We appear to be entering a period of Windows’ development where we can expect new features and tweaks to come to the operating system several times a year. To that end, Microsoft continues to add, remove, and generally experiment with Windows 11’s features and user interface via its Insider Preview channels.
The most interesting addition we’ve seen in a while is rolling out to users on the experimental Dev Channel now: a modified version of the taskbar with much-improved handling of app icon overflow when users have too many apps open at once. Click an ellipsis button on your taskbar, and a new icon overflow menu opens up, allowing you to interact with any of those extra icons the same way you would if they were sitting on the taskbar.
This would be a big improvement over the current overflow behavior, which devotes one icon’s worth of space to show the icon for the app you last interacted with, leaving the rest inaccessible. That icon will continue to appear on the taskbar alongside the new ellipsis icon. Microsoft says that app icons in the overflow area will be able to show jump lists and other customizable shortcuts the same as any other app icon in the taskbar.
Other improvements in this build include an improvement to the AirDrop-esque Nearby Sharing feature that uses a combination of UDP and Bluetooth to locate nearby devices on the same local network. These changes only apply when you’re connected to a network that’s set to “private” and when you use Windows’ built-in sharing window to share files, and they’re also available in the latest Beta channel builds.
Features that Microsoft tests in the Dev channel are the ones that are the least likely to make it out to all Windows users. We’ve already seen features like a desktop search bar come and go, and Microsoft is experimenting with at least two different ideas for putting some version of Windows 10’s search field back into the taskbar. The company is also A/B testing many of these ideas, which means that they’ll show up for some Windows Insiders and not for others. If the taskbar overflow behavior makes it into the Beta or Release Preview channels instead, that’s when we’ll know that it’s (probably!) destined to reach the public.
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