Windows 11 Wishlist – Here’s what we want to see in the new OS!
Last month, we made a list of 15 features that we want to see in Windows 11. The OS is official now, and for the most part, we know what we’re getting. There’s actually quite a bit. It starts with a big visual overhaul, including a centered Start Menu and taskbar, rounded corners, a new transparent Mica material UX, a redesigned notification center, and more.
But that’s just the shell. Windows 11 is also getting support for Android apps via the Amazon Appstore. That’s going to be built into the redesigned Microsoft Store, which has fewer limitations for developers and more opportunities. Now it’s time to revisit the features I wanted to see, check out what got delivered, and then take a look at what I want to see now.
Features we want to see in Windows 11:
- Live wallpaper
- PowerToys integration
- Free Microsoft Office
- Smart home controls
- Built-in screen recording
- Better inbox apps
- Seamless updates
- Xbox games
- The death of Live Tiles
- One-click uninstallation
- No more ads
- Better touch controls
- For it to work
- Tabs in File Explorer
- Kill the Control Panel
- Classic mode
- Change the way Windows 11 versions work
- iOS support in Your Phone
- Pin widgets to the desktop
We stole some of these features from iOS and Android, and I’m fine with that. A lot of this wish list has to do with making Windows more of a modern operating system that can compete against the likes of Android and iOS. With foldables in the Android space, and the emergence of M1 in the Apple space, both of these “mobile” OS’ are looking to occupy spaces in the consumer PC market. Windows needs to adapt if it wishes to survive another decade in the consumer market.
So let’s see some native live wallpaper support in Windows 11. Android has had it for over a decade, so if a single-core smartphone could do it, so can a Windows PC. Microsoft even has support for it on Xbox consoles. We do have methods to get third-party alternatives working on Windows, but it’s about time for official support.
It shouldn’t be an issue to put the feature on a modern laptop with Windows 11. It’s easy to say it can be done on Android thanks to ARM processors, but we have ARM on Windows now too. We’ve also got much more efficient Intel chips today than we did a decade ago.
If you want a Microsoft operating system that natively supports live wallpapers, you’ll still have to get a brand new Xbox Series X|S. On Windows 11, you’ll still need a third-party utility, unlike on decade-old Android phones.
OK, I don’t actually want to see PowerToys as a feature in Windows 11. I just want to see some of the features Microsoft is offering through PowerToys get integrated within the OS for all users to use. There’s precedent for this. When PowerToys was first introduced all those years ago, it was for power users, and eventually some features were integrated into the OS.
Here are some examples. Fancy Zones lets you create window layouts. In fact, I considered putting proper ultra-wide monitor support on here, but Fancy Zones should cover it. With Windows, you can only put two apps side-by-side. Split-screen works fine for a regular 16:9 monitor, but not so much for an ultra-wide.
Other features like Image Resizer to quickly resize images, and PowerRename to bulk rename files, would be great features in Windows 11. The idea is to help people be more productive, right?
Windows 11 comes with a new feature called Snap Layouts, similar to Fancy Zones. It gives you a variety of window layouts to choose from, and it uses Snap Assist to fill in the other spots. Unfortunately, other fun PowerToys features didn’t make the cut.
Free Microsoft Office
Wait, did I just say Microsoft Office for free? I know, it sounds crazy, but hear me out. I’m a Microsoft 365 Home subscriber and I don’t plan on canceling anytime soon. For one thing, Microsoft does already have a free version of Office, which are web apps. It’s actually pretty good, and will fit the needs of most people. Microsoft could simply install them as PWAs on Windows 11.
Right now, most PCs will offer you a free trial for Microsoft 365, which is ultimately what Microsoft wants you to buy. Let’s just allow people to start with the PWAs and let them upgrade if they need to. It can go along with the removal of ads and bloatware from Windows 11.
I didn’t really expect this, but it would have been nice. It’s not so much about offering free Office, but more about making it easier for people to choose the free version of Office. Plenty of people don’t even know that Office on the web is free. I’d have loved to see that be the default, but this was always a pipe dream.
Smart Home Controls
This one is simple and complicated at the same time. You should be able to control your smart home devices as an integrated feature in Windows 11. One key idea I had with this wish list was that I never want to say that people should use their phone for any certain task. No, the device I’m currently using, any device, should be able to do anything I need to do at that moment.
Here’s where it gets complicated though. For a strong centralized hub of smart home controls, you’d need something like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or even Apple’s Siri. Microsoft Cortana isn’t going to cut it for reasons that are way beyond the scope of this article.
But the most important reason is that Microsoft just doesn’t have the partnerships with smart home vendors. Google and Amazon do, but Microsoft isn’t about to give them prime real estate in its own operating system.
This was another pipe dream, the reason being that Microsoft just doesn’t have the platform for it. We do have a new Quick Settings section in the taskbar, so perhaps that will be extensible. We can still hope.
Microsoft doesn’t care what operating system you use as long as you use its services. That being said, there are some weird disparities between what’s available on Windows, and what you can find on iOS or Android. Outlook is a great example of this.
The keyboard is another. Windows 10 has a touch keyboard, which is fine. The team has put a lot of work into it, and it keeps pumping out new features. But here’s an idea — just use SwiftKey. SwiftKey is incredibly popular on both iOS and Android, and these days, Microsoft owns it. It’s really good and not only would I love to see it on Windows, but it would bring some much-needed consistency between Windows and its mobile products. We’ll get back to consistency later on though.
OK, when I say it happened, you’re still not seeing any SwiftKey branding in Windows. You are getting more customization options for the Touch Keyboard though, so that’s nice. You’re also got things like swipe gestures depending on how it’s positioned.
Built-in screen recording
Yes, you can already record your screen with Windows 10. Well, in a roundabout way, you can. Through the Xbox Game Bar, you can choose to record games, and you can also tell it that certain apps are games and record those too. But some apps don’t work with this workaround.
If you want to just record your whole screen and anything that happens on it, you need a third-party app right now. Both Android and iOS have built-in screen recorders, and it’s time for Windows 11 to follow suit. Microsoft seriously has to know the demand for screen recording on Windows, so it would be nice if this happened in a proper way.
We’ve got a brand-new Quick Settings section, which would be a perfect place for a built-in screen recorder like we have on macOS, iOS, and Android. But it’s not there. You’ll still have to use a third-party app or the limited Xbox Game Bar recorder.
Better inbox apps
Groove Music, Photos, Mail, Calendar, Skype, Weather, OneNote, Movies & TV, and Edge are all examples of Windows 10 built-in apps. Now, ask yourself how many you actually use. OneNote is fantastic, and Edge is my default browser now that it’s made from Chromium. But for me, I try to stay away from the rest.
With Windows 11, let’s do better. Mail & Calendar, which arrive as a bundled set of apps, is probably the best example. They’re actually supposed to be Outlook apps, even though they resemble nothing else from the Outlook family. Outlook is wonderful on Android and iOS, so maybe we can bring that UX over to the Windows side of things.
Groove Music feels like a relic from when Microsoft used to offer a subscription music service. It’s now just sort of a default music player, but it still looks like something that doesn’t really make sense for what it is. Movies & TV is another one in the same predicament because no one in their right mind buys movies or shows from Microsoft. The service isn’t available anywhere besides Xbox and Windows, so that Movies & TV app really just ends up being a default video player, and just like Groove, the product ends up feeling out of place.
Let’s just have better built-in apps in Windows 11. There was a time when Microsoft was focused on doing this stuff well. Let’s do that again.
Apps like Paint 3D, Skype, and 3D Viewer won’t be installed by default, so that’s a start. Settings and the Microsoft Store are getting big overhauls, and they’re both much better than their Windows 10 predecessors. As for other apps like Mail & Calendar, Maps, and more, we’ll have to wait and see.
When you step outside of the enthusiast bubble, it’s pretty clear everyone hates Windows updates. Whether they’re big feature updates or quality updates, most people just want to turn on their computer, get to work, and turn off their computer when they’re done.
But speaking of a modern operating system, seamless updates is something that Microsoft should be taking care of. It’s something we already see on Android and Chromebooks. Android is an even better example, because there’s a lot going on in the background when your phone updates, and there’s a lot that goes on after it reboots.
Let’s get rid of all of the extra time between when you restart your PC to install and update and when it boots up with Windows 11. That reboot time should be the same amount of time as any reboot. Let updates be done in a more seamless manner that doesn’t distract consumers away from what they need to do and when they need to do it. Staring at a blue “Windows is updating” screen for many minutes is not a good way to start your day.
Microsoft is doing its best
When Panos Panay unveiled Windows 11, he said that updates are 40% smaller and that they’ll install much faster. Windows 11 will even try to predict how long your machine will take to reboot, helping you to make a better choice of when to hit that button.
It’s a start, but it’s also not what I had in mind when I wrote this. I dream of how Chrome OS or Android updates. All of the updating happens while you’re using your computer, and then the reboot takes no longer than a regular reboot would. Offline time is as minimal as possible.
Throughout the lifetime of Windows 10, Microsoft has shown a renewed focus on gaming. Gaming chief Phil Spencer is even on Microsoft’s senior leadership team these days, something that can’t be said about Windows and devices head Panos Panay. It makes sense though. Windows is easily the most viable PC gaming platform, and on top of that, Microsoft has a console. That’s not even all, because the most important part is that it has a cloud back-end.
Microsoft has something called Xbox Play Anywhere. These games can be played on Windows 10 or Xbox consoles, so you buy once and then play anywhere. There’s also a renewed focus on PC gaming with more games in the Microsoft Store and Xbox Game Pass for PC. You can even stream Xbox games on your PC now.
Just let me play Xbox games though. In preparation for Halo: Infinite, you can play through Halo: The Master Chief Collection on your PC, but you can’t play Halo 5 because that’s only on Xbox. This would truly be a unique feature in Windows 11.
While this seems simple because Microsoft owns both platforms and it could technically bring them together, it’s not. Video game licensing gets weird, so there may be other issues with bringing actual Xbox games to PC. In the meantime, we’ll just have to play through Xbox Game Streaming.
Game streaming is coming to Windows
Xbox Cloud Gaming is coming to the Xbox app in Windows 11, so you’ll be able to play plenty of the games that you want to. It’s not quite the same as running them natively, but it’s still pretty awesome, and it lowers the barrier of entry when it comes to hardware requirements.
The death of Live Tiles
Live Tiles have been slowly dying off, but frankly, I want to go all-in on this and say that all tiles need to go away. They’re a leftover relic from the days of Windows Phone.
If you’re unfamiliar, Live Tiles are square or rectangular shortcuts for apps that dynamically show different information. For example, you might have an email app with a Live Tile that shows a preview of your latest email. On Windows Phone 8, it was like a notification center on your home screen.
I loved Windows Phone, but I’ve never made use of Live Tiles in my life. I’ve always found the notifications to be too slow to appear, or I never wanted to wait through the Tile to cycle through its information. I’ve also always found them to be too busy, with too much stuff moving around.
Windows 10 brought this to the desktop, where they were even more useless. They sit in the Start Menu, so you’d have to open your Start Menu to read these things. Live Tiles have slowly gone away, and Tiles have become a bit more stylish, being transparent and matching the theme.
But get rid of them. Anything with sharp corners needs to go away in Windows 11. Just give us simpler icons to click on like every other operating system.
Live Tiles are dead. End of story. Good riddance.
This one is pretty simple. In Windows 10, there are two ways that apps get uninstalled. If the app came from the Microsoft Store, you right-click it in the Start Menu and click ‘uninstall’. For everything else, and this is most apps, you have to go into the Control Panel, find the list of apps, double-click on the one you want to uninstall, and work your way through whatever experience the software vendor designed for its own uninstall process.
Let’s go with the first one please, for all apps. Just let me right-click and uninstall. Let’s make it a feature of Windows 11.
Store apps are more modern because they’re packaged, whether they’re Win32 or UWP apps. It makes them easy to remove, just like on modern operating systems like Android and iOS. Unpackaged Win32 apps that come from the web just spew files all over your system, changing registries and such along the way.
There are several solutions for this. One is to make sure all apps are packaged, possibly doing it during the installation process. Another is for Windows 11 to just be smarter about cleaning up apps that get uninstalled. If it does the latter though, my second request would be that the OS should make sure everything is gone. The pain point of allowing the software vendor to create its own uninstallation experience is that the company can choose to leave behind whatever it wants to leave behind on your system.
This is a problem that a modern operating system should solve, and the user shouldn’t have to think about it.
The new Microsoft Store opens up the storefront to a lot more apps, and there’s a much lower barrier of entry. But still, let’s figure out a way for the OS to figure out uninstallations.
No more ads
Windows 8 was the first version of the OS to have an app store, and it wasn’t successful. Not a lot of companies developed for it, and the ones that did wouldn’t update their apps. When Windows 10 came along, Microsoft announced a big win by saying that Candy Crush Saga was coming to the OS.
The other half of the announcement was that Candy Crush Saga was going to be pre-installed on every installation of Windows 10. That was the beginning of ads in Windows. Plenty of other apps followed suit, and it often varied by PC installation. In the old days, bloatware came from OEMs, but with Windows 10 and OEMs making Signature PCs, bloatware actually came from Microsoft.
This should stop with Windows 11. The only pre-installed apps should be inbox apps like Mail, Calendar, OneNote, Photos, and so on.
Even aside from that, we need fewer ads. Every time I set up a new PC, I get a notification in Windows to activate a Microsoft 365 trial. That happens even though I’m signed in with my Microsoft account and I’m already a subscriber. Let’s bring back Solitaire and Minesweeper too, because while those are in the Microsoft Store, they’re loaded up with advertisements.
Let’s return to the Windows 7 era where the OS is just the OS. It’s a gateway between the user and the apps you want to access. Stop trying to sell me things, stop giving me pop-ups trying to get me to use new features, and just let me open Edge and do my work.
Let’s make it simple. If it has either a call to action or it’s a pop-up I have to clear in order to get back to my workflow, I don’t want the feature in Windows 11.
There are fewer pre-installed apps
This was a pipe dream and I knew it when I wrote it, but I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t include it on the list. Windows 11 does seem to get rid of a lot of pre-installed third-party apps, but we’re still in early testing. Now, if Microsoft could drop the ads on the new tab page in Edge, stop sending OS notifications when I have them turned off, and more, that would be great.
Better touch controls
Windows 8 was an operating system that seemed to be exclusively designed for touchscreens. When Windows 10 came out, the goal was to take the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8, and put them into one product. But if you were a tablet user, you probably saw that Microsoft scaled back a bit too much.
Windows 11 should be good for touch-enabled PCs, and that’s the one feature we already know is coming. If you don’t believe me that a Surface Pro 7 isn’t as good of a touch experience as an iPad, then you haven’t tried an iPad. But this is the problem with Windows. iPadOS was built from the ground-up for a touch-first experience. Windows wasn’t. Windows was built to be used with a mouse and keyboard, and then adapted to also be used with touch.
We have things in Windows 10 like tablet mode, where the Start Menu goes full-screen. If you tap on a text box, the touch keyboard appears; well, it appears if you’re lucky. Honestly, if Microsoft wants to get started with better touch controls, the team needs to put down the pen. Windows tablets and convertibles are really big on pen usage, but pens should be something to enhance the experience, not a necessity. Make sure it works great with your finger, and then add pen features.
Luckily, this is one thing we’ll definitely see in Windows 11.
Windows 11 is very much centered on better touch controls, and I knew this when I wrote this. It supports three and four finger gestures, which are the same you already know from the Precision touchpad gestures. It’s a much better experience. I still don’t think I’d prefer it over an iPad though.
Consistency always seems to be the Achilles’ heel of Windows. This is a problem that stretches back to the Windows 8 era, where we had separate desktop and Metro environments. Even though Windows 10 cleaned some things up, the consistency issue got worse.
With Windows 10, we still had the legacy Win32 apps, and we had the Windows 8 Metro apps, but we also got new UWP apps. They all looked pretty clearly different. And then it got even worse.
A couple of years after Windows 10 came out, Microsoft announced the Fluent Design System. Fluent was set to arrive in phases, and that basically meant that it was going to evolve over time. It had elements like Acrylic transparency, and the whole idea was that it was one design system that would work well between 2D and 3D environments. After all, UWP apps were supposed to work on anything between a traditional computer and a mixed reality headset.
It didn’t work out too well. Fluent shipped on schedule, and almost no one updated their apps for it; sadly, that even includes Microsoft. You’d have thought that with this big announcement of a new design language in Windows, that Microsoft would have at least its own apps ready on day one. It didn’t. Even parts of Windows didn’t get phase one elements until later on. It was this weird issue where Microsoft would be moving to Fluent phase two and it would still be rolling out phase one in various products.
In Windows 11, a key feature can simply be consistency. This also comes down to the better inbox apps I mentioned above as well. Being that Windows 11 is very much Windows 10 version 21H2, I really hope it’s not just using the same old UWP inbox apps that Windows 10 has. I hope they’re designed in line with Windows 11.
It seems to be happening
Rounded corners are showing up throughout the OS, and if you’ve got something that’s built for Windows 10, you’ll know it. Microsoft has updated Office and Edge through Insider channels already, and it seems to be moving pretty quickly with that.
But also, from my own testing, it seems to work well. I don’t notice behavioral changes between when I’m using a UWP app or a Win32 app. It seems to just work.
For it to work
OK, just throw the rest away. Make it work. Every time I get a BSOD on my PC, it sends a note to Microsoft about what happened. With Windows 11, go through every single bug report and fix every one of them. That’s it. That’s a Windows 11 feature, and the best one there could be.
Stop having me reinstall drivers. In fact, I don’t want to have to think about the Device Manager ever again. That’s one of the first things I noticed when using the new iMac. I went to print and my printer was just there. On a Windows PC, I go to print, then I have to choose the option to add a new printer, then it launches Settings, then I choose the option to add a printer again, then it searches for printers on my network, then I have to install the printer, and finally, I have to restart the print dialog on the document that I was trying to print because Windows isn’t smart enough to add it itself. The experience is so long and needlessly cumbersome, it makes you wonder how average users have gotten used to it.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s almost a miracle that Windows works at all. Windows 10 alone is currently on over 1.3 billion devices, and those include thousands and thousands of configurations with different CPUs, GPUs, RAM, storage, manufacturers, peripherals, and so on. Obviously, Apple only needs to work with a handful of systems. And yes, Windows works 99% of the time. But when it doesn’t, it’s absolutely infuriating.
That’s why my number one request for Windows 11 is that it should just work. Stop trying to win me over with bells and whistles I don’t even want like Paint 3D, Story Remix, and more, and just make things work. Windows 11 needs to be a platform that gets out of my way when I want to work.
We’ll have to wait and see
I’ve installed Windows 11 on so many PCs that I’ve lost count. It’s just so good and I love everything about it. I didn’t feel that way about Windows 10. It seems great, and it seems to be the best version of Windows yet. As for if it will actually work when it launches, we’ll have to wait and see.
Windows 11 is official now, and anyone with compatible hardware can test it out. I wouldn’t expect much to change beyond what was announced, but anything is possible. Also, Windows 11 is going to get yearly feature updates, so even if our wishes don’t come true with the initial release, it might in the future.
Tabs in File Explorer
This is one of those features where I smacked my forehead after publishing this article, because it should have been in there. In fact, every app should have tabs. Why doesn’t Office have tabs? I digress.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had multiple instances of File Explorer open, just wishing they could be one window. The even stranger thing is this is one of those things that’s just universally agreed upon. If Microsoft did this, someone would make an “everyone liked that” meme. It just doesn’t get done, for some reason.
Every once in a while, something happens that fundamentally changes how we use computers. Mainstream internet was one, then broadband internet was another. The first personal computers were one, and then we had the modern smartphone more recently. But a software change that fundamentally changed how we used PCs was tabbed browsing. It feels like tabs have been here forever. But now we have to ask why there aren’t more things with tabs. It just makes sense.
Kill the Control Panel
The Control Panel has been part of Windows for decades. With Windows 8, Microsoft introduced a Settings app that duplicated some of the functionality, and for the last decade, the company has been gradually killing off parts of the Control Panel and moving them into Settings. It’s time to get rid of this thing.
Microsoft has this habit of trying to do so many things at once that it never really gets anything done. We saw this with Fluent Design, among other things. Migrating the Control Panel to a new system shouldn’t take a decade, over the course of three major versions of Windows. I’m sure it’s on someone’s To Do list in Redmond.
Also, if you can’t kill the Control Panel, modernize it (oh wait; that’s Settings) and make it support dark theme. This also goes for the Registry Editor, Device Manager, Task Manager, and other ancient parts of Windows that haven’t been touched in ages.
Maybe it seems counterintuitive after complaining about legacy components in the OS, but Windows 11 should have a classic mode. This is something that used to exist in Windows. You’d often have the ability to go and switch the UX back to the look and feel of the previous version. This is especially good for businesses.
Windows 8 didn’t do this. It forced the new, jarring environment on users. Windows 10 didn’t have a classic mode either, because frankly, who wants to go back to Windows 8? Windows 11 should give users the option to switch to the Windows 10 UX. If fact, there was a registry tweak you could do to get the old Start Menu back, but Microsoft removed it.
At this point, it seems like we’re just going to have to wait for some customization utilities.
Change the way Windows 11 editions work
I almost called for eliminating Windows 11 SKUs with this one, something that we know isn’t happening. After all, it’s the only operating system with SKUs like Home, Pro, Pro for Workstations, Enterprise, and Education. Besides the fact it’s weirdly confusing, it also creates a very real problem.
Most PCs come with Windows 11 Home. You could spend $3,000 on a gaming PC, and that’s what you’d get. But as we know, people don’t always buy gaming PCs for gaming. They use them for things like video editing, software development, and more. But even after buying a super-premium PC, you still have to shell out $99 for the upgrade to Windows 11 Pro that will let you run Hyper-V.
Most of the features that come with Windows 11 Pro over Windows 11 Home aren’t significant to the end user, although Windows Sandbox might be. Still, it’s a gotcha moment. You go out and spend thousands of dollars on the best and most powerful PC you can find, and you get home to realize you need to pay to set up a Hyper-V VM.
iOS support in Your Phone
Microsoft’s Your Phone app is the company’s attempt to link your phone and your PC, all without having a mobile platform of its own. Both Apple and Google offer integrations between their desktop and mobile platforms, so Microsoft is trying to recreate this value proposition. However, it doesn’t work with iOS.
This is the part where we all blame Apple for its locked down operating system and say that Microsoft is simply doing the best it can do. The excuse would work even better if other third-party vendors weren’t able to work with iOS.
But they are. That’s where Dell Mobile Connect comes in. Dell has actually managed to get feature parity between iOS and Android, including things like file sharing and screen mirroring. That’s right; if you record a video with your iPhone and you’ve ever had that nightmarish experience of transferring it to a Windows PC, Dell Mobile Connect does it roughly as fast as AirDrop does. And of course, it sends and receives texts too.
Again, the popular excuse is Apple’s product is just too locked down and it’s not Microsoft’s fault. That’s just not true though, since Dell does it, and does it well.
Pin widgets to the desktop
Call this an iPadOS feature if you want, because I have a feeling this is how it’s going to go. iPadOS 14 added redesigned widgets to a dedicated section in the UI, and with iPadOS 15, Apple recognized its mistake and allowed iPad users to pin widgets to their home screens, just like iPhone users could already do.
Widgets have made a return in Windows 11. There’s a dedicated widgets button in the taskbar that opens up to a dedicated widgets section. You can reorganize them, resize them, customize them, add more, and remove some, but you can’t pin them to the desktop.
This seems like a common sense feature. I’d bet that once Microsoft has completed it, its next move is going to be to let users pin widgets to the desktop.
What are the feature additions that you would like to see on Windows 11? What’s on your wishlist? Let us know in the comments below!