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I am finally excited about Windows 11 again

Windows 11 desktop with heart teary-eyed and celebrating emoji

I reviewed Windows 11 for Neowin back when the OS launched in October last year. I awarded it an overall score of 6.5/10, noting that I like the modern aesthetics and some multitasking improvements but also highlighting how the OS feels half-baked with shoehorned features and the fact that the company has actually stripped away some utilities in the guise of simplification. In subsequent articles, I talked about some specific features that I love and hate about Windows 11 too.

As many who read my Closer Look series know, I have decided to dive into the Windows 11 Dev Channel because recent builds brought in a flurry of enhancements that I was looking forward to. Although I will talk about specific features in dedicated Closer Look articles as I have been doing for the past couple of weeks, I think now is a good time to share my initial thoughts about my experience so far.

Simply put, recent Dev Channel builds have reignited my hope in the future of Windows 11. I fully understand that changes in Dev Channel are not tied to a specific release of Windows, but it's still encouraging to get a glimpse of what the OS can be.

Many of the features that Microsoft inexplicably stripped away in the launch version of Windows 11 are slowly making their way back to the OS in the Dev Channel. Once again, we have App folders in the Start menu and can drag-and-drop content to the Taskbar. Yes, it's stuff that sounds basic on paper but there were lots of complaints about the lack of them in the launch version of Windows 11 so it's nice to see these capabilities making a return. It's the little things that add up to a better experience overall and it's clear that Microsoft understands this too now.

Task Manager running in Windows 11 Dev Channel build 22557

Another positive thing I'd like to highlight is that Microsoft is going beyond making Windows 11 a re-skin of Windows 10. Recent Dev Channel builds pack new features across File Explorer, Task Manager, Snap Layouts, and lots more. These enhancements are trickling down to consumers across various Insider channels, but at least we know that Microsoft is putting effort into them, in line with user feedback.

In fact, it's not even just the Insider channels. Microsoft has started incrementally rolling out many of its additions in the form of "new experiences" to the generally available (GA) version of Windows 11 too.

After playing around with the Dev Channel for the past couple of weeks, one strong feeling that I have experienced is that Windows 11 has suddenly become more exciting for me again. I have been jumping in and out of the Windows Insider Program since 2015, and after years of hiatus, I finally feel like Microsoft is back on track again. Actually, I eagerly await new Windows builds now, something I have not looked forward to in ages.

All in all, I just keep thinking that even the relatively unstable Dev Channel build is a big step up from the mediocre Windows 11 version we received at launch. The OS definitely needed more time in the oven back then and the latest improvements from earlier this month and the Dev Channel just prove that point for me. I have Windows 10 and Windows 11 Dev Channel dual-booted on my machine and I'm actually using the latter more even though I know it's supposed to be an unstable build. I'm just glad to see Microsoft back on track with Windows 11. It's obviously not perfect - and honestly, is there any software that is? -, but at least the OS is becoming more than a re-skin of Windows 10. I, for one, welcome this shift.

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