We picked six of the best features in Microsoft’s new OS that’ll boost productivity and streamline how you use your computer.
Windows 11 arrived this fall with a redesigned interface and a bunch of new features aimed at streamlining your PC and helping you be more productive. Microsoft’s new OS boasts options for easier virtual desktop and widget customization, a more integrated Microsoft Teams experience and support for Android apps, just to name a few. Whether you’re using your device at home or in the office, these new features aim to make your life a little easier.
Keep in mind, though, Microsoft Windows 11’s update is rolling out in phases. This means the update is coming to newer devices first, and will be offered to all other compatible devices by mid-2022. (Note: There’s a way you can skip the wait and download the OS for free now.) If you’re hesitant to update to the new OS, don’t stress. Upgrading to Windows 11 from Windows 10 isn’t mandatory, at least not yet, and Microsoft says it will support the older operating system until 2025.
But if you’re ready to update, already have Windows 11 or just want to check out the latest Microsoft has to offer, we laid out the best new Windows 11 features we’ve seen and how you’ll use them. You can also check out how Windows 11 compares to Windows 10, everything Windows 11 didn’t give us and what’s Windows 11 SE?
Our favorite features in Windows 11 and how to use them
What it is: Android apps will be built into Windows 11 natively through the new Microsoft Store — a change Windows users have been waiting on for years. Know, however, that support for Android apps is not part of the first shipping version of Windows 11: It will come with another release in the coming months.
Though you could access Android apps on your Windows 10 PC in certain cases (like if you have a Samsung Galaxy phone), Windows 11 will mark the first time everyone will be able to download them directly onto your PC. (Here’s everything to know about Android apps on Windows 11.)
How you’ll use it: Once Windows 11 can handle them, Android apps will be in the new Microsoft Store via Amazon’s Appstore. That means you’ll need to download the Amazon Appstore to access the nearly 500,000 apps available there, including Disney Plus, TikTok, Netflix, Pinterest and Uber. However, you won’t be able to access every Android app found in the Google Play Store.
When it’s time, you’ll need to download the Amazon Appstore and sign into or create an Amazon account. Then you’ll be able to search for free or paid apps as you would on any other platform. Android apps will be integrated into the Start bar and will also appear on the Taskbar with their own windows.
What it is: Windows 11 adds Widgets to the interface — an AI-powered customizable feed that slides out to show you such info as news, weather, a glimpse at your calendar and to-do list and your recent photos. Widgets are similar to a feature called news and interests found in a recent Windows 10 update.
How you’ll use it: On the newly redesigned taskbar, you’ll find a button for Widgets. When you click or tap it, a panel will slide out from the left side of your screen with a series of widgets that give you the at-a-glance information you’re looking for. You can also expand it to be full screen.
What it is: Windows 11 builds Microsoft’s video chat platform Teams directly into the operating system, making it easier to access for daily use. You can connect with others on Teams across Windows, Android, Mac or iOS.
How you’ll use it: You may see Teams appear in the taskbar. If not, you can search for it. Click the Teams icon to launch a Chat tool, letting you choose if you want to message, text, voice or video call one of your contacts. Click Meet or Chat, and choose who you want to contact. Or, open the full version of Microsoft teams by clicking the box at the bottom of the Chat screen. (Here’s more about how to use the new and improved Microsoft Teams in Windows 11.)
What it is: Windows 11 lets you more easily create separate virtual desktops for each part of your life, and customize them with different wallpapers, so you can create a desktop for personal use, work, school, gaming or anything else, and easily toggle between them. This is similar to the MacOS virtual desktop feature.
How you’ll use it: Tap the desktop button on the taskbar to pop up a panel with your current desktop. Tap the plus button in the New desktop area to create a new desktop. Tap the X button to remove it. Then tap a desktop to switch to it.
What it is: When you’re working in a bunch of open windows, Windows 11 lets you arrange them in different layouts on the screen, and will save all of those windows in that arrangement.
How you’ll use it: When you open a window, you’ll see a button that looks like a square in the top right corner, in between the X and the minimize button. Hover over that to see different layout options for that window, and select the layout and the position within the layout that you want to place that window.
What it is: Snap Groups are the set of open windows that you saved in Snap Layouts, found in the taskbar for easy access to call up once again, so you can minimize or maximize them as a group.
How you’ll use it: Hover over your browser in the taskbar (it’s unclear if you need to be using Microsoft Edge to do so, as Microsoft did in its demo). You’ll see the different groups of sites and apps you created pop up. Click the one you want to open the whole group again. (Here’s more about using Snap Layouts and Snap Groups.)