Microsoft went all-in on a tablet-centered touchscreen interface with Windows 8, and the company has spent just about every major Windows release since then slowly backing out of that decision. That retreat culminated in Windows 11, which completely removed the last vestiges of Tablet Mode that existed in Windows 10.
But the last few builds of Windows 11 Insider Preview have expanded Windows 11’s touchscreen capabilities. The build released to users of the Dev channel last week included new gestures, changes to how windows snap in tablet mode, and a few other improvements. And a new build released today completely overhauls the touchscreen taskbar.
Windows 11 in its current form adds more space between icons when using your device as a tablet, but the new preview goes further. When you’re using apps, the taskbar shrinks to a narrow strip at the bottom of the screen: it’s still tall enough to show the clock and your network, sound, and battery status icons, but all your pinned apps and other system tray icons are hidden. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen or closing an app window reveals a new, larger version of the taskbar with larger, more finger-friendly icons and spacing. The taskbar disappears again once you start your app.
If you want to try these features yourself, you’ll need to use touch-sensitive hardware — Windows 11 still doesn’t have a dedicated tablet mode switch like Windows 10 did. Instead, the OS relies on signals from your hardware to enable and disable the tablet-centric UI tweaks. You should see the new taskbar automatically if you’re using a Surface device in tablet mode, for example, or if you flip the hinge on a yoga-style convertible laptop.
List image by Andrew Cunningham