Windows 11 won’t just change the Windows operating system, it will change the way some Windows apps look and feel, too. As Microsoft continues to update Windows 11, Microsoft has already been highlighting several Windows apps that are being updated for the look and feel of its modern operating system.
So far, Microsoft has shown off several Windows apps that it’s reworking for Windows 11, including some of the basics: Mail and Calendar, Paint, and even the lowly Clock app. Below, we’ll show you what to expect of these new apps within Windows 11 and how they’re evolving.
As of May 10, Microsoft began previewing the new Sound Recorder app within Windows 11. There’s a new visualization for audio within recording and playback, and new support for changing your recording device and file format from within the app, which Microsoft said was among the top requested features in Feedback Hub.
The update to the new Sound Recorder will replace the Voice Recorder app, Microsoft said.
Windows 11 Clock (Focus Sessions)
Perhaps the most unexpectedly interesting update to Windows 11’s suite of Windows apps is the lowly Clock app. Now, in addition to the usual suite of Timers, Alarms, a Stopwatch, and a World Clock, Microsoft has added Focus Sessions and Microsoft To-Do.
Microsoft describes Focus Sessions as a major new feature, and it’s easy to see why. If you’re the type of person who concentrates best when music plays, you’ll love Focus Sessions and its integration with Spotify. Focus Sessions allows you to block out a period of time, with a literal stopwatch counting it down. During the Focus Session, you can connect your account to Spotify and ask it to play classical music, electronic, trance—whatever keeps you in the zone. (There’s a mute button, too, in case you receive a call.)
The Clock app also includes integration with To-Do, so you can accomplish tasks and check them off. Finally, you’ll even be able to configure “streaks”—a habit-building feature that’s part of Microsoft Rewards—to set a daily goal and then accomplish it, day after day.
Windows 11 Photos
Microsoft appears to be making some minor though interesting changes to the Photos app within Windows 11, which is currently in release to the Windows 11 Insider Dev Channel. (That’s possibly important, since the Dev Channel is the “future” branch of Microsoft’s beta program, and isn’t a commitment to releasing an updated app whe Windows 11 launches.)
Microsoft has made several changes to the app: an updated toolbar, the addition of thumbnail images at the bottom of the screen, and the ability to click one or more of those to compare two or more photos.
Within the Photos toolbar at the top of the screen, Microsoft is adding shortcuts to other visual apps that you may already have on your machine, too. (Photos also continues to include the automatic, algorithmic “Enhance your photo” option, too.) Otherwise, Photos has added the familiar rounded corners and other visual elements of Windows 11.
Windows 11 Paint
Microsoft Paint has rolled successful saves against death many times over, surviving decisions to deprecate the beloved utility in 2017 as well as relegate it to a downloadable app. In 2019, Microsoft said Paint would remain a part of Windows 10 for now.
The decision by Microsoft chief product officer Panos Panay to show off a new look for Paint in Windows 11 affirms that Paint has survived yet again. In a video, Panay revealed what looks more like a user-interface update than any major change in functionality. (One omission: The reference to Paint3D that currently exists with Windows 10’s Paint.) Still, updating the iconography as well as the drop-down functionality is a welcome step, and simply putting in the work shows that Microsoft remains committed to Paint as a whole.
Windows 11 Calculator
Calculator is a surprisingly powerful tool hidden within Windows 10, though most people probably use it merely for numerical calculations. Inside it is a graphing calculator (remember to expand the app’s window to use all of its functionality!), the ability to convert measurements and currencies, a scientific and programmer calculator, and more. None of that functionality appears to be changing for Windows 11, but the app will include a new theme setting. It’s also been rewritten in C#, which Microsoft did as a way to allow the public to contribute to the app on GitHub, code in new features, and update the app more frequently over time.
Anyone who captures screenshots regularly should know that Microsoft has not one, but two tools for doing so: the legacy Snipping Tool, and the newer Snip & Sketch. For years, Microsoft has posted a notice in the former app that it would be replaced by Snip & Sketch…but now that doesn’t appear to be the case.
“Both the classic Snipping Tool and Snip & Sketch apps have been replaced by a new Snipping Tool app that represents the best experiences of both apps in the next evolution of screen capture for Windows,” Microsoft’s Dave Grochocki wrote in a blog post.
Panay showed off a revamped Snipping Tool that uses the Snip & Sketch shortcut (Win + Shift + S) but leaves the other snipping options unchanged. Aesthetically, the app now has the rounded corners and other visual cues of Windows 11—even dark mode. There will be some additional editing tools for annotations and improved cropping functionality, as well.
Windows 11 Mail and Calendar
Last but not least are Windows 11’s own Mail and Calendar apps, which eliminate a lot of the visual clutter within Outlook and provide a simplified, streamlined experience. Microsoft doesn’t seem like it will change anything here, simply giving the user interface the familiar rounded corners of Windows 11.
For Windows 11 news, how-tos, guides, and more, check out PCWorld’s Windows 11 superguide.
This story was updated on May 12, 2022 with more detail on how Microsoft will update the Sound Recorder app and replace the Voice Recorder app.