Windows 11 Start menu is getting Live Tiles-like floating Companions panel

Peer Networks UK Windows Latest Windows 11 Start menu is getting Live Tiles-like floating Companions panel

The Start menu is probably getting its first major update since 2021. Windows 11 Build 26212 has a new feature called “Companions,” which appears in a floating panel next to the Start menu. This idea is similar to Windows 10-era live tiles and the widgets on the widgets board.

As respected independent developer Albacore first discovered, Build 26212 includes new references to the upcoming Start menu’s Companions feature. The Companions are interactive widgets that appear next to the Start menu in a floating panel. Similar to widgets, these extensions use Adaptive Cards to show interactive cards.

Windows 11 Start menu Companions

As shown in the above screenshot, Microsoft will allow you to toggle the Compansion floating panel on the right or left side of the Start menu. The mock-up shows off widgets like weather and financial information, but remember that the cards are in the screenshot for demo purposes only.

You’ll find toggles related to the Compansions in Settings > Personalization > Start. The Start settings page will let you control, install or find more Companions. Microsoft will also include a link developer’s site for customization.

It’s worth noting that the Start menu design is not getting a big refresh. By default, you’ll still have your pinned apps on the left side. You can still see popular apps, and the recommended section is here to stay with recently opened or added files and apps.

Finally, on the right side, a new floating panel could display the weather, clock and other features.

Of course, you can also move the panel to the left side of the Start menu.

Windows 11 Start menu Companions feature

This new floating Companion panel is powered by a lesser-known feature called Adaptive Cards.

The Adaptive Cards feature isn’t new. It’s been a part of Microsoft’s ecosystem for several years now. According to Microsoft’s documentation, Adaptive Cards are written in JSON, a simple data format.

Since Adaptive Cards are authored in JSON, developers can easily use them across all apps, services, and platforms. Apps built using this framework can fit into any app’s style.

For example, Microsoft previously used Adaptive Cards in Cortana, Skype, and Windows Timeline. The Adaptive Cards also power Windows 11’s widgets board.

With Companions, Microsoft could allow developers to extend the Start menu

While we won’t see fully floating desktop gadgets yet, this feature could bring back something similar to Live Tiles.

Developers can create their own Start menu widgets using JSON-based Adaptive Cards and offer them via the Microsoft Store.

For example, you can go to the Microsoft Store, download Compansions and add a Clock, Weather, and other widgets directly to the floating panel next to the Start menu.

Microsoft makes it easy to turn off the feature or adjust its location from the Windows 11 settings.

The company is still exploring the feature, which could begin rolling out to testers later this year.

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