Close-up of student scrolling on tablet

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Microsoft’s latest preview of Windows 11 brings back the tablet-optimized taskbar. 

The collapsed state is a thin taskbar that only shows critical status icons and is designed to avoid accidental actions when holding a tablet. The expanded state is a broader taskbar with larger icons that are easier to touch. 

Windows 11

The taskbar automatically switches to the optimized version when the user disconnects or folds back the keyboard on a 2-in-1 device. Users can also switch between the states by swiping up or down on the taskbar. Sensibly, Microsoft made tablet-optimized taskbar only available on tablets and convertibles, but not laptops and desktops.

SEE: The 7 best tablets: Ditch the laptop

The tablet-conscious Windows 11 taskbar was introduced in a February preview and it seems nothing has changed other than that it’s back. 

“We’re re-introducing the touch-optimized taskbar that’s designed to make you feel more confident and comfortable using your device as a tablet,” Microsoft notes.

If you have a Windows 11 convertible and are running Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 25197 in the Dev Channel, there should be a new setting called “Optimize taskbar for touch interactions when this device is used as a tablet”, which is on by default. It can be configured under Settings > Personalization > Taskbar > Taskbar behaviors.

The Dev Channel includes features that Microsoft test with users but that aren’t guaranteed to ship. However, this one seems like a sensible one to bring to tablets. 

An update for all devices is a change to the System Tray, which now has a “rounded focus and hover treatment” all on icons in the lower right. Apparently it’s to modernize the experience. Microsoft is also working on fixes for it.

“You may also notice that it is not possible to drag and drop or rearrange your system tray icons with this change. We heard your feedback on this change earlier this year and are working to address this in a future Insider Preview build,” the Windows Insider team said in a blogpost.   

Some users still also see animated icons and illustrations in the Settings app. The animated icons will appear in the navigation bar and are part of Microsoft’s evolving “motions design principles”, which shifts emphasis on purely functional to “also delightful”. Microsoft shared a gif of it in action as pictured below. 

Microsoft also rolled out multiple fixes for Windows 11 desktop elements, including the System Tray, taskbar, Start, File Explorer, Settings, and Task Manager.    

Image: Microsoft

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