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All about the on-screen changes in Windows 11

We start our look at Windows 11 for Office users with a look at the on-screen changes to the Start menu, taskbar, Explorer, app corners, window positions and grouping, virtual desktops, dark mode and better screen accessibility.  Plus which versions of Microsoft Office will work and look on Win11.

See all the coverage of Windows 11

Win11 will be an optional free update for Windows 10 computers that are compatible, (we’ll talk about that below).  Windows 10 will be around until at least October 2025

Windows 11 has been called ‘much anticipated’?  Really?   I suppose it’s interesting for those of us who write about computers for a living but I doubt most Windows users are too excited. In fact, many will be a little concerned about changes and adapting to something new.   To many customers, Microsoft’s constant changes aren’t a good thing at all.

Here’s what in Windows 11 that might interest or affect Microsoft Office users.  We’ve used our own images from the Win11 preview wherever possible.

Center Start menu

The Start menu is moving from the left side button to the center.  Please contain your excitement and see a doctor if pain persists </sarcasm>.

The talk of “Start Menu” in the center isn’t strictly right.  The taskbar has changed and the Start Menu is part of that.

Here’s the new centred Taskbar, using the optional Dark Mode. The taskbar buttons (Start, Search, Desktops, Widgets, Edge, Explorer and Store) are all centered.

Microsoft likes to add some flashy and obvious changes so people feel they are getting something new and exciting.  They do the same with Office, changing the ‘look and feel’ with each version.  It’s the software equivalent of new ‘go fast’ stripes on a car.

Happily, the Start Menu can be returned to the left corner (Settings | Personalization | Taskbar).  However, the ability to group apps into named areas and folders has been dumped which is very annoying.

The ‘Recommended’ part of the Start Menu is a little more than the usual ‘Most Recently Used’ or MRU file list. It lists documents opened on the computer and smartphones linked to the same Microsoft account.

Quick Settings

Quick Settings menu changes looks quite different in Windows 11 and now has the volume control. It can also have media playback controls for videos/music playing in the Edge browser or streaming services.

The Win + A shortcut opens Quick Settings in Win11 instead of the larger Notifications and Quick Settings pane in Windows 10.


Win + N is a new shortcut for the Notifications pane which will include a calendar view. Clicking on the time/date area in the taskbar brings up the same pane.

File Explorer

Explorer gets a refreshed look but little or no changes in how it works.

An example of how Windows 11 look hides the same core technology is shown in the deeper levels of Explorer settings.  The same Folder Options and drive properties dialogs as in Windows 7/8/10 appear, not even changing to the dark mode setting!

Same goes for a lot of the superficial changes to Windows apps like Paint, Photos and Notepad.  There’ll be a lot of humbug about streamlined interfaces and hybrid user needs. 

Smooth corners

Windows 11 has ‘smooth’ corners (Microsoft’s term) what everyone else would call ‘rounded’ corners.

Microsoft Office on Windows 11

Office 365 on Windows 11 will look a little different. As you can see, the current Office doesn’t change in any significant way, aside from rounded corners.

Office 365 is getting a ‘visual refresh’ for both Win10 and Win11 but the current options like Colorful, Dark and Light should still be available.

Office 2019, Office 2021 and Office LTSC will run on Windows 11.  Earlier versions of Office will also run, most likely any Office releases that also work on Windows 10.

Window positions

A more useful change is an obvious and direct way to position program windows on the screen.  Windows 10 has ways to move two apps to half the screen each, but they aren’t obvious and confuse people when they trigger the trick accidently.

At last, Windows 11 will have a menu of windows position options to choose from. Hover over the maximise/resize icon at top left of a window then click in the square you want the current app to move into.

Apparently, we’re also getting ‘three window’ options with either equal width or the middle larger.

Source: Microsoft

What’s missing is two windows ‘across’ or landscape mode to complement the vertical side-by-side.

Window Grouping

In the current Win11 Preview is a window grouping feature linked to windows positioning.  Here, Excel and Word are grouped.

Clicking on the group brings both windows to the foreground.


Windows 10 already has virtual desktops so you can switch between overall screen views for different tasks.

In Windows 11 those desktops can be shared between different Windows computers using your account.  For example, a view on your desktop computer can automatically appear on your laptop.

Desktops are also made obvious with a Task View button on the taskbar ….

Since Timeline is out of Windows 11, the button just reveals the virtual desktops.

Dark Mode

Windows 11, like recent versions of Windows 10, has an optional Dark Mode. But the default choice light/dark is changing.

It’s being reported that all commercial versions of Windows 11 will ship with dark mode enabled by default.  Admins might want to check that before deploying.

Consumer editions will default to light mode, just as they do now.

System Themes and Accessibility

There are more themes available to quickly change the overall Windows 11 look and you can jump to the Microsoft Store to get more (free or paid).

Under Accessibility | Contrast themes gives some easier and better choices than the stark ‘High Contrast’ part of Windows 10.

Left ALT + Shift + PrintScreen can toggle a Contrast Theme on/off (it turns on High Contrast in Windows 10).

See all the coverage of Windows 11

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