A few years ago, Panos Panay headed the division responsible for the development of client versions of Windows. This event marked a new stage in the development of the operating system. For the first time in a long time, Microsoft has renewed its investment in Windows design, and we can already see some of that work in Windows 11.
Of course, in such a short period of time it is impossible to completely solve the problem with the inconsistency of the system design, but I am glad that work in this direction is in full swing. In this article, we take a look at the existing UI layers in Windows 11 using Insider Dev Build 25267.
Layer 1: Windows 11 and WinUI3 elements
For Windows 11, the company has developed a new design system, focusing on rounded corners and gradients, and also introduced a new Mica material, designed to replace Acrylic.
For the first time in years, the user interface of some standard Windows applications such as Notepad, Paint, and Task Manager has been redesigned. All of them are now made in the new design system and more or less correspond to the appearance of the operating system.
Another fundamental change has to do with the location of the start button. After 27 years, Microsoft decided to move the button from the lower left corner to the center of the taskbar, as it was in the canceled Windows 10X. However, if you wish, you can return the button to its usual place.
Several other elements have changed from Windows 10, including context menus, File Explorer, and the Settings app.
The Start menu has also been redesigned, which no longer has the “live” tiles from Windows 8. Whether this is good or bad is up to you.
Updated some elements that are relatively infrequently shown to users. We are talking about dialog boxes from the “Windows Firewall” and a pop-up volume menu when you press the physical buttons.
Finally, the boot screen has a new Windows logo and an updated progress bar to match the current design system.
Certainly, the design in Windows 11 has become more consistent than it was in the previous version of the OS. Third-party developers can also integrate the new design system into their products through the advent of WinUI3.
Layer 2: Windows 10 elements
The first element is not related to design, but the author of the original article also decided to write about it. Windows 10 and Windows 11 have the same kernel version, 10.0. But this should not confuse anyone, because this is done to improve compatibility with software. Obviously, the Windows 10 2015 kernel and the Windows 11 2022 kernel are significantly different despite the same number.
Some apps, such as Mail and Calendar, have not been updated to match the Windows 11 design system. This particular app is being replaced by Microsoft with the new web-based Project Monarch client.
Some of the dialog boxes called from the Settings application remain the same.
The look and feel of the Windows Security app hasn’t changed much, and it now feels much more dated than many other elements of Windows 11.
By the way, the Cortana voice assistant is still present in Windows 11, but now it is no longer so strongly integrated into the operating system.
Layer 3: Windows 8 elements
Unfortunately, it’s still common to see Metro-style elements in Windows 11 that haven’t changed since Windows 8. They can be seen when opening the autorun menu for removable media or when trying to launch an incompatible application.
Also throughout the system you can find the old progress indicators. This looks especially strange in the Settings app, where there are options from both WinUI3 and Metro.
The Windows Recovery Environment hasn’t changed much since it was introduced in Windows 8, either.
The dialog box for copying files and folders has also remained the same.
Layer 4: Windows 7 elements
As mentioned above, in Windows 11, developers have updated many standard applications, including Notepad, Scissors, Paint, and others. But, of course, there are programs that have not changed for many years. For example, “Remote Desktop Connection” looks the same as it did 14 years ago.
WIndows Media Player 12 is still present on the system, although it is not a standard application. Instead, Microsoft recommends using the latest “Media Player” and it matches the style of Windows 11.
Some File Explorer dialog boxes still look like Windows 7.
Layer 5: Elements of Windows Vista
Windows Vista brought with it many new features, one of which is Aero Wizards. This feature has been migrated to Windows 11 without any significant changes.
The classic “Control Panel” hasn’t gone away either, although many sections now redirect the user to the new “Settings” app.
By the way, the search from Windows Vista goes well with the modern design of File Explorer, doesn’t it?
Layer 6: elements of Windows XP
The Copy Drivers window hasn’t changed since Windows XP, so it’s no wonder it still uses 20-year-old icons.
Layer 7: Elements of Windows 2000
The MMC (Microsoft Management Console), winver and “Windows Installer” also remained the same. Unless the icons were replaced in the installer for the first time in 20 years.
Layer 8: Elements of Windows 95 and NT 4.0
Over the past 27 years, elements such as folder and file properties, advanced mouse options, screen saver settings, and so on have hardly changed.
Layer 9: Windows 3.1 elements
The icon selection function has existed in the system for more than 30 years, and for the same time the moricons.dll file has been present in the system, which, apparently, is necessary for the operation of the operating system.
By the way, in the ODBC Data Sources utility, you can call a folder selection window in the Windows 3.1 style.
Certainly, the design of Windows 11 has become more consistent compared to Windows 10, but there are still a lot of things that should be updated long ago. It is expected that in 2023 Windows 11 will receive as many as three updates from the Moment series, where not only new features will be waiting for us, but also user interface improvements. What’s more, engineers are trying to separate design from the rest of the operating system, so future improvements to the interface may be implemented more quickly.