Windows 11 For Dummies
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Six years after saying Windows 10 was the “last” version of Windows, Microsoft released Windows 11 on October 5, 2021. Although some people say it’s just Windows 10 with a new coat of paint, Windows 11 adds a few new features, removes some old ones, and changes the look and feel of Windows in some subtle ways. These tips help you work with the latest edition of Windows, Windows 11.

The biggest changes that come with Windows 11

Microsoft designed Windows 11 around security and power. It requires a special trusted platform module (TPM) chip to run. That special chip makes your PC more secure, but at a price: Many older PCs lack a TPM chip, so they won’t be able to upgrade to Windows 11.

Windows 11 also brings these big changes to your PC:

  • Taskbar. For many people, the biggest difference in Windows 11 is the taskbar. All the icons are now centered on the taskbar, instead of lined up from left to right. No longer living in the lower-left corner of the screen, the Start button is now the leftmost icon on the centered taskbar.
  • Start menu. The Start menu no longer includes live tiles: square icons that served as constantly updating marques to display the current news, weather, mail, and other information. Instead, the Start menu shows three rows of icons along its top half, with icons for frequently used apps on the bottom half.
  • Widgets: To make up for the Start menu’s lack of live tiles, Microsoft took the concept and created the Widgets panel: A strip of tiles that update to show the latest news, traffic information, your newest photos, and other information.
  • Teams Chat: In an effort to cash in on the Zoom video chatting craze from the pandemic, Microsoft built a video chat program into Windows 11. Called Teams Chat, it lets you hold video chats and exchange messages with friends, family, and coworkers.
  • Updates: Microsoft treated Windows 10 as an ongoing service, and it released two big updates to Windows 10 each year. That relentless pace slows with Windows 11, thankfully. Microsoft pledges to update Windows 11 only once a year.
  • Apps: Microsoft updates some of Windows 11’s apps on a daily or weekly basis, adding new features, removing unpopular ones, and fixing problems. The updates arrive automatically through the Microsoft Store app. That spares you the trouble of searching for the latest updates, it also brings surprises: Sometimes your apps no longer look and behave like they did the day before.
  • Stringent hardware requirements: In a huge break from the past, Windows 11 requires a powerful PC built within the past two or so years. Chances are you won’t be able to upgrade your old Windows 10 PC, and certainly not your Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC.
  • Cortana. Once baked directly into the Windows 10 Start menu and taskbar, Microsoft has completely detached Cortana from Windows 11. If you don’t like Cortana, this will be welcome news. If you miss the ol’ sport, click the Start button, type “cortana,” and the digital assistant will rise to do your bidding.
  • No Tablet mode. Windows 11 no longer includes a Tablet mode, which made Windows behave differently on touchscreens. Instead, Windows 11 looks and behaves the same on both desktop PCs, laptops, and tablets.

If your Windows PC is powerful enough to run Windows 11, it will probably update automatically through Windows Update in late 2021 or early 2022. If it’s not powerful enough, Windows 10 will keep running until October 2025. At that point, Microsoft will stop issuing security patches for Windows 10, and start nagging you to buy a new PC.

Keyboard and touchscreen shortcuts in Windows 11

For many years, it’s been easy to place two windows side by side on the desktop. Windows 11 expands on that concept, letting you easily place even more windows side by side. With all your windows visible on the desktop, it’s much easier to copy and paste information between them.

In fact, when you drag a window to a corner, Windows 11 offers onscreen grids that help you position all your open windows.

Windows 11 also improves virtual desktops, a way of creating several separate desktops. You can align one project’s windows and programs on one desktop, for example, and then switch to a second desktop to place windows for a separate project.

And to benefit touchscreen owners, Windows 11 offers new commands for manipulating actions onscreen, all described below:

Snapping Windows

To Do This… …Press These Keys
Snap window to upper-right corner Windows key+→, and then Windows key+↑
Snap window to upper-left corner Windows key+←, and then Windows key+↑
Snap window to lower-right corner Windows key+→, and then Windows key+↓
Snap window to lower-left corner Windows key+←, and then Windows key+↓

Virtual Desktops

To Do This… …Press These Keys
Create new virtual desktop Windows key+Ctrl+D
Close current virtual desktop Windows key+Ctrl+F4
View current virtual desktops Windows key+Tab (The desktops appear as thumbnails along the screen’s bottom edge.)
Switch between virtual desktops Windows key+Ctrl+← or Windows key+Ctrl+→

Touchscreen controls

To Do This… …Do This
Open the Widgets panel Slide a finger inward from the left edge.
See the current month’s calendar and the Notifications pane Slide a finger inward from the right edge.
Minimize all open apps to the taskbar and show the desktop Slide three fingers down the screen.
Place your minimized windows back Slide three fingers back up the screen.
To switch quickly between open apps Slide three fingers to the left or right.
To switch between any open virtual desktops Slide four fingers to the left or right.

If your laptop includes a trackpad rather than a touchscreen, many of these same gestures work on your laptop as well.

Windows 11 touch commands

Even without Tablet mode, Windows 11 works quite well on touchscreens, whether they’re built into tablets, laptops, or even desktop monitors. When faced with a touchscreen device, these commands will help you maneuver through Windows 11. (The term swipe simply means to slide your finger along the screen.)

  • Press and hold: You can see detailed information without having to commit to an action. In some cases, pressing and holding opens a menu with more options.
    • Mouse equivalent: Hover over an item to see more options; if that doesn’t work, click the mouse’s right button.
  • Tap to perform an action: Tapping something causes an action, such as launching an app, following a link, or performing a command.
    • Mouse equivalent: Click an item to perform an action.
  • Slide to drag: Your fingertip can drag items across a tablet’s screen just like sliding a piece of paper across your desktop. Sliding is mostly used to pan or scroll through lists and pages, but you can use it for other interactions, too, such as moving an object or for drawing and writing.
    • Mouse equivalent: Click, hold, and drag the item. A scroll bar often appears at a screen’s edge, letting you shift your view by dragging the box embedded in the scroll bar.
  • Pinch or stretch: Place two fingers on the screen and then move them as if you were pinching or stretching a sheet of paper. The onscreen image expands or shrinks accordingly.
    • Mouse and keyboard equivalent: Hold down the control key on the keyboard while using the mouse wheel to grow or shrink an item on the screen.
  • Rotate to turn: Hold down two fingers onscreen and rotate them, just as if you were moving a sheet of paper on your desktop. As your fingers move, so does the onscreen object.
    • Mouse equivalent: None.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Andy Rathbone is a Windows guru whose expertise has been helping Windows users for more than 25 years. He is the author of all editions of Windows For Dummies, the bestselling computer how-to book of all time. Andy answers Windows questions and shares insights at andyrathbone.com.

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