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Microsoft tests new Windows 11 Start menu with floating widgets

Microsoft has quietly initiated testing for a potentially intriguing modification to the Windows 11 Start menu, which could introduce a floating panel housing “companion” widgets. This discovery was made by Windows observer Albacore, who stumbled upon the new Start menu feature in the latest test versions of Windows 11, which Microsoft has made available to the public.

Although Microsoft has not made any official announcements regarding this feature, the “Start menu Companions” seem to offer a means for developers to expand the functionality of the Windows 11 Start menu with widget-like capabilities integrated into a floating panel that can be docked adjacent to the Start menu. It appears that developers will have the opportunity to create applications that furnish widget-like information through adaptive cards, which are a platform-agnostic method of presenting UI blocks of information.

These companions will be customizable within the primary Windows 11 Settings section, affording users the ability to install multiple companions and toggle their activation. According to Albacore, these companions seem to have a strong focus on web-centric functionality, akin to the widgets within Windows 11.

If Microsoft decides to proceed with this Start menu feature, it could serve as a response to the absence of Live Tiles, which were removed in Windows 10X and Windows 11. Live Tiles, reminiscent of the animated and flipping icons from the Windows Phone era, provided widget-like information on the Start menu but did not garner widespread support from app developers. Microsoft initially introduced Live Tiles in Windows 8, during a period when the company sought to bridge the gap with its Windows Phone OS. These tiles were intended to enable users to quickly glance at their phone or Start menu and access the necessary information without delay.

In essence, Microsoft’s exploration of the “Start menu Companions” represents a potential evolution of the Start menu’s functionality, offering users a new way to access and interact with information and applications directly from the Start menu interface. By leveraging adaptive cards and a floating panel design, developers may have the opportunity to create dynamic and interactive widgets that enhance the user experience on Windows 11.

Furthermore, the ability for users to configure these companions within the Windows 11 Settings section underscores Microsoft’s commitment to providing users with greater customization options and control over their computing environment. By allowing users to install and manage multiple companions and toggle their activation status, Microsoft is empowering users to tailor their Windows experience to suit their individual preferences and workflow requirements.

Overall, the introduction of “Start menu Companions” could mark a significant step forward for the Windows operating system, offering users a modern and versatile alternative to the traditional Live Tiles while providing developers with a platform to innovate and create compelling new experiences for Windows 11 users. As Microsoft continues to refine and expand the capabilities of Windows 11, the inclusion of companion widgets could play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the operating system and enhancing its appeal to users worldwide.

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