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The Best Windows 11 Features: Android Apps, Widgets and More

We'll walk you through some of Microsoft's new features and how to use them.

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Windows 11 brings a bunch of new features. Here's how to use them.
Microsoft

Microsoft began rolling out Windows 11 in the fall of 2021 with new features and a redesigned interface, bringing with it all sorts of tools to boost productivity. Now, a long-waited feature has arrived: Android apps for Windows 11

Keep in mind, though, that Microsoft Windows 11's update is rolling out in phases. This means the update has hit newer devices first, and it will be offered to all other compatible Windows devices by mid-2022. If you're hesitant about updating to the new OS, don't stress. Upgrading to Windows 11 from Windows 10 isn't mandatory, at least not yet, and Microsoft says it will support the older operating system until 2025

But if you're ready to update, already have Windows 11 or just want to check out the latest Microsoft has to offer, we'll lay out the best Windows 11 features we've seen and how you'll use them. You can also check out how Windows 11 compares with Windows 10, everything Windows 11 didn't give us and what Windows 11 SE is.

Our favorite features in Windows 11 and how to use them

Android apps

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You'll be able to download Android apps on Windows 11.

Microsoft

What it is: Android apps are now built into Windows 11 natively through the new Microsoft Store -- a change Windows users have been waiting on for years. Support for Android apps was not part of the first shipping version of Windows 11, but Microsoft has since begun to roll out a preview of the feature as part of the operating system's first major update. 

Though you could access Android apps on your Windows 10 PC in certain cases (like if you have a Samsung Galaxy phone), Windows 11 marks the first time everyone will be able to download them directly onto your PC. (Here's everything to know about Android apps on Windows 11.) 

How you'll use it: Android apps are available in the new Microsoft Store via Amazon's Appstore. That means you'll need to download the Amazon Appstore to access the nearly 500,000 apps available there, including Disney Plus, TikTok, Netflix, Pinterest and Uber. However, you won't be able to access every Android app found in the Google Play Store.

Once you download the Amazon Appstore and sign in to or create an Amazon account, you'll be able to search for free or paid apps as you would on any other platform. Android apps are integrated into the Start bar and will also appear on the Taskbar with their own windows. 

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Widgets

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Widgets on Windows 11 gives you customizable, at-a-glance information.

Microsoft

What it is: Windows 11 adds Widgets to the interface -- an AI-powered customizable feed that slides out to show you such info as news, weather, a glimpse at your calendar and to-do list and your recent photos. Widgets are similar to a feature called news and interests found in a recent Windows 10 update. 

How you'll use it: On the newly redesigned taskbar, you'll find a button for Widgets. When you click or tap it, a panel will slide out from the left side of your screen with a series of widgets that give you the at-a-glance information you're looking for. You can also expand it to be full screen. 

Microsoft Teams

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Bring up the Microsoft Teams Chat bar directly from the taskbar in Windows 11 for easier access to your contacts.

Microsoft/Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

What it is: Windows 11 builds Microsoft's video chat platform Teams directly into the operating system, making it easier to access for daily use. You can connect with others on Teams across Windows, Android, Mac or iOS. 

How you'll use it: You may see Teams appear in the taskbar. If not, you can search for it. Click the Teams icon to launch a Chat tool, letting you choose if you want to message, text, voice or video call one of your contacts. Click Meet or Chat, and choose who you want to contact. Or, open the full version of Microsoft teams by clicking the box at the bottom of the Chat screen. (Here's more about how to use the new and improved Microsoft Teams in Windows 11.)

Desktops

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Easily toggle between different desktops in Windows 11.

Microsoft/Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

What it is: Windows 11 lets you more easily create separate virtual desktops for each part of your life, and customize them with different wallpapers, so you can create a desktop for personal use, work, school, gaming or anything else, and easily toggle between them. This is similar to the MacOS virtual desktop feature. 

How you'll use it: Tap the desktop button on the taskbar to pop up a panel with your current desktop. Tap the plus button in the New desktop area to create a new desktop. Tap the X button to remove it. Then tap a desktop to switch to it. 

Snap Layouts

What it is: When you're working in a bunch of open windows, Windows 11 lets you arrange them in different layouts on the screen, and will save all of those windows in that arrangement. 

How you'll use it: When you open a window, you'll see a button that looks like a square in the top right corner, in between the X and the minimize button. Hover over that to see different layout options for that window, and select the layout and the position within the layout where you want to place that window. 

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Bring together groups of apps and windows with Snap Layouts, and easily maximize and minimize the entire bunch with Snap Groups in Windows 11. 

Microsoft

Snap Groups 

What it is: Snap Groups are the set of open windows that you saved in Snap Layouts, found in the taskbar for easy access to call up once again, so you can minimize or maximize them as a group.

How you'll use it: Hover over your browser in the taskbar (it's unclear if you need to be using Microsoft Edge to do so, as Microsoft did in its demo). You'll see the different groups of sites and apps you created pop up. Click the one you want to open the whole group again. (Here's more about using Snap Layouts and Snap Groups.)

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3 leaked new features that could arrive soon

Software leaker @thebookisclosed on Feb. 5 tweeted that Windows 11 will get several new features, including a "sustainability" tab that recommends ways to save the device's energy and suggests how to recycle the device. 

The leaker also wrote that Windows 11's "Focus assist" feature, which aims to help you avoid distraction by reducing notifications, will become just "Focus." The new Focus feature would allow for Outlook scheduling and more customization.

Although Windows 11 did away with Windows 10's Tablet mode, the leaker wrote that an element of it could return in the form of a taskbar setting called "Automatically hide the taskbar when using your device as a tablet." 

Finally, the leaker wrote that Windows 11 would introduce Stickers that you can add to your desktop wallpaper and edit.

For more, check out how Windows 11's desktop widgets and layouts work and how to change your Windows 11 wallpaper. You can also take a look at CNET's list of the best Windows laptops you can buy and the best laptops under $500.