Microsoft is Keen on Giving Apps a Fresh Coat of Paint in Windows 11

Get ready for a whole lot of rounded corners.

Windows 11 is Microsoft’s biggest leap forward in software since the last iteration of its notorious desktop OS. To compete with the likes of MacOS and its coherent design language and to stay up-to-date with modern UIs such as that of Android’s, Microsoft has decided to give Windows 11 a significant cosmetic revamp by completely switching over to its Fluent Design system.

Legacy apps like Notepad have remained largely untouched since their advent. Sure, there’ve been slight changes but, Microsoft has never implemented any of its major design systems to these apps; instead, let them hang out as is for the longest time. That is changing with Windows 11 as Microsoft looks to revolutionize the visual experience for some of its most iconic legacy apps.

A Major Design Overhaul

Back in June’s reveal event, we got a glimpse of what’s to come. Rounded corners, flat icons, emphasized shadows, and an overall softer look typified the UI redesign for these apps. At the center of it all, an updated Notepad, PowerPoint, and Paint were teased in their full Fluent UI glory.

Paint, PowerPoint, and Notepad
Paint, PowerPoint, and Notepad in Windows 11 – Source: Microsoft

Not only that, but Microsoft is looking to refresh all of its major apps, such as Photos, to follow the Fluent UI design guidelines to streamline the design of Windows 11 and make it visually more consistent.

Windows 11 Photos app
Windows 11 Photos app – Source: Windows Latest

Among the apps getting the design revamp, PowerToys and Calculator, two highly-prominent and well-utilized apps, will also be updated to look more in-line with the rest of the OS, thanks to improved WinUI implementation and, once again, Fluent UI.

PowerToys

For those of you unaware, PowerToys is an open-source project from Microsoft that aims to provide neat little tools and utilities that enhance your Windows experience. As the name suggests, these are “powerful toys” that you can play around with to increase your efficiency and make you more productive.

PowerToys originally debuted back in the 90s on Windows 95. It was a niche collection of utilities that weren’t properly revived until 2020 for Windows 10. PowerToys’ official Github thread reveals that going forward; it will adapt WinUI 2.6 controls to become more consistent with Windows 11 and its design aesthetic.

We will not support multiple UX systems. It becomes near impossible to support and test. Apps have different UXs all the time. We will adopt the Windows 11 style as it is much more adaptable and flexible. – Clint Rutkas

You can expect a sleeker-looking UI for PowerToys, one that makes it look like it’s integrated on the system level. And, of course, the standard affair of rounded corners, soft edges, and additional features is anticipated.

Mockup of updated PowerToys UI
Mockup of updated PowerToys UI – Source: Niels Laute

Calculator

Out of the many popular Windows apps getting a redesign, Calculator seems to be the one that’s least warranted. The calculator in Windows 10 already looks relatively modern as it’s based on WinUI standards. Nevertheless, Calculator is receiving a Windows 11 update that’ll make it look even more modern, and up to par with Fluent UI’s guidelines.

Calculator has been an open-source app for two years now, ever since Microsoft issued its code on GitHub back in 2019. Calculator has become one of Microsoft’s many apps that are maintained through community feedback, and new progress is made regularly due to active development. That may sound silly for a simple calculator app, but you’d be surprised to know how enthusiastic Microsoft is about calculators.

Microsoft will not only introduce a settings page in the app for further customization, but, to facilitate this upgrade, Calculator’s codebase will be shifted to C# in the upcoming months. Windows Calculator’s official Github harbors a roadmap for where the app is headed in the future.

The roadmap was recently revised to detail the aforementioned, along with the news that Calculator will be updated to correspond with Fluent UI and the overall Windows 11 design language.

Windows 11 Calculator – Source: Dominic Maas
Huzaifa Haroon
Born and raised around computers, Huzaifa is an avid gamer and a Windows enthusiast. When he's not solving the mysteries of technology, you can find him writing about operating systems, striving to inform the curious.