Microsoft giveth, and Microsoft taketh away. A slew of once-hyped Windows 10 features, including Cortana and Timeline, are vanishing or undergoing big changes in Windows 11. The details are buried in the fine print.
With today's Windows 11 announcement, Microsoft focused mainly on the flashy new features it's bringing to the next version of its flagship operating system, as a new Start menu and widgets.
But Microsoft giveth, and Microsoft taketh away. A slew of once-hyped Windows 10 features and a handful of apps will vanish along with the Windows 10 upgrade. In trademark Microsoft fashion, the details are buried in the fine print -- specifically, in a document misleadingly titled "Windows 11 Specifications."
A few of the changes are simply formal statements of product decisions that have been in the works for a long time.
The S Mode feature, which restricts administrators and standard users alike from installing apps from outside the Store and blocks many Windows administrative tools, will be available only for Windows 11 Home edition. Good riddance.
Internet Explorer is gone for good in Windows 11. Enterprise customers who need access to websites and line-of-business apps that were built in the dark ages of the web (including those that use ActiveX controls) will need to use the built-in IE Mode feature in the new Microsoft Edge.
And shed a tear for Cortana, the one-time rival to Siri and Alexa. That chirpy voice-driven assistant will no longer be a part of the "first boot experience," nor will the icon be pinned to the Taskbar. Given Cortana's reworking as an enterprise-only feature, that makes sense.
More surprising is the removal of the Timeline feature, which was once the star of Windows 10 demos. According to a support note on Microsoft's developer documentation for the feature, Windows 10 users who sign in with a Microsoft Account will no longer be able to upload new activity in Timeline as of July 2021. But the feature will be deprecated completely with the Windows 11 upgrade.
The changes to the Start menu and Taskbar make for a great Windows 11 demo, but as with any magic trick it pays to watch closely. Live Tiles are deprecated, to be replaced, Microsoft hopes, by more capable widgets. With the new Start, you won't able to create named groups and folders of apps. As for the taskbar, Microsoft is taking away the People icon and also removing the ability of developers to build taskbar customizations into apps. And if you're accustomed to moving the taskbar anywhere to the top of the display or either side, I have some bad news for you: Those options won't be available with the new dock-style user experience.
Are you accustomed to seeing your desktop wallpaper roam between devices when you sign in with a Microsoft account? That feature will vanish in Windows 11.
In Windows 10, apps can display Quick Status on the lock screen; in Windows 11, that feature and its associated settings are removed.
Tablet Mode, a feature that dates back nearly two decades, will finally disappear in Windows 11. For devices like the Surface Pro that have detachable keyboards, Microsoft says it will add new functionality for "keyboard attach and detach postures."
For the tiny percentage of PC owners who use the Touch Keyboard on devices with screen sizes 18 inches and larger, Windows 11 will no longer dock and undock those keyboard layouts. And the Math Input Panel, another holdout from Tablet PC days, is also slated for removal. Its features will be replaced by a Math Recognizer app that installs on demand. (Math inking in apps like OneNote will not change, however.)
In perhaps the most confusing announcement on the list, Microsoft says it's changing the name of the Snip & Sketch app to Snipping Tool; the legacy app that previously went by that name is vanishing.
And finally, a handful of apps that are now part of Windows 10 will no longer be installed on new devices or with a clean install of Windows 11. The list includes 3D Viewer, OneNote for Windows 10, Paint 3D, and Skype. Those apps won't be removed during an upgrade, and they'll continue to be available for download from the Store. The Wallet app, however, will be removed for good.