By Teri Olsen
Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 11, began rolling out to compatible PCs on October 5, 2021. This is the first time I’ve ever actually looked forward to a Microsoft operating system update! Windows 11 will sport a fresh design and a number of new features such as widgets, snap layouts, virtual desktops, improvements to Microsoft Teams, and support for Android apps.
Microsoft’s new operating system upgrade will be free for anyone who has Windows 10. However, Microsoft is rolling out the update in phases, which means some users will have to wait months to get Windows 11. A blog post from Microsoft said the company expects “all eligible devices to be offered the free upgrade to Windows 11 by mid-2022.”
The free Windows 11 upgrade that you receive will be the same edition you currently have for Windows 10, such as Home or Pro. Windows 11 is based upon the same foundation as Windows 10, so it will simply build on what you already know. The only problem is the hardware requirements. If your PC is recent, say, within the past five years, you should be okay, but if yours is an older one, you may be out of luck.
If your computer isn’t up to speed, or if you’re just not sure whether Windows 11 is worth downloading right away, you will have up until 2025 to decide what to do. (That’s when Microsoft says it will no longer support Windows 10.) Hopefully that will give you enough time to save up to buy a new computer if you want.
I’ve always hated the cluttered screen of Windows 10 with all those multicolored square tiles that cover up the background picture. In Windows 11, the clean lines and use of widget icons to display information like weather, news, and photos is a welcome change from the busy, blocky screen of its predecessor. The new operating system will have the Start Menu in the center of the screen, but you can move it over to the left if you prefer. In addition to the fresh design that aesthetically improves the user experience, Windows 11 lets you structure your screen for maximum multitasking.
Windows 11 is set to Microsoft’s Bing search engine by default. Which is perfect for me because I like to rack up my Bing points and earn an Amazon gift card every month! Plus I love seeing the beautiful wallpaper photos and learning about the different places that are pictured from around the world so it’s educational. It has fun quizzes, too. But if you prefer Google’s search engine, it’s easy enough to make Google the default.
Multiple Virtual Desktops with Snap Layouts
Do you do a lot of multitasking? Ever wish you had multiple computers for different purposes, all in one? The best thing about Windows 11 will be the features that help you streamline everything whether you’re using your device for work, school, gaming, personal use, or all of the above. With its virtual desktops, you can organize different workspaces all on one monitor and easily toggle between them.
That’s right – no longer do you need a separate monitor to expand your digital workspace. Instead, you can create separate virtual desktops. Having multiple desktops on Windows 11 eliminates the hassle of clicking through minimized windows and tabs, trying to find the one you want. Yay! Now you can make different virtual desktops for work, school and personal use — and customize their backgrounds. Which means it will . This is what I’m most looking forward to!
Say you’re writing a research paper but also planning a trip. You have a bunch of websites open from which you’re gathering information for your paper, and you also have a group of travel websites open all related to that search. With Snap Layouts, you can choose a layout that you like – for example, four open windows in a square pattern or all in a row – and click on a zone in that layout to snap each window into place. This way, you can keep all of your travel information and paper sources nicely organized in separate groups on your screen.
If you scroll over Task View on the taskbar or hit the Windows key plus Tab, you’ll see all of the existing desktops that you can toggle between, or add a new one. Then you can easily minimize or maximize the whole Snap Group at once from the taskbar, thus eliminating the need to click on multiple windows and tabs separately. This will be great for a super multitasker working on many different projects at once, like me! Sometimes I’ll have so many windows and tabs open at the same time, it’s ridiculous.
Additional features will include improved video conferencing, and Microsoft promises that built-in Android apps are on the way. For anyone interested in using closed captions, Windows 11 allows for customization and preset closed captioning themes for easier reading. New sounds and audio cues are available for blind users, and themes for people with light sensitivity or those working long hours have been updated to be easier on the eyes!
Voice Typing, an update to the voice dictation tool in Windows 10, can now add punctuation to what was once a stream-of-consciousness-like experience. This option, available wherever you can input text, is easy to pull up with a keyboard shortcut and dismiss with a voice command. English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Simplified Chinese languages are all supported.
If you are a gamer, Windows 11 will be able to better support high-end games, and it will also include certain features found in Xbox consoles, to improve gaming on your Windows PC. This marks another move toward integrating PCs and Xbox consoles for Microsoft. Paired with Xbox’s game subscription service, it could turn your PC into your preferred entertainment device.
How to Upgrade – or Not
To get the free upgrade, you can simply wait for the Windows 11 update to be pushed to your device. When the new OS is available to you, the upgrade process will feel similar to a normal Windows 10 update, as long as your device is compatible and meets the minimum system requirements. (If it doesn’t, Microsoft will offer a workaround, though it still may prove troublesome for older computers and won’t be supported.)
For more information from the experts, be sure to read Tom’s Windows 11 review. Check CNet’s compatibility guide to Windows 11 to find out if your computer will be able handle the new operating system or not. Also, for another viewpoint, there’s a PC World article on why you should wait to upgrade to Windows 11.
Did You Know…? Microsoft launched Microsoft Office 2021 alongside Windows 11. The apps within Microsoft Office are some of the best available for completing work and schoolwork, and because of that, Microsoft Office has become the global standard for productivity. Microsoft says they are not offering any educational discounts on Office 2021, but it costs ten dollars less on Amazon than it does on the Microsoft website.
Do you have Windows 11 yet? How do you like it? Leave a comment!