Things are starting to ramp up as we approach Windows 11‘s initial release of October 5. Microsoft is patching the little corners and crevices up in time to make the general availability version of Windows as polished as possible. While the version we’ll see on October 5 isn’t going to be the latest one, Microsoft is still regularly releasing updates to Insiders running the current preview builds. But, that’s not all.
Microsoft is also making sure that others don’t feel left out and has just launched one of its most popular apps on the Microsoft Store. Hence, making it available for everyone including Insiders and the general public. We’ve already covered both of these apps in-depth so I won’t go into detail here and bore you. Instead, we’re just going to glance over them and cover the basics.
Windows 11 Photos app
If you weren’t already aware, Photos is getting a design overhaul in Windows 11. The app, albeit already modern, is getting a cosmetic uplift that will make it fall in line with the rest of the OS. Microsoft is using Mica material across the entire app to give it that frosty and elegant Windows 11 look, while the app is also getting some new features. And, of course, there’s rounded corners involved.
— Panos Panay (@panos_panay) September 7, 2021
The app has been teased several times by Microsoft over the past few weeks since Windows 11’s initial announcement and we’ve gotten several close-looks as well. You can check out my article breaking down the new Photos app to learn more. I go over everything that’s new and compare it to the Windows 10 Photos app to see how much of an improving it really is.
Microsoft did highlight a new feature in their blog post and that’s the distraction-free view. You can click on any open photo and all the UI elements will simply fade away, leaving only the picture in sight. This way, you can view a picture without the toolbar or filmstrip cluttering up the screen as the picture will extend corner-to-corner with the app’s window. Clicking on the picture again will bring back the UI elements.
It’s Finally Rolling Out
One thing that wasn’t clear about the Photos app was its release. While some Insiders had started seeing it pop-up in their preview builds, most couldn’t. So, there was no telling when this app would actually release. Fortunately, that confusion is now gone as Microsoft has just announced that the new Photos app is rolling out to all Insiders in the Dev channel starting September 16th.
Once again, this is a gradual rollout so don’t panic if you don’t see the update right away. Speaking of which, you’ll see the update pop up in the Microsoft Store. If you’re in the Dev channel and rocking the latest build, keep checking the Store and you’ll eventually see it. After installing it, don’t forget to submit your feedback to Microsoft as it helps iron out bugs and issues, and you contribute in building a better platform for everyone else!
Like Photos, PowerToys has also seen some love as the team behind it had recently announced a Windows 11 redesign for it. Just a couple of weeks ago, Niels Laute gave us our first official look at the updated PowerToys app but there was no word on release. Today, we finally have a follow-up to that. PowerToys was just uploaded to the Microsoft Store for Windows 11 and there’s a lot to be said about that.
For those out of the loop, PowerToys is a collection of nifty utilities that enhance the user experience on Windows. PowerToys was initially released on Windows 95 back in the 90s, but was revived for the modern era in 2020 on Windows 10. Essentially, these are useful tools that can enrich your daily usage, especially if you already know your way around Windows. There’s a universal color picker, a universal mute button, a powerful key mapper, and more amongst the list of tools here. As the name suggests, these are some pretty “powerful toys”.
I’ve already covered the modern update to PowerToys in a previous article, you can check that out to see how the new look and feel compares to the old. PowerToys was already pretty modern but it was updated to match the design language of Windows 11 with Win UI 2.6 controls. Fluent Design, the prevalent design standard in Windows 11, was used to create the new look. Apart from the design, the features mostly remain the same. Since PowerToys is available online, the redesigned version works on both Windows 11 and 10.
Microsoft Store release and its implications
Up until now, PowerToys, being the niche app it is, was only available through its official GitHub. But, Microsoft has gone ahead and just released it on the Microsoft Store for Windows 11. Firstly, that means that PowerToys will now get much wider exposure as normal users will be able to discover it easily. This can increase the app’s popularity, which can lead to more extensive development as Microsoft will see real benefit in investing in a once-niche app.
Secondly, Microsoft Store for Windows 11 is exactly that—it’s just for Windows 11 and people using Windows 10 will be stuck with the existing Microsoft Store. Point being that PowerToys was not uploaded to the Windows 10’s Store. GitHub will remain to be the only place you can find PowerToys on Windows 10 which can rob Microsoft off a considerable amount of eyes.
That being said, it’s understandable why Microsoft chose to go this route. Let’s be honest, no one uses the Microsoft Store on Windows 10. It’s inclusion is about as useful as cancer warnings on cigarette boxes. However, Microsoft Store on Windows 11 is a whole different story. Microsoft is actually taking that very seriously and wants to make its Store the primary, go-to marketplace on Windows. So, it makes sense to release PowerToys on there because, you know, people will actually use the Store and see it.