Microsoft has previously attempted to bring the functionality of widgets to windows, with some limited success, and the system continues to evolve on Windows 11.
Windows 8 and 10 had “Live Tiles” which were widgets of a kind in some cases – they could be set to display new emails, breaking news, latest releases for streaming services, or a weather report, for example – and when clicked, they’d take you to the relevant application, website, or service. The problem was really that very few applications made use of this feature; when they did, it was often buggy, slow, or failed to update at all – seeing last week’s weather forecast isn’t exactly useful.
Both Android and iOS have widgets, although Android has a much larger variety and they’re more flexible in where they can be placed. iOS’ widgets are more strictly controlled and can only be seen in a dedicated widgets section.
While there are advantages to both systems, Microsoft has taken its cues from iOS’ design, and has made a specialised widgets panel to contain them all – they can’t be placed on the desktop. This helps to keep a clean and tidy interface and keep all this potentially important information in a specific, predictable place.
The new widgets panel can be launched from the taskbar, or, if you’re a touchscreen user, you can swipe in from the left to open the panel. This is a lot like the Action Center’s functionality (where notifications appear), except that it’s on the opposite side of the screen. Since most Windows screens are used in landscape mode and are larger format, it makes sense to have these tools on the left and the right, rather than swiping down from the top or up from the bottom as you would on a smartphone – although it’s obviously the same theory and becomes second nature if you’re already used to using similar features on your phone or tablet.
Add and remove widgets, Bing search, resize, move and customise the content of your widgets as you please. You can choose to see news and reviews tailored to your interests, windows tips and tricks, new emails, weather forecasts, stock prices, and so on.
As of right now, the options for the widgets themselves are a little limited as they’re all made by Microsoft and are centred on Microsoft content and services, but the system certainly has promise, and once third-party developers start making their own widgets for the Windows 11 Widget Panel, it could be an incredibly useful feature.