Closer Look: Focus in Windows 11 Dev Channel

The Windows 11 Dev Channel has received quite a few features in recent iterations, namely build 22557 and build 22563. As such, we are discussing them in more detail via dedicated Closer Look pieces.

So far, we have talked about App folders in the Start menu, Task Manager, Snap Layouts, and File Explorer. Today, we are going to talk about a couple of enhancements that Microsoft made to Windows 11's Focus capabilities with build 22557. Naturally, these improvements are present in the latest build 22563 as well.

Focus sessions in Windows 11 Dev Channel

For starters, I should clarify that the Focus experience in the Clock app seems to be exactly the same as when I talked about it back in September 2021, so I don't harbor many positive feelings about it. What Microsoft has changed with Dev Channel build 22557 is that the company has integrated the feature more tightly with the Windows 11 Taskbar.

Instead of launching Focus by first opening the Clock app, you can simply open the Notification Center by clicking on the time and date on the bottom right corner of your Taskbar, and you'll notice a couple of controls related to Focus at the bottom (screenshot above). You can modify the duration of your Focus session and start or stop it directly from the Taskbar.

Focus sessions in Windows 11 Dev Channel

While I appreciate the quick access to Focus via the Taskbar and the fact that it makes sense to have it as a standalone experience, I still find the launch experience jarring. This is because clicking on the "Focus" button in the Notification Center first launches the Clock app which then pops to the top right of your desktop as a movable mini-window, as can be seen in the screenshot above.

In my eyes, this is not a good user experience as I believe that the launching of the Clock app should be an "invisible" process to the user if Microsoft really wants to feature it as a standalone service. Moving Focus to the Taskbar should ideally remove the dependency on the Clock app, at least on the front-end. This is clearly not the case yet.

Focus sessions in Windows 11 Dev Channel

That said, it does seem like offering Focus as a standalone capability is Microsoft's end-goal because now the Windows Settings app also has a dedicated page for it, as you can see in the screenshot above. You can customize Focus to your liking through a few options.

In its blog post for build 22557, Microsoft has described Focus as a "new experience" but has also mentioned that it has actually "reimagined" it. I think the latter term is more accurate because it seems to be mostly the same experience, Microsoft has just reimagined how you launch it.

To be clear, I absolutely want Focus to be present in the Taskbar because I think it could change the way I interact with my PC if I have quick access to it. However, at the same time, I also want Microsoft to further enhance the experience and make the unnecessary UI - such as the Clock app launching for a couple of seconds before turning into a mini-window - invisible to the user.

But it is important to note that this is just a Dev Channel build that is not tied to a specific release of Windows. As such, there's a good chance that Microsoft will polish this experience further before, and if, it decides to make it generally available.

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