Microsoft has recently been quietly testing a new feature for the Windows 11 Start menu that could potentially change the way users interact with their desktop. The feature involves introducing a floating panel full of “companion” widgets that offer additional functionality to the Start menu. This intriguing change was discovered by Windows watcher Albacore in the latest test versions of Windows 11 released by Microsoft.

The new feature, known as “Start menu Companions,” appears to be a way for developers to extend the Windows 11 Start menu with widget-like functionality. These companions are presented in a floating island that can be docked next to the Start menu, providing users with easy access to additional information and tools. Developers will have the opportunity to build apps that offer widget-like information through adaptive cards, which is a platform-agnostic method of displaying UI blocks of information.

Customization and Configuration

Users will have the ability to configure these companions in the main Windows 11 Settings section. This includes the option to install multiple companions and toggle the ability to enable or disable them based on their preferences. Albacore notes that these companions are web-centric, similar to the widgets found in Windows 11, suggesting a seamless integration with existing features on the operating system.

If Microsoft decides to move forward with the Start menu Companions feature, it could serve as a welcome replacement for the Live Tiles that were removed in Windows 10X and Windows 11. Live Tiles were initially introduced in Windows 8 as a way to provide widget-like information on the Start menu, but they lacked widespread support from app developers. With the inclusion of Start menu Companions, Microsoft has the opportunity to offer users a new and improved way to interact with their desktop environment.

The testing of the Start menu Companions feature by Microsoft represents a significant potential enhancement to the Windows 11 user experience. By providing developers with the ability to create widget-like companions that offer additional functionality, Microsoft is taking a step towards creating a more customizable and engaging desktop environment for its users. Should this feature be officially implemented, it has the potential to fill the void left by the removal of Live Tiles and offer users a more dynamic and interactive Start menu experience.


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