desktops” function, which is great if you’re into that sort of thing, but it comes with a catch: If you use multiple desktops and have multiple monitors, you can only set one wallpaper for all monitors on each virtual desktop. If you want to set per-monitor wallpapers (and I do!) then stick with just the one desktop. (Or run a 3rd-party app. I used to use DisplayFusion but I’m trying to go without that to reduce the number of programs I have running at all times.)
  • Speaking of not needing DisplayFusion: Multi-monitor taskbar is finally a native feature, complete with “put the icons of each running program on the taskbar of the monitor that program’s showing on.” Huzzah! (You only get one copy of the systray, though.)
One of my near-future goals is to convince that damned Xbox Live thing to stop running at every login, though. Ugggh, WHY? Also: I have Teams AND Teams now? Yay…?

Overall, my verdict remains: It’s okay! Nothing seems broken, it’s still essentially Windows 10 as far as application compatibility is concerned, and since I’m running an Intel CPU I’m not affected by the (as of this writing) issues with AMD CPUs in this new version. (Presumably they’ll get that sorted out soon. We hope.)

2 Comments

  1. Marilyn

    Thank you!
    I feel better about it… & I remember vista.
    I’m still hesitant & I think I’ll talk to my sons (game artist in Seattle & gaming whiz) before I go with it. If anything goes wrong, they’ll fix it.

    Thank you for taking time to share this. ?

    • Karel Kerezman

      Oh, I absolutely recommend getting more opinions, especially from the folks who may be helping you out if things go awry. I’m just one data point! 🙂

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