Windows 11: my report, 7 months in

“We don’t talk about Bruno.” So goes a song that’s been sweeping through the heads of parents and children lately. Which makes me think, perhaps Windows 11 should have been called “Bruno.” I’ve been using Windows 11 for about 7 months (you can read my initial report here) and what surprises me most of all is that people… just don’t talk about it.

Well, I don’t intend to let that stop me. Word has come out that Microsoft is planning to roll its first big update to Windows 11, and it’s not expected to really address a lot of the frustrations that users have. Microsoft, it seems, is finally willing to put its foot down and force users to abandon old habits. That’s good in many ways, but it’s kind of annoying in others.

The good

I have to say that starting with the beta version of Windows 11 there have been very few issues with upgrading. Everything that works before still works. I have yet to run into a program that acts differently than I expected it to. That’s extremely good news. I use my computers for work. I don’t want them to break unexpectedly.

It’s also been fairly easy to get used to the Windows 11 way of doing things. It’s not terribly different. I’m the sort of person who doesn’t like to change a lot of the default settings before I give them a chance. Windows 11 gives me options that work well for a mouse-and-monitor setup, even though it’s clearly designed with touch in mind.

I’m also pleased by little touches like the new system sounds. Alerts are a little more gentle and peaceful, and they don’t linger on screen as long. It’s easier to get work done this way. I don’t get easily distracted, but still it’s nice that they made the experience a little better.

The bad

Why, oh why does Microsoft hate the Start menu? The Start menu was one of their all-time great ideas. It seems like every couple of years, Microsoft tries to change the start menu so much that it becomes useless. With Windows 8 a decade ago, they replaced it with a whole screen full of icons. With Windows 11 they’ve gone the other way.

The list of pinned apps is too short. There’s a whole section for recommended documents which is useless. It’s nice, as I said in my early review, that you can still type the name of an app to find it, but that’s not as quick as just seeing the one you want.

Because Microsoft took away the ability to expand taskbar icons to include the document name, there’s plenty of room on the taskbar for shortcuts to the apps I use. That means in practicality I don’t use the start menu much at all. And really, that’s a shame.

Speaking of the taskbar…

No I still haven’t gotten used to the icons on the taskbar being centered. Yes, I know I can fix it so they aren’t. I keep thinking that if I just let it go a little longer, I’ll get there. Chances are I won’t.

For its relative importance (considering the Start menu’s been hobbled), the taskbar and its icons are too small for me. There are registry hacks to make it larger but I’d rather it was simply a switch in the settings menu. You never know what’s going to happen if you start dipping into the registry.

I can’t help thinking that the taskbar is now more of a pale imitation of the MacOS dock. That system gives you recently used apps on the right side, though, and lets you pin apps to the left. That would work for me. Except Microsoft doesn’t do that.

The obsessively rounded corners and other UI stuff

The first month or so, all I could see were all the rounded corners. I’ve gotten used to it. I can’t say that it really hurts me or helps me. But, looking at the user interface in general, I have to say it’s just a throwback to the early 2000s style. I guess if you were really young in those days, you might have fond recollections of that time and the way that some apps looked and felt. I don’t. Overall I think Windows 11 is a visual step back, but I don’t blame it. I think the whole feeling around user interfaces is going back to unnecessary ornamentation, thick blocky type, and candy colors.

Honestly I don’t care too much either way, but I will say I liked the old way better.

When will we start talking about Bruno? (or Bruno’s next generation?)

I’ve wondered out loud if every other generation of Windows is just doomed to be a dud. Starting with the unloved “Windows Me” and looking at Windows Vista and Windows 8, there seems to be a pattern. Microsoft pushes people in a direction they don’t want to go, people complain, Microsoft relents. This time, there doesn’t seem to be a big fuss. Maybe people have finally accepted that Microsoft is going to win its battle against the Start menu. Maybe they don’t care.

Here in 2022, it’s rare when a person uses a PC for anything but work, school, or paying bills. Gamers will of course use PCs, but there are far more console gamers than PC gamers. The bottom line is that PCs aren’t enjoyable for most people, so a little more annoyance is going to be tolerated. That’s not a great position for Microsoft to find itself in, but there’s no getting around the facts.

Maybe Windows 12 will be better. Chances are we’ll have to wait and see a few more years.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.