On The Road With Windows 11
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that last week Microsoft released the first official Dev Channel build of Windows 11. Naturally, this occurred right before I was headed out of town for a few days after the biggest heatwave in the Pacific Northwest. I was able to download and install the build on a laptop last week to provide my early impressions. Being me, I also decided to take that same laptop on the road as my only PC. I figured it would be a good shake down of the OS, and force me to use only it and not Win 10. After using Windows 11 daily last week and since returning to a daily routine that involves Win11 and Win10 I have a few observations.
As discussed last week, I think Windows 11 is beautiful. I love the various in box themes, a more complete dark mode (though still work to do on that frontier), and the simple sounds. It just feels good, and fresh. It’s a pleasure to see the little animations, the transitions, the subtle icon changes, the splashes of color (especially in Settings and the new context menus). I felt compelled and drawn to use it, in fact I don’t think I touched my iPad the entire trip, even for “consumption” tasks for which it is designed.
I have really grown to love the snap layouts, especially the 2×2 and the 1×2 on a 1080p 13” laptop screen. As someone who used Snap frequently in Windows 10, it was so natural to be able to get some of those other snap layouts to work quickly. I also attended my first Teams meeting using Windows 11 (the standard Teams app is the only option at this juncture, and unfortunately wasn’t found in the new Store). There were no issues using it and pairing it with my Bluetooth headset.
The Start Menu changes have been very refreshing, and I have adapted to it faster than I anticipated. The biggest live tiles I used in Windows 10 were the Weather and the Photos for quick glances at both the slideshow and the current outside temp. Both of these items are part of the new Widgets menu and I was pleased to see that. The action center and quick settings separation feels so much cleaner, especially on the small screen of the laptop. It is not as cluttered and I can open each one with a specific purpose in mind.
It’s too early to say one way or the other if the battery life is improved or worsened then a standard Windows 10 configuration. I was using the new battery usage report in Windows 11 and big surprise most of my usage was from Edge. I think at this point it is too soon to say it will be better battery life than Windows 10, the OS isn’t optimized fully yet and at times I ran into a few issues that I know effected battery life because I heard the CPU fans work a little harder on the XPS.
We have to remember (myself included) that this is a DEV Channel OS. This isn’t even Beta, though it is solid, it is still in active development. Yes the core of it is based on Win10 but so many areas that the user interacts with are the Win 11 shell. As such, there were issues with random freezes, or issues with apps not appearing or settings pages not appearing correctly after time. I filled feedback where I could, but some of the issues I didn’t even know how to describe it to make it worthwhile for feedback. It’s like writing a bad helpdesk ticket, and I hate when people do that so I can’t do that to the Windows Team. So, I trudged through it, or rebooted when I ran into those little quirks. I also didn’t realize how often I right-click the Taskbar to run Task Manager. That is not an option in Windows 11. There is a work-around of right clicking the Start button or pressing CTRL-SHIFT-ESC. However my workflow for years has been to drop the mouse straight down form where I am working to hit the Task Manager. I find myself now leaving it open just so I can ALT-Tab to it. I am not the only one struggling with that as I heard Paul Thurrott mention the same thing on Windows Weekly. This is a minor example but when you have so much muscle memory it is a very hard habit to break.
Now that I have returned to work and am going back and forth between Windows 10 and 11 I find myself missing the aesthetics of Windows 11 and the work flow optimizations. Windows 10 is still great, and being a Sys Admin I will be using it for a long time to come in support of my users. However, I find myself looking forward to when my TPM 2 chip comes in the mail so I can upgrade my work desktop to Windows 11.
Last Minute Update: Microsoft just released the first Cumulative Update to Windows 11 that may address some of my Explorer.exe freezes that I experienced last week. Yet another reminder this is development software and to tread cautiously when making it a daily driver.