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Windows 11: This is the new System Tray and Action Center experience

Windows 11 Quick Actions
Windows 11 Quick Actions (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Windows 11 ships with a new Action Center and System Tray experience that's quite the departure from the old one. Gone are individual flyouts for system specific functions, and in its place are two separate flyouts that split the Action Center's "Quick Actions" and "Notifications" into two menus. Let's go hands-on.

Windows 11 Notification Center

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

On Windows 11, the System Tray area can still be found on the far right of the Taskbar. At first glance, it looks to be the same as it was on Windows 10, but a closer look will reveal that it's actually quite different. To begin, the dedicated Action Center button is gone, with notifications now popping up next to the date and time only when a notification has been missed.

The actual notifications UI is now accessed by clicking on the date and time, which will also pull up a calendar flyout. Your notifications are housed above the calendar UI in a separate box, where they can be managed, cleared, or actioned upon.

Next to the date and time is your status icons for battery, internet, and volume. No longer are these icons individual flyouts, but rather one big button that opens a new "Quick Settings" menu. This menu is where all of your Action Center Quick Actions have moved to, as well as things like the volume control, audio devices selection, Wi-Fi list, and more.

Instead of each of these things being their own flyout menu that lives on the Taskbar, Microsoft has consolidated them all into this single Quick Settings menu, once again to save space on the Taskbar. You can edit the Quick Settings panel by adding or removing your most used Quick Actions, just like you could on Windows 10.

If music is playing, you'll also find a new music control UI that sits above the Quick Settings panel. This control lets you play, pause, skip forward, or skip back currently playing music without having to navigate to the music player you're using. If you're using an app that is using your microphone or location, indicates for either will show up in the System Tray as well. Confusingly, for the mic it looks like you can use the icon to mute, but you can't. Hopefully that'll be something you can do in the future.

Windows 11 Quick Settings

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The System Tray still includes the old-school overflow menu where apps go to store an icon if they run in the background, and you can still move these icons to the main System Tray on the Taskbar if you wish. On the far right of the Taskbar is the "Show desktop" button which still exists but is now invisible until you hover your cursor on to it. This is so the System Tray area looks clean while maintaining that legacy feature, and I much prefer it this way.

That said, Microsoft has moved the Show Desktop button ever so slightly so that it no longer works when you mouse your cursor into the very far corner. You have to move it a few pixels in so that it's exactly on the show desktop button, which is causing issues for lots of people who used to be able to aimlessly through their cursor into the corner and click. Hopefully, this will improve before Windows 11 ships.

I like the new Quick Settings panel, though I wish it was a little more in-depth with some of its submenus. Functions such as Wi-Fi and Accessibility have deeper menus such as being able to view the Wi-Fi list, or enabling/disabling certain ease of access functions. I'd like to see the same thing for Bluetooth or Night light, as right now they simply act as a toggle and don't have any deeper menus through the Quick Settings panel.

I'd love to be able to click into the Bluetooth button to see all my currently connected devices and their battery percentage. Or click into Night Light to configure how strong the orange tint is or to schedule a time for it to come on. Right now, for most of the settings in the Quick Settings panel, you need to go into the main Windows Settings app to configure them.

Check out our other Windows 11 feature highlights

We've been diving into all the new Windows 11 features over the last few weeks. Here's a collection of our coverage so far:

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

14 Comments
  • The real question is how W11 handles multiple notifications. On W10, if you have an active conversation, it only shows one at a time, so you get the notification ding every 10 seconds for a very long time as every message shows up individually. Can W11 handle multiple notifications at once?
  • Currently no, its still one at a time like in Windows 10
  • Oof, thanks. Hopefully they re-think this. It's caused me to spend 90% of my time in priority notification mode.
  • So there is no way to see the current time including seconds anymore, right?
  • Well you can change the clock, but it seems changes are not applied. Just like in windows 10 you can play around with the date and time and customize what it shows. Thought with Windows 11 i cant see to visibly change it to what i put in the settings. IE ive added seconds to the clock, yet it does not show that
  • Good lord, there's something that feels super antiquated with the date / time on two lines, with the time date format being so fixed. Can we not have more options on how the tim and date are expressed?
  • Its beta. I cant figure out where to change the US date format to start with a day and not the month
  • I haven't used Windows 11 yet, does it still have the classic Control Panel? If so, in there is an option for Region. If they didn't remove it, you can set the date and time format you want.
  • The region options don't work. I have it set to Canadian English with the DD-MMM-YYYY format and it still displays the US format instead. This is to be expected since Windows 11 is in Windows Insider Preview until October 2021
  • I support you, it feels old.
  • I wish there was an option to put some things on the left edge of the taskbar, where the old Start button used to be. For example, status icons for internet, battery and volume will open quick settings by tapping the lower left corner of the display. Notification panel will still be opened by the date/time indicators on the lower right corner of the screen
  • There's no keyboard, touchpad or touchscreen shortcut to bring up System Tray. Instead we get the Action Center with the useless giant calendar. I need to know if Wi-Fi is on more than I need to know what week it is.
  • Those options are still available, just go to Taskbar Settings
  • Looked at the header picture and said to self, Oh look, ChromeOS.