Microsoft promotes itself as the productivity company, but the new Windows 11 taskbar removes key functionality and makes me less productive as a result. Missing features include power user elements like displaying the time and date on multiple monitors, or simple things like having small icons and being able to move the taskbar around. There’s so much missing here that I’m stunned Microsoft is shipping a new OS that takes the Windows taskbar back decades.
While this missing functionality initially seemed like bugs or unfinished code, it’s clear Microsoft now intends to ship the taskbar like this on October 5th. I personally use three monitors on my PC, and if I’m using a fullscreen app or a game on my primary one, I can’t see the date or time on my other monitors. This sounds like a small issue, but it’s glanceable information I look at multiple times a day and rely on. I simply don’t understand why Microsoft would remove this in the name of simplification.
Another big missing feature is being able to drag and drop files onto taskbar apps. I commonly drag images from File Explorer onto the Adobe Photoshop icon on my taskbar, where it will bring the app into focus and open the file. This no longer works, and you’re presented with a giant red cross instead. This is basic functionality that has existed in Windows for years.
Elsewhere, the taskbar has been overhauled to remove a lot of the customization Windows users are used to. You can’t enable small icons anymore or ungroup icons. You can’t even move the taskbar to the top or sides of your screen, or adjust its height. Many users are also missing the Task Manager not being part of the taskbar context menu, or the many other cascade and windowing options that were previously there. Instead, the taskbar context menu has been reduced to a single taskbar settings option.
The system tray is also worse in Windows 11 compared to Windows 10. You can’t easily hide system icons, and the whole area feels a little too simplified for my liking. The modernization of Windows 11 is great, but the taskbar really lets the OS down.
I’ve been testing Windows 11 since its initial preview release in June, and I honestly expected the taskbar to improve in time for release. After every preview release, I boot into Windows 11 expecting to see taskbar improvements, only to switch back to Windows 10 after a few minutes.
Because of this taskbar, Windows 11 will be the first version of Windows I won’t be upgrading to on my main PC. I’ve lived through Windows Vista and Windows 8, but even then, Microsoft at least allowed people to re-enable the interface elements they had grown used to. In Windows 11 you’ll need to apply registry hacks or use third-party programs to get the taskbar you’re used to, and those workarounds could break after any OS update.
I’m not the only person complaining about the taskbar, in fact there have been countless feedback threads in Microsoft’s official Windows Feedback Hub in recent months that highlight these issues. Microsoft tells me it’s listening to user feedback, but it clearly hasn’t acted on most of it in time for release.
“Windows 11 was built on the design principles of making Windows effortless, calmer, and more personal, while still feeling familiar,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “Taskbar, like many other parts of Windows 11, was redesigned from the ground up guided by these principles. As with every experience in Windows 11, we’re constantly listening and learning, and welcome customer feedback that helps shape Windows. Windows 11 will continue to evolve over time; if we learn from user experience that there are ways to make improvements, we will do so.”
I still haven’t heard a good explanation for this basic loss of functionality, but I suspect most of the features are missing because Microsoft rebuilt the taskbar for Windows 10X. Windows 10X was originally going to run on dual-screen devices, before Microsoft reworked it for laptops and then moved to Windows 11 instead. Microsoft simplified the taskbar in Windows 10X greatly, and many other parts of the OS. That hasn’t translated well back to desktop PCs, or for power users of Windows that rely on the taskbar daily.
I’m hopeful that Microsoft will once again prove that it listens to its Windows users, but until then I’m staying clear of Windows 11 for now.