Windows 11 First Look: Settings, Changes


I upgraded to Windows 11 last night.  It took over an hour, but I did not have to be present to click on any screens or allow restarts.  When I turned on the computer this morning it was ready.  I promised my Windows Basics students that I would give them a summary, so here goes…

bottom of the Windows 11 screen in default mode

UPDATE: On day two of my October 30, 2021, upgrade, I noticed one major bug: after I woke my computer up from sleep mode, most of the icons disappeared from my Taskbar. When I restarted, they were back. I recommend waiting a month or two to install Windows 11, so that they figure out these bugs.


Windows 11 retained my Desktop’s shortcuts and theme.  Some of the Microsoft icons are slightly different, such as a shortcut to my Pictures folder, but I haven’t noticed any other changes. The main changes are in the Taskbar and File Explorer.


My Taskbar icons are now centered rather than left-aligned, which is similar to Mac’s Dock  Should I mention I prefer left-aligned?  That way, I could always tell my students to find the Windows bottom or Search Box on the bottom left of the Taskbar.  Now the location will always depend on how many apps are visible in my Taskbar which will make it difficult for my students because their home computers will look different from my screenshots.

After some exploring in the Taskbar settings>Taskbar behaviors, you can move all the icons to the left (when they show up). I did.

By experimenting, we did discover that pressing Tab from anywhere on your Desktop will take you right to the Windows icon. That may not be new in Windows 11, but it is a new shortcut for me. It helps me find the Windows button when my cat’s head is in front of the Taskbar.

I preferred the Windows Search Box which appeared when the Large Taskbar Icons setting was selected.  I thought this really helped beginning computer users find apps and documents on their computers without having to learn one more icon.  Now, they will have to learn that the magnifying glass is the place for search.  You may also click the Windows icon to get a search menu at the top.

In Windows 10, there was a transparent box around any open apps on the Taskbar.  The active app was brighter than the others.  Now there is a yellow bar below the active app.  There is a short gray bar below any other open apps.  The light gray box is still there but is very faint.  I guess the new yellow and gray bars will be helpful for us low vision folks, but I never had a problem seeing the transparent boxes.  MacOS uses a dark dot below apps, so this seems to be a nod to Mac.

showing open and active apps in the Taskbar

When you first launch Windows 11, there will be three or four new icons to the right of the  Windows logo. There is the search magnifying glass (a great search tool for your computer), then Task View, Widgets, and Chat. 

right-click to open Taskbar settings

I turned off all of them except Search by right-clicking the Taskbar, selecting Taskbar settings, and turning them off in the “Taskbar Items” section of the Personalization>Taskbar menu.  I do not like that much change.  (I did try to move the nice Weather widget to my Desktop, but it wouldn’t budge.)  Did I mention the Widgets stopped working after two clicks?  I am guessing that “we are having trouble loading this content” means there is a bug.

turning off (or on) the new Taskbar items

Speaking of the Windows icon, Windows sure does change its logo frequently.  It is now four equal squares in a light-to-dark blue (circled red).  Clicking this button brings up the Windows menu which has lots of changes.  The Power button which leads to Sleep, Restart, and Shutdown is now on the bottom right (circled light blue).  The user menu, with Sign-Out, lock, change account settings and other users, is now on the bottom left (circled yellow).  The Search Bar I mentioned is at the top, as well as a display of your computer’s apps.  (We used to call that software or programs before SmartPhones came along, right?)

the Windows button menu

Notification Tray

My Notification Tray, on the right of the Taskbar, looks completely normal, except my speakers were set to mute.  There was no difficulty clicking the speaker icon and unmuting the speakers

That new Windows 10 MS weather item near the Notification Tray on the right has disappeared. 

My Windows 10 Taskbar was always set to “large icons” so it would display the date below the time in the bottom right corner.  That now seems to be a feature.  The time/date and notifications are now one button (circled red).  Clicking that button brings up a calendar and all notifications.  You can still scroll through your calendar month by month with the up and down arrows (circled green).

calendar and notifications

File Explorer and/or This PC

new File Explorer or This PC window

Microsoft completely redid the menus with an emphasis on icons.  The menu tabs have disappeared.  As usual, you may hover your mouse over each icon to see what it is.  There is the normal “Cut, Copy, Paste” on the top.  The next icon is rename which is much better than a right-click and accidentally selecting Delete instead of Rename.  The new menu also reminds you that F2 is the shortcut for rename; I believe that was first used in Visicalc spreadsheets in the 1980s.  It is nice to know that some things do not change.

right-click File pop-up menu

A Share arrow, Delete trashcan, and Sort arrows are the next menu icons.  A View icon takes you to the View tab choices.  A sideways kabob completes the menu with “more options.” 

Depending on the file type, more icons may appear to the right of the kabob, similar to the context sensitive tabs (magic tabs) in MS Office.  When I select an image file, Set as Background and Rotate Left icons appeared between View and the kabob.

Right-clicking a file has changed, too.  You now get a brief pop-up menu that omits the Cut, Copy, Paste, Rename, etc., icons which are now at the top of the File Explorer window.  If you want your old right-click file menu, simply choose the last item, “Show More Options” which takes you to the Windows 10 pop-up file menu.


I hope that takes some of the surprises out of the situation.  The changes seem to be to the look and feel.  Icons are the future.  Hopefully old folks like me can adapt.  As someone with poor vision, I would have preferred a higher contrast boldface look for each icon rather than thin lines on gray.  Maybe that will be in Windows 12.  I should go write a letter…

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