Microsoft is working on a big Start menu update for Windows 11 that includes widgets via new 'companions' feature

Microsoft Edge icon in Windows 11 Start menu
(Image credit: Future)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft may be adding the ability to display widgets next to the Start menu on Windows 11.
  • The latest Windows 11 preview build includes early plumbing work for showing "Adaptive Cards" in Start.
  • Adaptive Cards is what developers can use to create widget-like experiences on Windows and in apps.

It looks like Microsoft is working on a significant update to the Start menu on Windows 11 that will allow users to display widgets (or widget-like experiences) on either side of the interface. 

Spotted by @thebookisclosed on X, the latest Windows 11 preview build appears to include early plumbing work for displaying Adaptive Cards alongside the Start menu. Specifically, there are references to a "CompanionCardReader," which sounds like an extensible framework that will allow widgets to appear on either the left or right side of Start.

Because this looks to be extensible, developers will be able to build their own experiences for the Start menu. The feature is in a very early state currently, so it's not actually functional just yet. Thanks to @thebookisclosed, we do get to see what this feature might look like, which includes a sidebar interface that floats alongside the left or right side of the Start menu. 

The ability to place widgets in the Start menu has been a feature that users have been asking for since Windows 11 first debuted in 2021. After live tiles were killed off, users have been yearning for an interface paradigm that can show more information about their favorite apps in the Start menu, and being able to show widgets alongside Start might just be the answer to those prayers.

It's unclear when Microsoft intends to formally announce this new feature, or if it's just an internal experiment that will never see the light of day. Microsoft is hosting a special Windows event on May 20 where it plans to unveil new Windows features, so maybe we will hear more about these Start menu improvements then. 

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads

  • nop
    a more customizable start menu sounds good 2 me !
  • TheFerrango
    Widget in the start menu, eh? Now where have I seen this novel idea before...
  • Shadow_Death
    Thank God they added the ability to add widgets that connect to the internet. The startmenu wasn't quite slow or inconsistent enough for me. This should really cause some lag. :)
  • computerdave911
    they had widgets renamed from gadgets (same thing) on the desktop ability in windows vista and 7, but on the start menu is going backwards , should be able to put then on desktop if want , unless they talking about apps showing live tiles like win 8 and 10, that is 2 different things.
  • Arun Topez
    I would prefer if the All Apps list went in that other pane, and allow for widgets on the desktop. This would help them make the desktop more useful and scalable on other form factors like mobile or tablets.