in a new Windows 11 Insider build, Microsoft has put a search bar on the desktop for some users, explaining that this is the first stage of an experiment to remove widgets from the taskbar.
This can be found in Windows 11 Build 25120, which is available on the Dev Channel if you are logged into the Insider program. Microsoft said this won’t show up for all users enrolled in the program, but a restart may resolve this for some.
As long as you can access widgets via a button in the lower left corner of the taskbar, this is the first instance where you can directly use a widget on the desktop.
However, we’ve been here before thanks to Windows Vista. While Microsoft is calling this an experiment, it could be the start of fixing widgets as a whole, something that has been a sore point for Windows users since 2006.
Analysis: An important fix that needs to happen
Widgets have always seemed like a challenge for Microsoft that it was never able to solve. Before Windows Vista arrived in 2006, there were a bunch of third-party apps that would put widgets all over your Windows XP desktop, featuring news readers, media controls, weather notifications and more.
By the time they officially arrived on Vista, they came with a terrible name, called Gadgets, and they were a drain on your CPU, which led many users to disable this feature.
As the years passed and more recent Windows releases arrived, gadgets quickly became a distant memory. They were brought back when Windows 11 was released in October 2021, but they always felt restrictive.
This is mainly due to the fact that third-party developers do not yet have access to widgets. Apple’s take on widgets worked well in iOS and iPadOS 15 due to the fact that the developers adopted them, and you can rearrange them on the home screen whenever you want.
While they are still restrictive to one column on macOS for now, they are still more useful than Microsoft, thanks to the developers.
However, this is a promising first step from Microsoft, even if it’s just a search bar. Placing OneDrive, folder shortcuts or Xbox Game Pass widgets on the Windows 11 desktop would work fine. This might reduce desktop steps to OneDrive in one go, for example, but we may be getting ahead of ourselves as this is an experiment and features have been removed by Microsoft in the past.
Apple may be planning similar changes in macOS 13 at WWDC in June, which could put widgets on a Mac desktop. But we expect to see this as a big feature in Sun Valley 2, the next major Windows 11 update, once it arrives in late 2022.