In a new preview build for Windows 11, Microsoft is taking another crack at redesigning a taskbar optimized for tablets and updating the Settings menu.
Changes to the taskbar on tablets have been in development for a while, as far back as February 2022, before being pulled and taken back to the drawing board. Now in Preview Build 25197, the taskbar will have two different modes: collapsed and expanded. While in collapsed mode, the taskbar will be hidden giving users more screen space; leaving behind only the most important icons like the battery life and time. Expanded mode shows the full taskbar complete with apps, widgets, and the Start button. You’ll be able to switch between the two modes just by swiping up and down at the bottom of the screen.
Microsoft also points out that the taskbar on 2-in-1 laptops “will automatically transition to this optimized version” when the keyboard is either disconnected or folded back. The new taskbar will be the default in the Preview Build. You can see if you have this feature by going to the Taskbar behaviors section of the Settings menu. There will be an option that reads “Optimize taskbar for touch interactions when this device is used as a tablet”.
Microsoft plans on continuing development on the optimized taskbar as there are still some wrinkles to iron out. There are reports of widgets being cut off and the taskbar transition is slower than anticipated.
The rest of the new Preview Build features affect all devices, not just tablets. The Settings menu will have new animated icons and illustrations for an extra flourish. As seen in an accompanying video, the Settings icons will have a little popping animation.
The new System Tray will add “rounded focus and hover treatment” to the icons found in the bottom right corner. We reached out to Microsoft for clarification on what this means, exactly. This story will be updated if we hear back. The company also states that the drag and drop feature for icons in the System Tray is disabled for this build, but assures users it’ll come back in the future.
Other changes include new native Arm64 support for the Calculator app. Microsoft claims Calculator will have faster performance when used on Arm64 devices. And Media Player will give direct access to Clipchamp in the context menu for quick video editing.
The Preview Build also has a variety of bug fixes. Aside from the few exclusive to tablets, all of the fixes will roll out to all Microsoft devices.
On tablets, the taskbar will no longer begin to flash when changes are made to the System Tray. The date and time should no longer get cut off and Microsoft got rid of a bug that would cause certain parts of the taskbar to display the wrong color theme. There is a prerequisite for the tablet changes, however. You must have the newly optimized taskbar enabled for the fixes to take hold.
As for the other fixes, they cover various aspects of Windows 11. Emptying large recycle bins in File Explorer will now be faster, bugs that caused sporadic crashes have been addressed, and the Task Manager has been made more reliable.
Preview Build 25197 is currently available for download from the Dev Channel on Windows Insider program. Microsoft is asking users to go into the Feedback Hub and give their thoughts on the build, which you can do by pressing the Windows and F keys at the same time.
With all this talk of the tablet taskbar, you may not be aware of the changes made to the desktop taskbar that came out in July. TechRadar’s Axel Metz covered these changes, which include the reintroduction of taskbar overflow.