Windows 11 deep dive: Checking out the Widgets pane

Windows 11 deep dive: Checking out the Widgets pane

Windows 11 is just a few weeks away. The release date is set for October 5th, and soon many of us will be using the brand-new operating system. If you’re a Windows Insider, you’re probably already aware of the many new features already available in preview. But for everyone else, we’re here to help. As we approach the official release, we’re going to be taking a deep dive into many parts of Windows 11, and this time, we’re focusing on the brand-new Widgets pane.

Widgets are a new way to get access to quick at-a-glance information from Microsoft products and services. It’s somewhat of a successor to the Live Tiles of Windows 10, while also serving as the replacement for the News and interests feature that rolled out earlier this year.

Using and customizing Widgets on Windows 11

Accessing Widgets on Windows 11 is very straightforward. When you first use the new operating system, you’ll probably notice the Widgets icon on your taskbar, represented by the white and blue square. You can also open the widgets pane by pressing Windows keyW on your keyboard.

As the experience is fully powered by Microsoft services, you’ll need to sign in with a Microsoft account to use Widgets. The Widgets pane will look something like this, although you may have different widgets added by default.

Widgets pane in Windows 11

If you want to add widgets, simply click Add widgets, or your profile picture in the top right corners of the Widgets pane. The widgets available right now are — Weather, To Do, Photos, Sports, Entertainment, Traffic, Watchlist, Outlook Calendar, Tips, Esports, Family Safety, and Microsoft 365.

Most of the widgets are self-explanatory, but others may be a bit more complex. The Photos widget show pictures from your OneDrive storage (not your PC), Entertainment highlights movies and shows on the Microsoft Store, and Family Safety lets you keep tabs on your Microsoft family group if you’ve created one.

The Microsoft 365 widget is only available for commercial users of Microsoft 365, and highlights documents with recent updates, changes on SharePoint, and other activity inside your organization.

Once you’ve added all the widgets you want, you can also resize them so they look how you want them to. Some widgets are customizable, so you can track a specific league in the Sports widget, or specific companies in the Watchlist.  To resize a widget, click the ellipsis icon in the corner of the card, and choose from the sizes available. For widgets that can be customized, you’ll also see a Customize widget button.

Right now, all the Window 11 widgets come from Microsoft, but there’s potential that more could be added to make the Widgets pane more useful for you. While it’s not a widget per see, there’s also a search bar at the top, which lets you search the web with Bing.

Managing your news and interests

Aside from the widgets themselves, you may notice there’s a news feed when you scroll down the Widgets pane on Windows 11. This will show you news powered by Microsoft Start, which is the new name for Microsoft News and MSN News. The news list encompasses a lot of topics, and because of that, you might see a lot of things you don’t care about.

Thankfully, you can tailor your interests. To do this, click the Add widgets button or your profile picture, then click Personalize your News Feed in the pop-up window. This will take you to your browser to manage your interests directly in Microsoft Start. You can choose the topics you’re interested in from a selection of categories, as well as choose specific publications you’re interested in or that you want to ignore.

Personalizing news interests in Microsoft Start

Once you’ve set this up, it will affect your experience in every app or page powered by Microsoft Start. For example, the new tab page in Microsoft Edge also includes a news feed, which will reflect the changes you make here.

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of setting everything up, you can always hide individual stories directly on the News Feed by clicking the X button. This lets you choose whether you’re not interested in a particular story or a specific publication, so you can still customize your feed this way and it’ll keep learning from your preferences.

Hiding a story from the News Feed in the Widgets pane

That’s about it for the Widgets pane in Windows 11. Admittedly, it would be a bit more exciting with third-party services also having widgets available, and we can hope that will be the case in the future. As it stands, you have to be somewhat invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, but Windows is so ubiquitous that this isn’t the case for everyone using Windows 11. Regardless, this feature may be interesting to a lot of users, and it has potential.

If you’re interested in trying Widgets and other Windows 11 features, you may want to check whether your PC meets the system requirements for the new OS. We also have a list of PCs that will support the upgrade to Windows 11.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Writer at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.