Windows 11 is a lot of changes and news, but one of the most noticeable decisions is to retire the tiles and replace them with a duo of classic icons and a widget section. The latter, unfortunately, are not even half as useful.
I suspect that the reluctance of users towards active tiles (live tiles) is mainly due to unpleasant memories from the Windows 8 period. It was then that the classic Start Menu was replaced with a full-screen version, which was created primarily for touch screens. An additional value, in addition to the larger size of application shortcuts, was the displayed information, which was constantly updated in the background. Thanks to this, Calendar, Weather, Mail, instant messaging, music players and many others could provide us with news without opening information. I immediately liked this idea, and it worked great also in the mobile version of Windows Phone / Windows 10 Mobile, where glance it was enough to quickly catch up on outstanding notifications from the most important applications.
Tiles> widgets. At least for now
In the case of a computer operating system, it was not so easy, because developers had to prepare tile support, and those in the case of desktop programs did not have the habit of implementing such additional functionalities. Although the list of applications supporting active tiles was not very extensive, the ones that worked were really helpful and useful for me. To this day, on Windows 10, I am eager to check the weather forecast, I look at the calendar and the latest news, so if Microsoft managed to push this ecosystem through, we could gain even more. Unfortunately, the company withdrew from this idea and in Windows 11 it returned to the classic icons in the Start Menu. Instead of tiles, we got widgets …
New idea for widgets in Windows needed immediately
I do not consider the very idea of restoring them to Windows as inappropriate, but the implementation of this vision does not suit me at all. Widgets should be easily accessible, configurable, and not be based only on system applications – I cannot say any of these things about widgets in Windows 11. The section dedicated to them is not updated in the background, but in most cases (and always at the first start), it reloads with the data completely from scratch, so 3 seconds of review turns into 13 seconds or more of waiting for everything to load. Widgets do not have as many sizes and ways of presenting information to choose from as even some tiles, and among the currently available third-party application solutions are in vain, which means that users of services other than those from Microsoft must be ready to move (e.g. to Photos, ToDo and the Mail application), because no one else supports this Microsoft ecosystem.
Similarly, my editorial colleague, Jakub Szczęsny, speaks about the novelty from the company from Redmond, who also cannot regret the wasted potential of tiles:
The tiles as a way of presenting the content of the app and representing it on the screen were really brilliant. Microsoft has combined the expansion of icons and notifications in them in one place. Leaks presenting extended tiles, in which it was possible, inter alia, responding to emails in Outlook indicated that there was an idea to improve them in Redmond and I basically don’t understand why it was abandoned. In Windows 11 there was a regression in this matter. To wipe the tears, we received widgets that are needed by the user, such as forks for pouring sand. Windows 11 has become more of a desktop than a mobile system, neither the owner of a tablet nor a computer: laptop or stationary will benefit from this area. It’s hard for me to say why this decision came from – Microsoft may have looked at Apple, which introduced something similar to tiles in iOS. It’s just that mixing concepts without thinking does not lead to anything good – never. I looked at the widgets … today, when I found out that Konrad is writing this text. What did I see there? Nothing interesting. You don’t have to go there.
What was missing?
Apart from my initial fascination, widgets in Windows 11 did not interest me at all. A dozen or so weeks with the new system passed in no time, and I did not visit this section even once out of pure need, so it is clear that there was nothing really useful waiting for me there. Widgets should go to the desktop and have their own section in the Microsoft Store, so that developers can create their own solutions in response to users’ needs and to be able to surprise them with a new idea. Perhaps the widgets for iOS arrived very late and do not quite work as they should, but their variety and wide offer in the App Store meant that I use some of them every day and it would be difficult for me to give them up. Will the same thing happen with the widgets in Windows 11 one day …?