Windows 11: This is the new 'Widgets' panel with news, weather, and more

Windows 11 Widgets Hero
Windows 11 Widgets Hero (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Windows 11 features a new Widgets panel that slides out from the left.
  • It houses the same News & Interests content as found on Windows 10.
  • Unfortunately, it's not very customizable. At least not yet.

Microsoft's new Windows 11 OS features a brand new "Widgets" panel that's pinned to the Taskbar by default. This Widgets panel is essentially just the Windows 10 "News & Interests" taskbar flyout, but housed in a slightly different UI. It connects to the same MSN service, and offers the same news, weather, sports, and finance updates.

Windows 11 Widgets Dashboard Ui

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

The Widget panel can be accessed either via the dedicated Widget button on the Taskbar, via a swipe in from the left of the display, or via the keyboard shortcut Win+W. The panel sits on the left, and cannot be moved around or resized. Along the top of the panel is the current time, along with a drop down menu for customizing what kind of topics and interests show up inside the panel.

Beneath that is your grid of interests, spanning from the latest news to sports leaderboards. All of this information can be customized and tuned to your liking via the MSN website. Frustratingly, none of the boxes can be moved around or rearranged, and clicking on anything will open in Microsoft Edge, even if your browser default isn't the Edge browser.

Since this is still pre-release software, we're not going to judge its quality or feature set. That said, having everything open in the web browser and now directly inside the Widgets panel is incredibly frustrating, and I hope Microsoft is able to improve this so clicking on things like "see full forecast" just expands the widget so I can see more, instead of taking me out of the panel entirely.

Unfortunately, the most useful part of the old News & Interests feature on Windows 10 is gone on Windows 11. The ability to see the current Weather directly on the Taskbar was nice, but that heads-up display has been replaced with an animated Widgets logo which doesn't display any Weather information at all. Too bad.

It also doesn't look like this Widgets panel is developer accessible, meaning it's only for Microsoft's MSN service and not for third-party developers to build their own Widgets. Finally, it bizarrely requires you to be signed in with a Microsoft Account for any of it to function. If you're not, you'll just get an error asking you to sign-in. I also find it interesting that in this error, the Widgets panel calls itself the "Windows Dashboard."

Microsoft really needs to build this feature out more if it wants anyone to properly use it, as right now, it's a glorified viewer, and I don't think there's much of a market for that. What are your thoughts on the new Widgets panel? Let us know in the comments.

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: @zacbowden.

  • This feels like live tiles, but with extra steps
  • Here is hoping the final version allows you to pin 📍 other apps to widgets such as: Inbox and other live tiles apps. If that happens, I will be totally pleased with 11 over 10.
  • Exactly, this will most likely be the new home for live tile apps! Microsoft might also open new features for developers to make them interactive without needing to open the full app as well! We'll see what they announce in the Windows 11 event on the 24th.
  • If that happens you have the current start menu in a less useful form.
  • You know what I'm going to miss about live tiles. The fact that the picture app always shuffled through the same damn picture for a month and never showed me something new. On top of that it was always a picture of dirt or some stupid but photo. Just mocking me over and over. Or the frustration that i got from clicking on the mail tile thinking it would jump to the live tile email. Only to be reminded that it doesn't work that way. It just teases you. Mocking you for thinking it actually was useful. Or the fact that i had this huge blank tile and a tiny little app icon stuck in the middle regardless of how large you resize the tile. It just kept mocking me! Look you can have this super awesome giganto tile but its POINTLESS. I'm also going to miss the fact that office 365 outlook never freaking used the live tile to begin with. Or how I'm collaborating with a friend on a power point and well the App was never a live tile saying guess what your friend edit the file! Live tile was a great concept that Microsoft neve felt was worth the effort of their own apps. Either that or every time they came up with an idea it hogged so much resources that microsoft thought the idea was great but not worth the system load. Who in the world knows why.
  • This seems a lot like their android launcher. Hopefully we get the same capabilities I like all the info the launcher has on its flyout.
  • why another clock ?
  • So we can kill the one on the taskbar?
  • God I hope that is an option. I don't get the hiding everything that seems to be happening in Windows 11.
  • I like seeing the weather in the taskbar without opening/hovering like I can with current Windows 10 build, looks like that will be gone
  • "It also doesn't look like this Widgets panel is developer accessible, meaning it's only for Microsoft's MSN service and not for third-party developers to build their own Widgets." One of many things you could, you know, ask Microsoft about.
  • You really think they would respond before the June event?
  • Not going to judge now, but this absolutely needs to customizable at launch (both the size of the widgets panel and the size/location of the individual boxes) and needs to be opened up for more apps. It would also be nice if any currently installed app that offers live tile functionality could be pinned here, just using the currently existing live tile. I know live tiles are being phased out, but I regularly use the Calendar, Weather, News and Photos live tiles.
  • Sure if you like built into your OS. It also will be the place where Microsoft starts serving ads to you inside the OS.
  • It's a redundant feature and redundant implementation. Why would you limit having only widgets at such a place. Or why would you limit having only icons in the start menu? Why does Microsoft care about ruining the custmization that is already availbale for its clients?
  • It is frustrating. I saw a screenshot of the Start menu on an ultrawide monitor and it was a tiny box in the middle. My current full screen star menu show all my icons all organized, itbwould be 4-5 pages on Windows 11. Windows 3.11 Program Manger could show more icons. I don't get the thought process, ita form before function. It looks pretty but it makes me do more work with less passive information provided. I expect it wont fare much better long term then Windows 8 ui did. Clicking through pages of icons is going to get old fast.
  • I thank the Widget Panel will be customizable. Because MS changed its name from News and Interest. I also than the articles talking about the Charms Bar coming back in Windows 11 as actually the Widgets Panel. I like the Widget Panel. It reminds me of the glance screen in the Surface Duo.
  • This could be cool if it was expanded to show upcoming appointments and emails and other live tile stuff, and if it resizeable and pinnable to the desktop. Honestly I will never remember to click it,so of there is no way to keep it on the desktop its not going to be useful for me. Edge's new tab is basically the same feed and I will see it naturally during normal use.
  • The thing that I disabled for providing slanted news and People-centric gossip? Yeah, don't need that.
  • If it's going to be called "Widgets" I have to believe that it will be available to 3rd party developers. You also showed how it swipes in from the left, which also implies a place to put all the stuff you might want at a glance (like on the MS Launcher for Android). Otherwise, if it were really going to be limited to just a few MS components, a name like "Dashboard" or even "News & Weather" would make more sense. The word "Widgets" implies lots of various and open-ended functions. That means 3rd party development. Do we know if Dashboard is the older name relative to Widgets or is it the new name replacing Widgets?
  • It is called the Dashboard, which you can't use unless you are logged in. It would seem that Widgets, News, Mail, Stocks, PC performance, would be things you put on your Dashboard. So, widget panel may be a misnomer, though literally accurate.
  • I don't think this is the final look. This looks like merging the old Windows 10 Cortana news section with the News and Interests (having it show up in a different pane from the Start Menu). I think it needs to be customizable by third-party developers beyond MS News and features. Let the new "timeline" be in the Start Menu (makes sense to see history as you "start"); let notifications and settings be in their own section (on the right); then let widgets for news, weather interests, connected home/wearable/mobile and other devices, and developer-specific widgets be in the Windows Dashboard. Everybody's happy and things make more sense.
  • I totally agree with Zac and most comments here. This panel MUST have greater customizability including STRICT control over news feed content and turning it off, an API open to 3rd party developers or at the very least the ability to add cards for a lot more Microsoft apps (e.g. Mail, Calendar, mini Excel dashboards, etc.) and definitely enabling click to expand a card to show more info instead of dumping you out of the panel. Anything less will render the entire feature dead on arrival and nothing but a source of frustration at what could have been.
  • Needs to have an option to disable the news and widget support for 3rd party apps. Will probably be added though. What I just do not get though is why not add widget support to the start menu (or wherever apps will be pinned), that would allow easy access with the Start button/hotkey. This seems like more hassle than it should be tbh.