Windows 11 Gets Android App Support, New Notepad and Media Player Apps, and Taskbar Enhancements in Major Update
Despite a somewhat shaky start, Windows 11 is going strong. At launch, it was riddled with bugs and strange inconveniences but Microsoft has worked hard to patch up everything. I am Windows 11 Insider myself and even on the Beta Channel, the builds are almost perfectly stable with no noticeable hiccups. Microsoft frequently releases builds for the Insider Program, but a stable update is rare. But that’s exactly what we’ve got today and, boy, is it a massive one.
Microsoft just announced the biggest update to Windows 11 since its launch, with tons of major features and a few key additions to heighten the Windows 11 experience. The highlight of today’s update is the US-based Amazon AppStore Preview that will allow you to finally install (select) Android apps on your Windows 11 device. We also get brand new Media Player and Notepad applications along with significant improvements to the Taskbar.
Amazon AppStore Preview
Android apps on Windows 11 was undoubtedly the most exciting feature teased for the OS. It was the feature that caught everyone’s ears forcing them to pay attention to Microsoft’s next version of Windows. However, the feature was eventually delayed to ensure the foundation for getting these Android apps to work on Windows 11 was strong. Microsoft was working with Intel using the company’s Intel Bridge Technology to emulate Android apps on Windows.
Well, the wait is finally over as starting today, users in the U.S. can now access over 1000 Android apps through the Amazon AppStore Preview available on the Microsoft Store. These apps include popular games like Subway Surfers along with productivity-focused apps such as Amazon’s own Kindle and Audible. All you need to do is update the Microsoft Store and search for your Android app of choice and hit download! If it’s available then it will start downloading through the Amazon AppStore right away, just like any other app.
Microsoft says the experience of using these apps on Windows 11 should be smooth and seamless; they should feel like a natural part of Windows 11 rather than an after-thought. Considering how much time went into the development of this feature and the sheer hype around it, I really hope that’s true. It’s also important to note that this feature should work similarly on both stable release and Insider builds of Windows 11.
Windows 11 got a bit of a reputation for its modernized Taskbar at launch as well. Microsoft took away the right-click context menu and centered the Taskbar by default. Over time, I’ve gotten more than used to it but some people may feel differently about that. Regardless, Microsoft is making a few key improvements to the Taskbar with the catch being that two of these features are only meant for and work with Microsoft Teams.
Mic mute/unmute button: Microsoft is adding a native mic mute button to Windows (11) and it works as you’d expect. Whenever you’re on a call, a mic icon will appear at the right-side of your Taskbar indicating that the mic is in use. Simply click the icon to mute the mic and click it again to unmute. Keep in mind that this will mute your mic only in the active Teams call and not across the whole OS.
Sharing window: Now, you can share the window of any open app on a Teams call. Simply hover over the app icon in the Taskbar, select “Share this window” and select “Share” when asked for confirmation, and you’re golden. This will instantly share the app window to the users in the Teams call.
Weather in the Taskbar: When Microsoft added the weather widget on the right-corner of the Taskbar on Windows 10, it caused a riot. The company is now doing the same on Windows 11 but with the weather being on the left-most corner of the Taskbar. Hovering over it temporarily brings out the Widgets pane and clicking it once will keep Widgets open. If your Taskbar is left-aligned then the weather widget will appear on the right-side of the Taskbar.
Clock on secondary monitor: For users who have multiple monitors hooked up to their computer running Windows 11, you know how inconvenient it is to not have the Taskbar clock on the second monitor. It forces you to glance over the first monitor and look at the corner each time to get the, well, time. This finally changes as Microsoft is now adding the feature for the clock to also appear on the second monitor’s Taskbar alongside the primary one’s.
New apps: Media Player and Notepad
Windows 11 ships with the default Groove Music app for audio and the Movies & TV app for videos. The new Media Player app is supposed to be a single unified replacement for both. It has already been available for Windows Insiders since November 2021 and we even did a deep dive on it back then which you can check out to learn more about the new redesigned interface.
Essentially, the Media Player will become the heart of entertainment on your device with it being able to play all the videos and audio you want under one roof. All your content in the music and video folders on your PC will appear automatically in your library, and you can also tell Media Player where to look for additional content in app settings. Media Player will permanently replace the Groove Music app, but don’t worry as your library and playlists will automatically move over to Media Player beforehand.
Along with the Media Player, Windows 11 now finally has a new Notepad. Microsoft showed off the redesigned Notepad back at the launch event for Windows 11 and since then it has been leaked to oblivion along with being in beta testing in the Insider Program for a while. The new Notepad features a redesigned interface that feels modern and looks in-line with the rest of OS. It comes with a dark mode that respects default system settings, a new and improved Find-and-Replace experience, multi-level undo and even colorful emojis.
All of this is bundled into the KB5010414 optional update which means you need to head on over to Windows Update and manually install it to avail the new features. After this, Microsoft’s next major Windows 11 update, codenamed “Sun Valley 2” is set to release sometime in the second half of 2022 which means that it will be a while before we see another major update for Microsoft’s infant OS.