Windows 11 hands-on: A cleaner OS to keep you productive

The first Windows 11 Insider Preview suggests that Microsoft's next operating system will be more than just a Windows 10 update. Microsoft is making fundamental changes to the way Windows works. This includes a centered taskbar, redesigned Start Menu, and other improvements. It's still Windows and works as it has always. Windows 10 has a strong focus on productivity, but there are subtle improvements that make it more user-friendly. Windows 11 is an OS that both PC enthusiasts and common users will enjoy.9 Photos9 Photos/9The Windows 11 Insider Preview that started rolling out Monday looks very similar to the build we reviewed a few weeks back. The Mac-like taskbar is still centered and full of icons; the rounded corners give off an even more polished feel; and the new Start menu will be controversial. It has pinned shortcuts at the top and recommended files at bottom. There is also a link in top right that allows you to view the complete unfiltered Start menu.Although the Start menu may be different, I have come to like the new changes after using the leaked build for 2 weeks. I have never met anyone who used Windows 10's Live Tiles. These were just remnants of Windows 8's horrible full-screen Start page. It's great to get rid of this legacy.I found small improvements throughout the preview build that felt just right. Instead of having all notifications and system shortcuts in one right-hand pane they are now split across two screens. The Windows 11 taskbar's clock button brings up all your notifications and a complete calendar. The system shortcuts are combined into one screen when you click the Wi-Fi or sound icons.Devindra Hardawar/EngadgetYou can also join other wireless networks and turn Bluetooth off. You can also adjust your screen brightness and volume using the sliders at the bottom. Although it's not much different than Windows 10, the overall design is cleaner and easier to see. Maybe I am just tired of clicking the "More Options" button to expand Windows 10 shortcut settings.Microsoft clearly wants a taskbar interface that features only icons from Windows 11. This is something Microsoft started with Windows 7. However, you could always turn off labels for taskbar icons until Windows 10. Although it made Windows look messy, it was something I liked. I could see the contents of each window before I clicked on them. Windows 11 doesn't have any label options, and Microsoft has no plans to add them. They don't fit in with the neat aesthetic that Microsoft is trying to achieve.Although I initially thought losing labels would be painful, I have gotten used to living with an icon-filled taskbar for the past few weeks. I would gladly give up labels to get better multitasking tools like the new OS's revamped windows snapping. You can now hover your mouse over the maximize button of any app to see a list of areas you can snap it to. This includes the top right or bottom left of your screen. This is much better than simply dragging the screen to a spot and hoping Windows snaps it in place.