During the weeks leading up to the general release of Windows 11 and for some weeks after it, I did a series of Closer Look articles in which I explored several features of the OS and discussed what I liked and disliked about them. However, I decided to put that series on hold after I felt like I had talked about most of what Microsoft's latest OS had to offer and that I was close to scraping the bottom of the barrel.
However, with Microsoft's release of Windows 11 Dev Channel build 22557 a couple of days ago, I was tempted to switch to the Insider channel once again. As this build contains a lot of stuff to unpack, I felt that it is only natural that I resume the Closer Look series so we can talk about features that are not generally available (GA). This is why the title of this article explicitly mentions the Insider channel and the build number so people have a clear idea that anything we talk about from this point onward in this series might not be in the same state when, or if, it hits GA.
To start us off, I'll be looking at the app folders in the Start menu of Windows 11 Dev Channel build 22557. Our readers might remember that the GA version of the OS has a scrollable list of pinned apps in the Start menu instead of Live Tiles. And while I don't care much about Live Tiles, one notably absent feature from Windows 10 was the ability to group apps into app folders. So, if you have hundreds of apps pinned to your Start menu, you would have to scroll through the entire list to open the one you desire. Microsoft has started to remedy this with the re-introduction of app folders, as can be seen in the screenshot above.
With Windows 11 Dev Channel build 22557, you can now simply drag-and-drop your apps over each other to categorize them into folders. There's no associated context menu as of yet, which is a bit of a pity, because if I want to remove all apps from a folder, I have no option but to manually drag-and-drop them out of the folder one by one.
Speaking of other customizations, there aren't any to speak of, yet. You can't name app folders, you can't set a different background color for them, you can't change their size. What this means is that if you have 20 apps each in 10 app folders, there's pretty much no way to differentiate the folder of an app unless you recognize the collection just by looking at the 4-app preview.
Talking about how much apps can be placed in a folder, I couldn't find a max limit. I took all the 24 pinned apps from my Start menu and was able to place them in a single folder as a scrollable list (screenshot above). There was no notable performance degradation in the UI. So if there is a limit, it's definitely more than 24.
All in all, I appreciate the fact that Microsoft is apparently listening to feedback once again and returning useful functionalities - that should not have been stripped away in the first place - to Windows. Although it's pretty bare-bones right now, it's important to keep in mind that this is a Dev Channel build and that Microsoft will likely update it with more functionalities. Furthermore, since this channel is not tied to a particular version of Windows, it's not yet known whether we'll see it in the major update for Windows 11 planned later this year. That said, I hope it hits GA soon because it will definitely improve productivity for a lot of people who utilize the Start menu in Windows 11.