Windows 11 Insider Preview first look: Hands on with the new features

Windows 11 Insider Preview first look: Hands on with the new features

Microsoft released the first Windows 11 Insider Preview build the other day. Other than an early leak, it’s our first real look at Windows 11, and there’s a lot more here than there was on that original leaked build.

Windows 11 layout selection

A couple of weeks ago, we already looked at some key things. The most notable addition in Windows 11 is the new Start Menu, which is now floating and centered. The taskbar is centered now too. Another thing we got an early look at was Snap Layouts and Snap Groups, which let you snap apps to more positions, something that was only possible in Windows 10 with a utility like PowerToys.

Windows 11 Settings app

One of the things that’s new in this build is the new Settings app. It’s completely redesigned, similar to what we see on iPadOS. There’s a navigation panel along the left side, with a main page on the right. On content pages, there are various submenus that go to deeper levels of settings. There’s also a breadcrumb trail so you can easily find your way back to a different page in the hierarchy, or you can just use the navigation panel to go somewhere else.

Windows 11 Microsoft Store

The new Microsoft Store has arrived as well. It’s an entirely new UX to play around with, although it doesn’t have actual new features yet. There are more Windows apps, as there are fewer restrictions, but Android apps aren’t here yet. The Amazon Appstore and all Android support is coming in some future preview build.

That’s not all, because there’s a lot of new stuff. There are new Touch Keyboard customization options. This was something that was discovered a while back, but didn’t make its way into the leaked build. Similar to SwiftKey on Android and iOS, you can set themes and backgrounds for the Touch Keyboard.

Windows 11 widgets

Widgets were in the leaked build, but now we know a little bit more about them. You can move them around, customize them, and add more, but they don’t seem to be open to third-party widgets yet. Instead, you have a selection of stuff made by Microsoft, such as photos from OneDrive and Microsoft To Do. For the most part, it seems like a reworked News and interests.

Windows 11 File Explorer

The new File Explorer is finally here, and it’s familiar yet different. It has the new, colorful icons that debuted in Windows 10 testing a while back, but it’s also got a simplified ribbon and also, simpler context menus. You’ll see menu items to show more options, so if you’re looking for something more advanced, you’ll be able to find it.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the video below for our first look at Windows 11 Insider Preview build 22000.51.

If you want to check out Windows 11 build 22000.51, take a look at our guide for getting started. Note that it’s not available for all Windows 10 PCs, as the system requirements have been raised significantly with Windows 11.

About author

Rich Woods
Rich Woods

Managing Editor for XDA Computing. I've been covering tech from smartphones to PCs since 2013. If you see me at a trade show, come say hi and let me ask you weird questions about why you use the tech you use.