Hands on: Windows 11’s new feature promises a cleaner taskbar at cost of functionality

Windows 11 taskbar closer look

Microsoft is experimenting with a new minimalist taskbar for
Windows 11 with an improved UI for the overflow menu and new
system tray controls that would cater to those who prefer a
clean taskbar, but at the same time, another taskbar feature
has also gone missing for absolutely no good reason.

In the latest preview builds, Microsoft has been testing a new
overflow experience that aims to make it easier to select a
running application when you have too many apps open or pinned
on the taskbar. The purpose is to make it easier to select a
particular app when the taskbar is crowded.

Additionally, Microsoft has refreshed the system tray to match
the rest of the visual style of the new operating system. As
part of this change, it is now possible to hide all icons that
appear on the right side of the taskbar except the sound and
WiFi buttons which are part of the new control center.

Taskbar overflow UI
via Albacore

Windows 11 22H2, you can navigate to Settings >
Personalization > Taskbar > Other system tray icons and
select a new option called “Hide icon menu” to disable the
system tray (^) on the taskbar. When you disable the icon, some
icons like Bluetooth or Steam may move outside the system tray.

Windows Settings includes additional controls to help you
decide if indicators for apps or services like Steam and
Bluetooth should sit next to the control center buttons.

Microsoft is optimizing the taskbar for tablets while promising
to make the taskbar a little cleaner

Microsoft is also making changes to the system tray in a bid to
optimize the taskbar for tablets, but there are unwanted side
effects that also affect desktop users.

Windows 11 taskbar settings

The new option to disable the “Hidden icon menu” or system tray
is particularly useful if you have less available space on the
taskbar or you prefer a cleaner look over icons.

However, there’s a catch – the new taskbar overflow icons
experience complicates the ‘drag and drop’ process to change
the order of icons in taskbar system icons.

Clean taskbar

As we have pointed out earlier, drag-and-drop is no longer
supported to pin/unpin these items. This means you cannot
change the order of icons in the system tray.

To make any changes to the system tray or restore the removed
icons, you need to right-click on the taskbar and choose
“Taskbar settings”, and then select apps that you want to see
on the taskbar.

For example, if you remove the Bluetooth icon from the system
tray, you will need to open Settings and turn on the Bluetooth
icon to restore it. However, when you restore the Bluetooth
icon, it will appear outside the system tray.

If you want the icon to appear within the tray, you need to
open Settings again and turn off the icon. That’s because it is
no longer possible to drag and drop icons inside or around the
system tray.

In a nutshell, Windows 11’s new feature promises to make the
taskbar a bit cleaner and optimize it for the touchscreens, but
it complicates the personalization process for those who prefer
icons on the taskbar for background apps.

It’s also worth noting that Windows 11 still doesn’t have a
toggle in taskbar settings to show all system tray icons and we
don’t know when the feature will return.

“Thanks for reaching out about this. It’s not something we
currently support, however your interest in having such an
option has been passed along to the engineering team for future
consideration,” Microsoft officials said when users questioned
the company’s decision to remove the “Show all icons” option.

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