As promised, Microsoft has released the first major Windows 11 preview build to the Windows Insider Dev channel for beta testing. This preview version of Microsoft’s next-generation operating system comes with many of the new features showcased last week at the company’s June 24 event, as well as some new ones.
Along with the big redesign of the Start Menu and Action Center, the other major change in this first preview is the new notification center. It now has more fluently designed quick toggles for Wi-Fi and brightness.
And as a surprise, Microsoft is delivering a new File Explorer app with a clean new look and command bar, plus fresh context menus. The new File Explorer even has under-the-hood ability for app developers to plug into Windows 11’s new design and extend context menus.
As shown at the June 24 event, new themes, the widgets panel, Snap layouts, and snap groups for multitasking are included in this build. There’s also a new view for virtual desktops and a docking experience that remembers your layout when you unplug and plug back into to a display.
Another big change in this first build is the first version of the new Microsoft Store. The experience is subject to change, but Microsoft says it will “build and refine” the experience over time. That means Android apps are not yet available in this initial release, but they will appear at a later time..
A keyboard with the ability to set custom themes, a voice typing launcher, improved touch gestures, and a new pen menu are also available in this release. With the new three-finger gestures, you can quickly switch to last-used windows by swiping left and right. You even can swipe up to view all open apps and desktops.
There’s also dynamic refresh rates, a fresh feature in this release that was not detailed last week at Microsoft’s event. This will allow you to boost the refresh rate of your PC when you’re inking or scrolling, and lower it when not needed. This is only on supported hardware at the moment — just like the new native support for Wi-Fi 6E, which also comes in today’s build.
Wrapping up the new features in this release is a new settings app, which puts left-hand navigation first with new “hero” controls for navigation. The app should feel a bit more modern and simplified, thanks to menus that highlight key information and frequently used settings for you to adjust as needed.
Pairing up with today’s news, Microsoft also announced a new Office version for Windows 11. The new Office version delivers on a “coherent experience across all your Office apps.” More information is available on the Office Insider Website.
If you’re excited to try out Windows 11, you can enroll your PC in the Insider program today to get this initial release in a few simple steps. Just visit the Settings menu, click Windows Update > Windows Insider Program, and then pick the Dev Channel branch. Everyone else can expect Windows 11 later this holiday season and in early 2022, when the non-beta version rolls out.