Microsoft Teams may just help you get out of that dull work meeting

Sitting through another unnecessary Microsoft Teams call may soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new addition to the service.

Microsoft has revealed it is working on a feature for its video conferencing tool that will allow users to adapt their Microsoft Teams status ahead of proposed meetings.

The feature should mean that users will be able to flag when they are free for a Microsoft Teams meeting, or alternately when they are too busy to attend, or are out of the office.

Microsoft Teams Calendar update

In the official Microsoft 365 roadmap entry for the new feature, officially titled, “Microsoft Teams: Calendar Show As in meetings”, Microsoft explains how it could benefit users with packed schedules.

The company notes how it would allow both organizers and participants of a Microsoft Teams meeting to choose a “Calendar Show As” status to reflect their availability, with options including free, busy or OOF. 

Organizers will also be able to select private meeting functionality, which will allow users to hide meeting details from other users when their calendar is shared.

The feature is still listed as in development for now, with Microsoft estimating a general release date in June 2022. The company says that, when available, the addition will be provided to all PC and Mac users.

The update is the latest in a series of features introduced by Microsoft in an attempt to make hybrid working and online collaboration less painful for users across the globe.

The company recently revealed a separate update entitled “working hours and location” will allow users to set a notice showing where they are working, whether that be at home, in the office, or anywhere else in particular, giving managers more visibility on where their key employees are.

Users of its Outlook email service will also be able to display a second calendar type, with the company noting that users will have “a variety of global calendars” to choose from, including the likes of the Chinese lunar calendar, Indian calendar and the Islamic calendar will soon be available as options within Outlook, so certain holidays or observances are not missed.

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Major iMovie update arrives for iOS and iPadOS to help create movies in an instant

Apple has announced iMovie 3.0, available from today (April 12) which allows users on iOS and iPadOS to more easily compile photos, movies, and music into a home movie thanks to two new features.

iMovie is a popular app from Apple for quickly creating movies and clips on Mac, iPhone and iPad with minimal hassle.

However, Instagram and TikTok have been using AI (Artificial Intelligence) features that make creating and sharing great-looking video clips even easier. For example, they can automatically adapt music to fit video clips. Meanwhile, iMovie was falling behind, with users having to align their music and content manually. But the new update looks to alleviate this with 'Storyboards' and 'Magic Movie'.

It’s rolling out to devices running iOS 15.2 or later and iPadOS 15.2 or later. But Apple declined to say whether these features would also be coming to the macOS version eventually.

What’s new in iMovie 3.0?

Storyboard feature on iPad

(Image credit: Apple)

Storyboards is one of two new features where you can choose from 20 templates to fit the videos, photos, and audio tracks, and each placeholder describes what kind of clip should be in that section of the movie.

This can be helpful for content creators or those who want to test the waters with editing video in general. The feature can guide users with framing their shots and telling a story through their video, and then export it to another app.

When you edit a clip you've already inserted, you can have a voiceover, insert music, trim the clip, adjust the volume, tweak the speed, add titles or delete the clip entirely. If you decide to change a template, the titles and transitions will adapt instead of disappearing and requiring you to start the project all over again.

iMovie 3.0 on iPhone

(Image credit: Apple)

Meanwhile, the Magic Movie feature allows you to select an album of photos and videos, and will compile these into a movie. You can re-arrange and delete clips, and the feature will adapt while keeping the theme of the project intact. This feature will analyze your clips for dialogue and movement and will arrange them to fit the movie you've picked.

There's also helpful descriptions of where to add certain clips, whether it's for a close-up shot or something else to help fit the movie.

You can also pick a soundtrack, such as a file from Garageband, Apple Music, or the Files app for example, and iMovie 3.0 will also adapt to this to fit the video, similar to TikTok and Instagram's takes.

It looks to automate how you can create a movie in a half-hour, without going through many menus to achieve the same result.

Magic Movie reminds us of its trailer feature in iMovie on macOS, where you can create small movies of movie trailers with your clips. This looks to be the next step in this feature that's been available on macOS since 2011.

iMovie 3.0 on iPadOS

(Image credit: Apple)

We asked Apple whether there will be a way of adding live transcriptions to clips. We were told that this would have to be added in another app, like Final Cut on the Mac, which was disappointing, especially as its Clips app can do this on iOS already.

Apple also declined to comment on whether these features were coming to the Mac version of iMovie, but it did say that the reason they’re on iMovie for the iPhone and iPad versions from today is due to the ease that users have in creating and managing their media content on those devices.


Analysis: A much-welcome update to iMovie

iMovie iOS app icon

(Image credit: TechRadar)

iMovie is something that goes as far back as the iLife suite in the early 2000s, where you would have a suite of apps such as iMovie, iPhoto, iWeb, and iDVD, all to help create content on your Mac.

But since iMovie’s appearance on iOS in 2010, followed by an iPad release in 2011, its usage has changed, which makes sense for these new features to arrive on iPhone and iPad first.

Having seen the features in action, it’s surprising how few taps and clicks are required to make a movie from start to finish. It looks like an evolution of the trailer feature above, with full movies now taking advantage of this.

But, it is disappointing that there’s no way to add audio transcriptions for when you’re editing a clip for a Storyboard or Magic Movie project. With Instagram and TikTok already showcasing this feature, it would have made sense for this to come to iMovie 3.0.

However, it’s a significant update that’s going to take advantage of the cameras and the content that every iPhone and iPad user has access to. And with its ease of use, it does have the potential to become a common method for those longer movies you want to share with a social platform, or with friends and family.

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Major iMovie update arrives for iOS and iPadOS to help create movies in an instant

Apple has announced iMovie 3.0, available from today (April 12) which allows users on iOS and iPadOS to more easily compile photos, movies, and music into a home movie thanks to two new features.

iMovie is a popular app from Apple for quickly creating movies and clips on Mac, iPhone and iPad with minimal hassle.

However, Instagram and TikTok have been using AI (Artificial Intelligence) features that make creating and sharing great-looking video clips even easier. For example, they can automatically adapt music to fit video clips. Meanwhile, iMovie was falling behind, with users having to align their music and content manually. But the new update looks to alleviate this with 'Storyboards' and 'Magic Movie'.

It’s rolling out to devices running iOS 15.2 or later and iPadOS 15.2 or later. But Apple declined to say whether these features would also be coming to the macOS version eventually.

What’s new in iMovie 3.0?

Storyboard feature on iPad

(Image credit: Apple)

Storyboards is one of two new features where you can choose from 20 templates to fit the videos, photos, and audio tracks, and each placeholder describes what kind of clip should be in that section of the movie.

This can be helpful for content creators or those who want to test the waters with editing video in general. The feature can guide users with framing their shots and telling a story through their video, and then export it to another app.

When you edit a clip you've already inserted, you can have a voiceover, insert music, trim the clip, adjust the volume, tweak the speed, add titles or delete the clip entirely. If you decide to change a template, the titles and transitions will adapt instead of disappearing and requiring you to start the project all over again.

iMovie 3.0 on iPhone

(Image credit: Apple)

Meanwhile, the Magic Movie feature allows you to select an album of photos and videos, and will compile these into a movie. You can re-arrange and delete clips, and the feature will adapt while keeping the theme of the project intact. This feature will analyze your clips for dialogue and movement and will arrange them to fit the movie you've picked.

There's also helpful descriptions of where to add certain clips, whether it's for a close-up shot or something else to help fit the movie.

You can also pick a soundtrack, such as a file from Garageband, Apple Music, or the Files app for example, and iMovie 3.0 will also adapt to this to fit the video, similar to TikTok and Instagram's takes.

It looks to automate how you can create a movie in a half-hour, without going through many menus to achieve the same result.

Magic Movie reminds us of its trailer feature in iMovie on macOS, where you can create small movies of movie trailers with your clips. This looks to be the next step in this feature that's been available on macOS since 2011.

iMovie 3.0 on iPadOS

(Image credit: Apple)

We asked Apple whether there will be a way of adding live transcriptions to clips. We were told that this would have to be added in another app, like Final Cut on the Mac, which was disappointing, especially as its Clips app can do this on iOS already.

Apple also declined to comment on whether these features were coming to the Mac version of iMovie, but it did say that the reason they’re on iMovie for the iPhone and iPad versions from today is due to the ease that users have in creating and managing their media content on those devices.


Analysis: A much-welcome update to iMovie

iMovie iOS app icon

(Image credit: TechRadar)

iMovie is something that goes as far back as the iLife suite in the early 2000s, where you would have a suite of apps such as iMovie, iPhoto, iWeb, and iDVD, all to help create content on your Mac.

But since iMovie’s appearance on iOS in 2010, followed by an iPad release in 2011, its usage has changed, which makes sense for these new features to arrive on iPhone and iPad first.

Having seen the features in action, it’s surprising how few taps and clicks are required to make a movie from start to finish. It looks like an evolution of the trailer feature above, with full movies now taking advantage of this.

But, it is disappointing that there’s no way to add audio transcriptions for when you’re editing a clip for a Storyboard or Magic Movie project. With Instagram and TikTok already showcasing this feature, it would have made sense for this to come to iMovie 3.0.

However, it’s a significant update that’s going to take advantage of the cameras and the content that every iPhone and iPad user has access to. And with its ease of use, it does have the potential to become a common method for those longer movies you want to share with a social platform, or with friends and family.

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Google Maps could help your business avoid angry late-night customers

Making sure your business' online details are accurate is set to get a lot easier thanks to an upgrade to Google Maps.

The company has outlined how it is using AI to spot any errors or issues with business listings on Maps, particularly concerning opening hours.

Google says its platform brings together information from several Maps and AI tools to predict what business hours are for most companies, and update the information accordingly, making sure potential customers aren't left lacking the details they need.

Google Maps AI

“Over the past few years, businesses have experienced a lot of change — including constantly updating operating hours based on changing pandemic-related restrictions,” Google Maps product managers Liam Bolling and Kristi Bohl wrote in a blog post

“To keep up with this pace of change, we developed a machine learning model that automatically identifies if business hours are likely wrong, then instantly updates them with AI-generated predictions.”

Along with the AI model, Google Maps also looks at when a business profile was last updated, meaning it's important to make sure your company stays on top of any changes. The platform also looks at the hours of other shops nearby, as well as noting the Popular Times data for the business in question. 

Popular Times pulls in anonymized data from users who have opted in to Google Location History to build up a profile of when a business is particularly busy, as well as offering predictions on wait times or the length of time a customer stays in a shop.

If it spots any anomalies – for example, the most popular shopping hours being around 1pm, despite a business saying it doesn't open until 5pm – then Google Maps will update opening hours accordingly.

Elsewhere, the other tools Google Maps uses range from the the obvious (checking the information on a shop's official website) to using Google Street View to spot an opening hours sign in the window. In addition, the company can also call on its local Google Maps community in certain countries to add in their expertise and verify any changes, or as a last resort, use its AI-powered Duplex conversational technology to actually call the store and ask.

“With this new AI-first approach, we’re on track to update the hours for over 20 million businesses around the globe in the next six months – helping you know exactly when your favorite store, restaurant or cafe is open for business ,” Bolling and Bohl note.

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Windows 11 update improves Do Not Disturb mode further to help your focus

Windows 11 is getting a redesigned 'Do Not Disturb' mode in its next major feature update, which aims to eliminate those distracting notifications.

With endless possibilities of procrastination just a click away and notifications constantly vying for your attention, staying productive is not always an easy task.
Thankfully, that seemingly impossible task is one that is made easier by Microsoft’s Focus Assist, which comes handily built into Windows 11. 

Focus Assist allows users to limit notifications, so only chosen priority notifications or alarms go through, offering a variety of options for those looking to cut down on the notifications and distractions during the time your PC is on. 

However, sometimes being given space to focus on a task isn’t quite enough and you need something more to help focus your time, which is where Do Not Disturb aims to help in those situations.

How does 'Do Not Disturb' benefit compared to Focus?

Unlike the other available modes in Focus Assist, the new Do Not Disturb feature shuts off all notifications entirely, sending them straight to the notification center instead. You can focus on your tasks without any interruptions or distracting notification icons catching your eye. 

Microsoft’s recent 2022 Work Trends Index indicated that 35% of employees wanted to spend more time working on solitary or focused work to be more productive.

This harsher-focus Do Not Disturb feature should be what a third of users are looking for at least, so long as they remember to turn it off once they’re done being isolated from the world. 

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Windows 11 update improves Do Not Disturb mode further to help your focus

Windows 11 is getting a redesigned 'Do Not Disturb' mode in its next major feature update, which aims to eliminate those distracting notifications.

With endless possibilities of procrastination just a click away and notifications constantly vying for your attention, staying productive is not always an easy task.
Thankfully, that seemingly impossible task is one that is made easier by Microsoft’s Focus Assist, which comes handily built into Windows 11. 

Focus Assist allows users to limit notifications, so only chosen priority notifications or alarms go through, offering a variety of options for those looking to cut down on the notifications and distractions during the time your PC is on. 

However, sometimes being given space to focus on a task isn’t quite enough and you need something more to help focus your time, which is where Do Not Disturb aims to help in those situations.

How does 'Do Not Disturb' benefit compared to Focus?

Unlike the other available modes in Focus Assist, the new Do Not Disturb feature shuts off all notifications entirely, sending them straight to the notification center instead. You can focus on your tasks without any interruptions or distracting notification icons catching your eye. 

Microsoft’s recent 2022 Work Trends Index indicated that 35% of employees wanted to spend more time working on solitary or focused work to be more productive.

This harsher-focus Do Not Disturb feature should be what a third of users are looking for at least, so long as they remember to turn it off once they’re done being isolated from the world. 

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Windows 11 update has system-wide live captions to help boost its accessibility aims

Despite Windows 11 being sequestered behind hardware requirements such as TPM, Microsoft is doing its best to make its latest OS as accessible as possible for the deaf and hard of hearing communities, with all new system-wide live captions. 

Available today (April 5) after Microsoft's event, the brand new live captions feature allows users who may be deaf, hard of hearing or those who just like subtitles to easily access captions across all audio experiences and apps across Windows. 

Live Captions will also work on web-based audio, allowing users to view auto-generated captions on websites and streaming services that might not otherwise support or have the best captions. 

Unfortunately, it is currently unclear if Microsoft will be bringing the live captions feature to Windows 10, in order to let as many users as possible utilize this useful accessibility feature. 


Analysis: an accessibility win that is not accessible for everyone

There is no denying that more accessibility options are a good thing regardless of where you use them yourself or not, however, Microsoft deserves as much criticism as praise for this new feature as, for now, they’re keeping it exclusive to Windows 11. 

With Windows 11’s growth recently being shown to have dramatically stalled in March, it makes sense that Microsoft’s latest OS may need some more killer features to tempt users into upgrading from Windows 10, however holding accessibility features random certainly is not the way to do it. 

While holding this feature to ransom would be bad enough if upgrading was a simple one-click process, Windows 11 does not make things that easy as it infamously requires TPM 2.0, a feature that many computers, manufactured before 2017, do not have.

Mercifully, captioning services are becoming more and more common across web pages and streaming services, you can even listen to all of our articles, for instance, however, these services all have their potential problems and require individual set up, so it's far from a perfect solution. 

With Microsoft having only just announced this new feature for Windows 11 during their hybrid work event, we can only hope that it is not too long before the tech giant sees sense and brings this feature to older versions of Windows to benefit all users, rather than just those on Windows 11.

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Windows 11 update has system-wide live captions to help boost its accessibility aims

Despite Windows 11 being sequestered behind hardware requirements such as TPM, Microsoft is doing its best to make its latest OS as accessible as possible for the deaf and hard of hearing communities, with all new system-wide live captions. 

Available today (April 5) after Microsoft's event, the brand new live captions feature allows users who may be deaf, hard of hearing or those who just like subtitles to easily access captions across all audio experiences and apps across Windows. 

Live Captions will also work on web-based audio, allowing users to view auto-generated captions on websites and streaming services that might not otherwise support or have the best captions. 

Unfortunately, it is currently unclear if Microsoft will be bringing the live captions feature to Windows 10, in order to let as many users as possible utilize this useful accessibility feature. 


Analysis: an accessibility win that is not accessible for everyone

There is no denying that more accessibility options are a good thing regardless of where you use them yourself or not, however, Microsoft deserves as much criticism as praise for this new feature as, for now, they’re keeping it exclusive to Windows 11. 

With Windows 11’s growth recently being shown to have dramatically stalled in March, it makes sense that Microsoft’s latest OS may need some more killer features to tempt users into upgrading from Windows 10, however holding accessibility features random certainly is not the way to do it. 

While holding this feature to ransom would be bad enough if upgrading was a simple one-click process, Windows 11 does not make things that easy as it infamously requires TPM 2.0, a feature that many computers, manufactured before 2017, do not have.

Mercifully, captioning services are becoming more and more common across web pages and streaming services, you can even listen to all of our articles, for instance, however, these services all have their potential problems and require individual set up, so it's far from a perfect solution. 

With Microsoft having only just announced this new feature for Windows 11 during their hybrid work event, we can only hope that it is not too long before the tech giant sees sense and brings this feature to older versions of Windows to benefit all users, rather than just those on Windows 11.

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Unhappy with the Windows 11 taskbar? The Start11 app offers its help

If you upgraded to Windows 11 and were surprised to see how different the Start menu was, you're not alone. Since its release in October 2021, the latest version of the Taskbar, usually found at the bottom of the desktop screen of every Windows release since Windows 95, has divided its users.

The latest iteration of the taskbar has some confusing design features and updates, including changes to icon pinning. Microsoft acknowledged – and continues to acknowledge – feedback, responding with update releases that in the past, have restored some features. Still, users are expecting faster progress.

This is where Stardock comes in with Start11, its app to improve the start menu. Start11 incorporates additional features to the menu, including visual changes like reverting the look to a Windows 7 start menu, rearranging the layout, and more.

Understanding what an asset Start11 can be for Windows users, TechRadar spoke to Brad Sams, VP & General Manager at Stardock, about how Start11 came to be, and what the company has in store for the program's future.

It's only just begun for Start11

Brad's Start11 config on his PC

(Image credit: Brad Sams)

We first asked Sams what his preferred setup was for his Start11 configuration on his PC. “My preferred setup is with the Start button on the far left next to the weather widget, icons centered and ungrouped, in a dark color,” Sams reveals. “I have attached an image that shows my layout (see above) so you can see it for yourself!”

Why did Stardock decide to create Start11, especially so soon after the launch of Windows 11? “The StartX line of applications (as we refer to them) started with Windows 8 as a way to return the Start menu to that specific version of Windows after Microsoft removed it,” Sams explains. “With Start10, the application allowed users of Windows 10 to reenable a classic Start menu experience with a bit of customization as well.”

“With Windows 11, we wanted to bring back a Windows 7-style Start menu and a modern-style menu that fit the ethos of the OS but was designed for a left-aligned placement,” Sams continues. “As we've worked more on Start11, we've been focusing less on reenabling classic Windows functionality, and more on allowing our customers to completely customize their Windows 11 Start experience. 

Sams told us that because Windows 11 was released with an entirely new Start menu design, the company wanted to add value to it, and was able to do so by allowing the user to tweak the layout. 

“With Start11, you can remove the 'recent documents' section, add folders, change icon sizes, and a whole bunch more,” says Sams. “Our newest update for the app brings ungrouping back to the taskbar, which is ultimately going to accomplish our main goal: making Windows 11 more personal and productive for our users.”

Start11 on Windows 11

(Image credit: Stardock)

We’ve been focusing less on reenabling classic Windows functionality and more on allowing our customers to completely customize their Windows 11 Start experience.

Brad Sams

The Start menu in Windows 11 got a mixed reception when it was first released. We're now approaching a year since Windows 11 was first announced in June 2021, and that reception hasn't changed. We wondered what Sams first thought of the revised Start menu. “I will always applaud Microsoft for trying new designs with Windows; it’s not easy to design software that works for 1+ billion people.”

“It’s clear that the company wanted something fresh and familiar, which is why the included Start menu is centered but also feels a lot like an app launcher from a mobile OS,” continues Sams. “I don’t think that the design is inherently bad, but what it lacks is flexibility. 

Windows 11 is rigid in its layout and doesn’t allow the user to create an experience that matches their workflow,” Sams elaborates. “Instead, it forces you to fit their mold. As an example, while you can left-align your Start menu, it feels out of place because it’s designed for a centered experience. The beauty of Start11 is that if you don’t like certain features (like the search bar being at the top), you can change that.”

We are in the process of evaluating ideas that make sense for our power users, but have nothing to announce currently.

Brad Sams

There was a recent blogpost from Stardock about almost breaking a component in Windows 11 when trying to bring in a new feature. We wanted to know if Sams and the team had experienced any challenges in developing Start11. “When we were building the ungrouping experience that we are shipping with Start 11 v1.2, we had two options: reenable the Windows 10 taskbar experience in Windows 11, or rebuild a new taskbar in-house,” Sams explains.

“The quick and easy way is to simply flip a few registry keys, do a little memory patching, and actually reenable the native Windows 10 taskbar in Windows 11. The problem is that if Microsoft decides to pull any of these assets from the OS, the experience will break, and that’s not a scenario we can support.”

“Many of our corporate customers use our StartX apps because it allows them to keep a static experience across every device despite what Microsoft releases with each OS update,” Sams continues. “To make sure we hold true to this principle, we had to build a new taskbar in-house to be able to support our features for the life of the OS.”

Stardock Start11 on Windows 11

(Image credit: Stardock)

With Start11 constantly being updated, Sams was tight-lipped about what users could expect to see in future updates. “This is where the fun begins. Now that we have an in-house taskbar, the door to add new features to it is wide open,” Sams reveals. “We are in the process of evaluating ideas that make sense for our power users, but have nothing to announce currently.”

Finally, some of us on the team remember using ObjectDock, Stardock's app that would bring the Dock of macOS to Windows. As Start11 enables start menus from previous Windows releases, we wondered if ObjectDock could appear on the app in the future. “ObjectDock is a Stardock classic and was the first app I ever used from the company. In fact, it’s how I got connected to the CEO of Stardock, Brad Wardell, many years ago. That connection eventually led to me joining the company to lead the software team.”

Sams continues: “We have discussed updating the app internally, but currently our objectives are focused on making sure that many of our apps are refreshed for Windows 11. Unlike previous versions of Windows where Microsoft provided a long runway from announcement to release, Windows 11 was announced in June and shipped in October – considering the breadth of the Object Desktop portfolio, we still have a lot of work to do.”

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Unhappy with the Windows 11 taskbar? The Start11 app offers its help

If you upgraded to Windows 11 and were surprised to see how different the Start menu was, you're not alone. Since its release in October 2021, the latest version of the Taskbar, usually found at the bottom of the desktop screen of every Windows release since Windows 95, has divided its users.

The latest iteration of the taskbar has some confusing design features and updates, including changes to icon pinning. Microsoft acknowledged – and continues to acknowledge – feedback, responding with update releases that in the past, have restored some features. Still, users are expecting faster progress.

This is where Stardock comes in with Start11, its app to improve the start menu. Start11 incorporates additional features to the menu, including visual changes like reverting the look to a Windows 7 start menu, rearranging the layout, and more.

Understanding what an asset Start11 can be for Windows users, TechRadar spoke to Brad Sams, VP & General Manager at Stardock, about how Start11 came to be, and what the company has in store for the program's future.

It's only just begun for Start11

Brad's Start11 config on his PC

(Image credit: Brad Sams)

We first asked Sams what his preferred setup was for his Start11 configuration on his PC. “My preferred setup is with the Start button on the far left next to the weather widget, icons centered and ungrouped, in a dark color,” Sams reveals. “I have attached an image that shows my layout (see above) so you can see it for yourself!”

Why did Stardock decide to create Start11, especially so soon after the launch of Windows 11? “The StartX line of applications (as we refer to them) started with Windows 8 as a way to return the Start menu to that specific version of Windows after Microsoft removed it,” Sams explains. “With Start10, the application allowed users of Windows 10 to reenable a classic Start menu experience with a bit of customization as well.”

“With Windows 11, we wanted to bring back a Windows 7-style Start menu and a modern-style menu that fit the ethos of the OS but was designed for a left-aligned placement,” Sams continues. “As we've worked more on Start11, we've been focusing less on reenabling classic Windows functionality, and more on allowing our customers to completely customize their Windows 11 Start experience. 

Sams told us that because Windows 11 was released with an entirely new Start menu design, the company wanted to add value to it, and was able to do so by allowing the user to tweak the layout. 

“With Start11, you can remove the 'recent documents' section, add folders, change icon sizes, and a whole bunch more,” says Sams. “Our newest update for the app brings ungrouping back to the taskbar, which is ultimately going to accomplish our main goal: making Windows 11 more personal and productive for our users.”

Start11 on Windows 11

(Image credit: Stardock)

We’ve been focusing less on reenabling classic Windows functionality and more on allowing our customers to completely customize their Windows 11 Start experience.

Brad Sams

The Start menu in Windows 11 got a mixed reception when it was first released. We're now approaching a year since Windows 11 was first announced in June 2021, and that reception hasn't changed. We wondered what Sams first thought of the revised Start menu. “I will always applaud Microsoft for trying new designs with Windows; it’s not easy to design software that works for 1+ billion people.”

“It’s clear that the company wanted something fresh and familiar, which is why the included Start menu is centered but also feels a lot like an app launcher from a mobile OS,” continues Sams. “I don’t think that the design is inherently bad, but what it lacks is flexibility. 

Windows 11 is rigid in its layout and doesn’t allow the user to create an experience that matches their workflow,” Sams elaborates. “Instead, it forces you to fit their mold. As an example, while you can left-align your Start menu, it feels out of place because it’s designed for a centered experience. The beauty of Start11 is that if you don’t like certain features (like the search bar being at the top), you can change that.”

We are in the process of evaluating ideas that make sense for our power users, but have nothing to announce currently.

Brad Sams

There was a recent blogpost from Stardock about almost breaking a component in Windows 11 when trying to bring in a new feature. We wanted to know if Sams and the team had experienced any challenges in developing Start11. “When we were building the ungrouping experience that we are shipping with Start 11 v1.2, we had two options: reenable the Windows 10 taskbar experience in Windows 11, or rebuild a new taskbar in-house,” Sams explains.

“The quick and easy way is to simply flip a few registry keys, do a little memory patching, and actually reenable the native Windows 10 taskbar in Windows 11. The problem is that if Microsoft decides to pull any of these assets from the OS, the experience will break, and that’s not a scenario we can support.”

“Many of our corporate customers use our StartX apps because it allows them to keep a static experience across every device despite what Microsoft releases with each OS update,” Sams continues. “To make sure we hold true to this principle, we had to build a new taskbar in-house to be able to support our features for the life of the OS.”

Stardock Start11 on Windows 11

(Image credit: Stardock)

With Start11 constantly being updated, Sams was tight-lipped about what users could expect to see in future updates. “This is where the fun begins. Now that we have an in-house taskbar, the door to add new features to it is wide open,” Sams reveals. “We are in the process of evaluating ideas that make sense for our power users, but have nothing to announce currently.”

Finally, some of us on the team remember using ObjectDock, Stardock's app that would bring the Dock of macOS to Windows. As Start11 enables start menus from previous Windows releases, we wondered if ObjectDock could appear on the app in the future. “ObjectDock is a Stardock classic and was the first app I ever used from the company. In fact, it’s how I got connected to the CEO of Stardock, Brad Wardell, many years ago. That connection eventually led to me joining the company to lead the software team.”

Sams continues: “We have discussed updating the app internally, but currently our objectives are focused on making sure that many of our apps are refreshed for Windows 11. Unlike previous versions of Windows where Microsoft provided a long runway from announcement to release, Windows 11 was announced in June and shipped in October – considering the breadth of the Object Desktop portfolio, we still have a lot of work to do.”

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