Windows 11 First Look at New Visual Design – Not Yet a Fan

Thanks to a recent article by Paul Thurrott, I finally convinced myself to give Windows 11 a try. I was hesitant at first because of all the negative information regarding some of Microsoft’s choices – and I do not mean Secure Boot and TPM. I was not sure if I wanted to support this behavior. Be that as it may, maybe a topic for another day, what finally convinced me was the fact that Secure Boot must not even be enabled. It is enough that the system supports it. This means I can still run a Linux installation in parallel, which I did not want to give up easily.

You must understand that these are really only first impressions. I have not spent hours upon hours with Windows 11 and dug deep into the system. It boils down to an opinion on the visual presentation, the most glaring change compared to Windows 10. Teaser: I do have some mixed feelings about it.

The big story is obviously the rounded corners everywhere. The blocky Minecraft appearance of Windows 10 is definitely a thorn in my eye, and I have wanted a visual overhaul for a long time. At first look, the new UI looks very nice. But then I started clicking around, and what excitement I had went south pretty quickly.

I first brought up context menus by right-clicking the Taskbar and items in File Explorer. The Taskbar does not give you much anymore, so I tried the Windows Start button and looked at the shutdown menu. I use this every day to put my work laptop to sleep, so I know exactly how it looks.

Here is the Windows 10 version for reference.

Now, the Windows 11 variant.

Do you also feel claustrophobia? I understand the concept of information density. This, however, looks disproportionately cramped to me. It is transparent. Yay! But it seems totally wrong. Why is everything shoved together as if every millimeter counts, like in an Amazon warehouse?

Sticking with context menus, a pet peeve of mine also in the Windows 10 days, let me show you how the old menu looks when you decide to view all the options because the “decluttered” default hides everything useful.

When I meant cramped before, then I guess this is Hulk-smashed. Or like Wile E. Coyote being flattened to the height of a pizza by an anvil. Did you notice how the bottom of the “y” in “library” ends flush with the blue highlight? Padding anybody?

The next item on my list is the dropdown menu of the File Explorer’s breadcrumbs navigation bar.

Why does this not come with a fresh coat of paint? I guess there is proof that underneath Windows 11 is just Windows 10 😉.

Let me show one more File Explorer image. Let me state again, I did not do much other than clicking around to look at the UI. Suddenly, I get this weird glitch.

We are moving towards winter, so maybe this is an easter-egg?

Marching towards my final samples, let us shift focus to the legacy Windows theme and how that has been revamped and modernized.

Before I make any comment, here is another screenshot that depicts the copy dialog.

I really do not know why, but the rounded corners feel wrong on these dialogs. It is just a tiny set of specimens, but something makes the curves not work on the legacy UI. Maybe it has something to do with the proportions and how widgets are laid out. It looks like all that has happened is stripping all them pointy, deadly corners of their piercing risk of injury to the eye. Apparently, it does not matter what type of widget you look at, the windows, checkboxes, or buttons. Everything was sanded down.

Speaking of buttons, I get the vibe that Windows 10 and the grandma that is Windows XP had a few drinks too much, got together one night, and made a new baby theme. These buttons remind me of Windows XP, forged by a Skyrim master blacksmith to be flat.

Last but not least, what about the window decorations? Are the minimize, maximize, and close buttons rounded too? Well, only the close button, and only in the top right corner. I assume it had an accident.

This triumvirate is one of the worst offenders in Windows 10. They are vast and blocky, like giant Lego bricks, and they hurt my eyes.

(They are the reason I need glasses when I am working on a PC)

And they are still massive blocks of color now – except for the one that bumped its head and lost a piece of its skull. Enormous window decorations are some kind of traditional Windows design element, but I am sure many people would be more than happy to have this part looking drastically different and trade it for their beloved Start menu 🙄 I really hoped Microsoft’s designers had been a bit more creative here.

One more thing, since I just mentioned the Start menu, and I have a little anecdote to share about it (this is really coincidental, and I did not prepare for it).

As was the case in Windows 10’s Start menu, there is a lot of stuff pre-pinned when you open it up for the first time. The good thing about Windows 10: you could remove all the useless tiles and shrink down the Start menu to a minimum, which I always did. While you can remove all the cruft that is pinned applications or suggestions, you cannot reduce the size of that thing. Oddly enough, I ended up with a blank sheet of transparent waste of space. I pin all required applications to the Taskbar for my use-case and never look at the Start menu again. When I need recent files, the quick access menu of the application I want to open the file with gets me there most of the time. I would be happy if Windows came with a built-in version of Apple’s Spotlight popup that could be mapped to the Windows key. That would make me happy.

This blog post has been the saltiest one I have ever written, and I did not even mean to do that. It results from fiddling around for just about an hour, if at all, with the latest insider preview. From what I understand, this version is supposed to be the final build about to be released to the public. Or it was released, depending on when I managed to post this post… Anyway, if these are still pre-release issues fixed in the RTM version (sue me, Microsoft), fine. Then I was impatient. However, we are so close to the scheduled release date, and issues like this still exist? And some of them are issues, not just my subjective opinion. 

Long story short: The first impressions have not been the greatest. Windows 11 is beautiful in many areas but also unfinished in so many others. On first look, it felt very distracting and probably will be until either Microsoft irons out all the bugs or users just get used to it.

Now that Windows 11 has been released into the wild, I have gone back and checked for updates. Lo and behold, I was already running the latest version.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, this first showing has pushed me back into thinking about reviving my Linux Experiment. The prevailing circumstances have changed, so the chances it could succeed this time are as good as ever. Switching right to my Linux installation was the first thing I did after giving Windows 11 its first shot at convincing me.

There are a few more issues besides an unfinished coat of pain that bug me about this release, like the fact that Home Edition users must create an online account or the changes to how you set your default Webbrowser. Right now, I am uncertain, and only time will tell which OS wins the race. Windows is still the most familiar and the most convenient one. Especially with regards to OneDrive syncing. But it now requires some relearning to find what I need, and I could also spend that time bringing up my familiarity with Linux to the same level. As past endeavors have shown, I usually end up on the side of convenience 😅.

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