Windows 11 widget change could give you flashbacks to Windows Vista – but don’t panic

Windows 11 might be getting the ability to pin widgets to the desktop, and maybe sooner rather than later, as we’ve heard another nugget from the rumor mill to this effect.

Windows Latest tells us that it has seen documents that indicate Windows 11 will ‘soon’ introduce this feature, and that the ability will be present for third-party widgets (as well as Microsoft’s own efforts).

At the moment, Windows 11’s widgets are confined to their own panel (off the taskbar). With this feature, you’ll be able to stick your favorite widgets on the desktop, enabling you to see them and get at-a-glance info all the time, rather than having to dive into the widget panel.

This change has been rumored in the past via Zac Bowden, a respected source of Microsoft-related leaks, who has been claiming widgets will get a new home on the desktop – if you want to put them there – for quite some time now.

The most recent rumor from Bowden held that his sources within Microsoft have confirmed that it’s the software giant’s intention, at least currently, to eventually allow Windows 11 users to be able to pin widgets to the desktop.

Analysis: This isn’t invasion of the widgets

When the topic of widgets on the desktop comes up, you’ll likely be reminded of the gadgets that Windows 7 had – and indeed Windows Vista, going back much further in time. That gives the impression that Microsoft is really turning back the clock with this change, and that’s true to some extent – just remember that having widgets on the desktop isn’t compulsory.

The widget panel will remain in Windows 11, and if you want to use widgets only with that, just don’t move any of them onto the desktop. It’s as simple as that, so it’s not like with this change – if it happens – widgets will suddenly be invading the desktop.

Whether or not the functionality to pin widgets to the desktop is actually inbound is another question. However, it does seem more likely now we’re getting something of a rush of rumors from different sources. That indicates this is a change that might be in the pipeline soon, as Windows Latest asserts.

It also seems more likely to be a move in the cards because Microsoft has been doing a lot of work with widgets recently, making various tweaks, and expanding the size of the panel (in testing). Furthermore, Microsoft has been giving a lot of encouragement to software developers to make their own third-party widgets and bolster the overall ecosystem.

So, it appears to be an area the company is focusing on, trying to make it something bigger that plays more of a part in Windows 11 – a goal that would be furthered by the ability to have widgets on the desktop. With the puzzle pieces fitting together fairly neatly in this respect, we’d be surprised at this point if this wasn’t something that turns up in Windows 11 preview builds in the near future.

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Microsoft’s making Windows 11 faster – and getting inspiration from Vista

Microsoft appears to be making some much-needed changes to Windows 11 to help its new operating system run faster.

As Windows Latest reports, Microsoft is actually undoing one of the changes it made back in 2019, when it added a feature to the Windows File Explorer search box that allowed you to search your OneDrive cloud storage alongside local files. The ‘Recent files’ section of Explorer also got support for online files.

While this addition may have been useful for people who store (or create) a lot of files using Microsoft’s online services, if you don’t use them (or you use alternatives like Google Drive), then this feature is pretty pointless. Even worse, however, is that it made File Explorer run more slowly in both Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Righting wrongs

Because the File Explorer is such an integral part of Windows, it means that if it starts to perform poorly, it can cause your entire PC to feel sluggish.

It’s good news, then, that it looks like Microsoft is looking to address this issue in an upcoming version of Windows 11. An early build that some people have been testing have now got the ability to turn off integration in File Explorer.

While the option to turn it off is hidden away in the rather obscure Group Policy editor tool, it will allow you to stop Explorer from including online files. This option will also stop the Windows 11 Start menu from searching for and displaying online Office documents.

By turning it off, Windows 11 won’t try to connect to and search for online Office files, which should make the operating system as a whole feel faster to use.

Of course, if you do find this feature useful, you’ll still be able to use it, as it’ll remain turned on by default.

Windows Vista-like gadgets to return

Microsoft isn’t just looking at its past to fix mistakes – it seems it’s also taking inspiration from them, as Windows Latest also reports that Windows 11 could see the return of Windows Vista-like gadgets.

It’s no secret that Windows Vista was one of the more unpopular versions of the operating system, so it seems slightly surprising that Microsoft would take any of its features for inspiration for Windows 11.

That’s especially true of gadgets. These were basic apps that you could pin to the desktop and display various information, such as your email inbox. Third party companies were also encouraged to create their own gadgets, which some of them did at first.

However, not only did Windows Vista prove to be unpopular, but its gadgets feature was even more unloved, leading to many companies to abandon support for them.

However, sources have indicated to Windows Latest that Microsoft is planning to return to this idea – but with some key changes. Apparently, they will now be called widgets, and will only be shown in Windows 11’s widget board, and won’t be added to the desktop.

At the moment, the widget board only contains Microsoft-made widgets, so allowing third party support could see widgets become more useful.

There is a risk, however, of history repeating itself. Microsoft needs to ensure that users find widgets useful. If they don’t use them, then third party companies won’t bother making them.

While keeping widgets to the widget board will mean user’s desktops don’t become cluttered, it could also just mean widgets are hidden out of sight. If you don’t use the widget board regularly (and we’d guess most users currently don’t), then you may forget they are even there, limiting how useful they actually are.

What Microsoft doesn’t want to do is add yet another feature to Windows 11 that no one uses. Let’s hope this isn’t the case.

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