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Windows 11 test build shows extensible Start menu widgets

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  • 2 min read

Microsoft has started testing a floating panel of widgets in the Start menu in a Windows 11 beta build. While the company hasn’t officially announced anything, the feature is present in the latest, publically released test versions of Windows.

First spotted by Windows tipster Albacore in Windows 11 beta build 26212, the feature seems to allow app developers to extend the Start menu with widgets that live on a floating island that can be docked to the left or right of the menu. It also uses adaptive cards, a cross-platform way of displaying information in interactive blocks.

The feature is being called “Start menu Companions” and seems to be Microsoft’s way of bringing back live tiles from old versions of Windows in an interface that sits more in line with Windows 11. The latest Windows release was a major departure from how Windows has been traditionally styled, and we’ve seen consistent updates since Windows 11’s launch to catch up with the rest of the interface to the new aesthetic, including updates to age-old apps like Notepad and File Explorer.

Albacore’s tweet adds that these “companions” will be configurable from Windows settings, allowing users to install multiple companions and enable or disable them individually. Much like the native widgets in Windows 11, these companions also seem to be rather web-centric.

Microsoft was fully committed to live tiles and other information-at-a-glance user interface elements back in its Windows 8 and Windows Phone days. They were introduced as a way to bridge the gap between the PC and mobile versions of Windows and give both operating systems a more cohesive feeling.

However, owing to poor support from app developers and the overall low popularity of Windows 8 and Windows Phone, these elements were slowly phased out of Windows. It’s nice to see them returning, as they can be genuinely useful for the right person, and if supported by enough developers to provide actual, meaningful information.

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: yadullahabidi@pm.me.

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