Editorial  When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works.

Microsoft's latest Windows 11 Taskbar update proves that simpler is not always better

A screenshot of Windows 11 desktop build 25211 with Taskbar context menu open

Microsoft rolled out Windows 11 Dev Channel build 25211 a few days ago, and it's a significant update not because of the new features it packs, but arguably, for returning a basic functionality that people have been clamoring for since Windows 11 became available. This is the ability to open the Task Manager by right-clicking the Windows 11 Taskbar.

Windows 11 has been available for almost a year, and it has become very obvious to its users that while it is aesthetically pleasing, Microsoft has cut a lot of functionalities. One such feature was the ability to open the Task Manager by right-clicking the Taskbar and selecting the option from the associated context.

This is how people had been using Windows for years, and suddenly losing access to it for seemingly no reason was a bit jarring. We discussed this in detail in our dedicated Closer Look on Taskbar. The rebuilt Taskbar in Windows 11 is inspired from the now-defunct Windows 10X, an OS that was being designed for dual-screen devices.

Following months of complaints all over social media and in the comments sections of Neowin itself, Microsoft has decided to return this relatively basic functionality to Windows 11 users, and there are important lessons in here for everyone.

Microsoft Windows 11 desktop images

Although the centered Taskbar in Windows 11 is a design that I have become fond of in terms of aesthetic, there is no doubt that this is a significantly pared down version compared to what we had on Windows 10. Assuming that this is a component of what was supposed to be Windows 10X, it's clear that simplification is not always better.

To be clear, I'm 100% in support of simplification where it makes sense. For example, the redesigned context menu has lost a lot of options - especially those from third-party apps - and has replaced some textual options with icons instead. This makes sense to me because context menus on Windows have become overly bloated, it's arguably time for a do-over. And Microsoft knows that this is a work-in-progress that will require significant input from both users and developers, which is why the former can easily revert to the classic look by clicking "Show more options".

However, it seems like Microsoft threw this strategy out of the window when designing the current Taskbar. It was just simplification for the sake of simplification, and that's never really a good option when your software is going to be used by potentially hundreds of millions of users. Did Microsoft solve any problem by removing the context menu in the Windows 11 Taskbar altogether? I don't think so. It's a bit strange that it expected millions of users to just let go of their muscle memory and adapt to how Microsoft wants them to use its latest operating system.

The very purpose of collecting behavior and usage telemetry of customers who use your software is to recognize patterns and adapt your product according to these implicit hints. However, given the backlash over Taskbar simplification along with the fact that Microsoft has at least returned it to the Dev Channel suggests that this factor wasn't initially taken into account.

If you're simplifying something, you should ensure that your customers are compensated or offered alternatives for missing functionalities. It shouldn't just be simplification for the sake of simplification. And while I'm glad that Microsoft has finally started to recognize this, it's a bit disappointing that it took the company over a year to reach this decision on such a basic functionality.

This is the same stubborn approach Microsoft is taking with the Windows 11 Taskbar's positioning - which is why people are now actually paying for third-party solutions to achieve the same - and the redesigned Start menu, which the company thinks is great.

A curvy road with pins featuring logos of Windows 10 Windows 11 and a question mark

I feel like I circle back to the same foundational thoughts after every few weeks, and those are that getting the basics of Windows 11 right should be a higher priority for Microsoft and that the company needs to have a clearer public roadmap about OS development, even if it's tentative. Until both of these things happen, we'll keep waltzing into the same pitfalls, where new functionalities are being added to the OS while old ones are either being axed or being kept in a crippled state.

I like Windows 11 overall, it's my secondary OS after Windows 10, and I only passionately write about it regularly because I want it to be better. Praising new or returning functionalities is fine, but it really shouldn't take Microsoft this long to (re-)implement relatively basic features, especially when they have been removed for no-good-reason in the first place. I'm still peeved about this other axed Taskbar functionality too, and I hope that it will soon follow suit as Microsoft rethinks its Taskbar strategy.

And let's not forget, this Taskbar context menu change has only been implemented in the Dev Channel for now. There's no knowing how long it will take for Microsoft to make it generally available (GA), provided that it actually does get out of the Dev Channel at some point. The Redmond tech firm gives no guarantee that Dev Channel features will hit GA and there has been little consistency in features moving between Insider branches too.

Software development is tricky, and this is obviously just an outsider's view on how the process inside Microsoft's actual Windows development process can be better. That said, a couple of things that have become abundantly clear over the past year is that simplification for the sake of simplification is never a good idea and that user feedback is the most important factor to consider when you're designing a product for millions of customers.

What are your thoughts on the topic? Are you a fan of Microsoft's "simplify everything" approach with Windows 11 or do you prefer the company's older operating systems due to their additional capabilities? Let us know in the comments section below!

Report a problem with article
The Google Pixel 6
Next Article

Amazon UK is offering a 128 GB Pixel 6 and Chromecast with Google TV for £499, don't miss it

Previous Article

Reliance Jio looking to launch $184 JioBook within three months

Join the conversation!

Login or Sign Up to read and post a comment.

96 Comments - Add comment