Microsoft is hard at work to make Windows 11 look as good as it can. Windows 11 is adapting a much sleeker and modern design as compared to the already fairly modern Windows 10. Rounded corners, soft edges, translucent backgrounds and more emoji-esque icons have all but become the staple look of Windows 11. At this point in time, Microsoft has updated many popular apps to coincide with Windows 11’s design language and it’s not looking to stop anytime soon.
Just a month ago, we first heard about the design changes coming to various Windows apps in the next iteration of Windows. In that article, I went over the inevitable redesign of PowerToys that would hit the OS soon. I also showed a mockup for what the Windows 11 version of PowerToys could look like. The concept image was created by none other that Microsoft’s own Niels Laute. And, would you know it, today we got confirmation by Niel himself that PowerToys is officially getting the Windows 11 treatment.
— Niels Laute (@Niels9001) August 23, 2021
PowerToys? What’s that?
For the unaware, PowerToys are a collection of tools and utilities from Microsoft that enable the user to unlock additional features from within Windows. PowerToys have been maintained by Microsoft since the Windows 95 and only recently got a modern-day revamp last year on Windows 10. There are several nifty tools like a universal color picker, FancyZones, a keyboard mapper to map any key or shorctut, an intuitive application launcher, and more. As the name suggests, all of these are some seriously “powerful toys”.
What the GIF tells us
While we don’t have a release date yet, it’s safe to assume that after ironing out a few bugs, Microsoft will push the PowerToys update in a later build of Windows 11. The tweet is only an announcement and not a detailed blogpost that goes over the details. But, there’s still a lot that gets unveiled in the GIF attached in Niel’s tweet, so let’s break down the most prominent changes and improvements coming to PowerToys.
The first and most notable change is the design. PowerToys has been updated to support Win UI 2.6 controls which makes it fall in line with much of Windows 11. Rounder corner, nicer icons, and a softer foreground – it shares the same sleek aesthetic that the OS is building up towards and the app looks very similar to the Windows 11 Settings page. Microsoft has implemented Fluent Design to update the look, but Mica and Acrylic are nowhere to be seen so the app lacks any translucent elements.
There’s a new “Welcome To PowerToys” button in the bottom of the side bar that will act as the new introductory page for first-time installer of the app. The page opens up a new window that looks exactly like the actual PowerToys app, but this time, clicking on the tools reveals information about them and how they can be used. The detail on each option seems quite extensive which ensures that every user will be able to understand the true potential of these tools to their fullest extent.
Apart from that, there are several improvements made across the app. There’s a new, better dark mode that is more deeply-integrated within the app. Microsoft has also finally added support for standardized controls to be applied to all pages at once. Gone are the RadioButtons for selecting modes as they’ve been replaced with ComboBoxes. In addition, there are several small enhancements to existing features throughout the app that will further enrich the user experience.
Microsoft has already pushed redesigns for Calculator, Snipping Tool, and Mail and Calendar in a recent Windows 11 preview build. We’re expecting more apps to follow and PowerToys seems to be the next in line. Paint and Photos are also getting a major cosmetic uplift but there’s no word on when we’ll actually see the updates in action. It’s likely that Microsoft will release the update to Paint and Photos first as not only are they more prominent apps, but we’ve seen them featured in marketing photos way before we got our first official look at PowerToys.
You can check out the full Pull Request on GitHub to learn more about the bug fixes and contribute to the discussion around the new PowerToys. Attached are some comparison pictures showing the before-and-after differences of PowerToys on Windows 10 vs Windows 11. Keep in mind that this data pertains to the total file size of the app windows and is provided by Microsoft themselves. You can take a look at it for yourself here.