Microsoft wants to make Windows 11 like 10 with new "Companions" panel for Start menu

Windows 11 Preview Build 26212 launched not too long ago

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Key notes

  • Windows 11 introduces Companions, similar to live tiles back in Windows 10 days
  • It displays interactive cards beside the Start menu & is powered by Adaptive Cards.
  • Companions can be toggled and customized in Settings, potentially rolling out to testers soon.

Just fresh off reports of Microsoft pushing ads as “Recommended” apps in Windows 11’s Start menu, the Redmond company is working on yet another tweak. It’s perhaps the Start menu’s most significant update in a while. 

Now, Windows 11 insider Albacore (@thebookisclosed) eagle eyes spotted the concept of an extensible Start menu through Companions, third-party apps powered by Adaptive Cards – written in JSON – displayed as floating and interactive alongside the Start menu.

Depending on where you place your Start menu, these floating Companions can be docked on the right or the left side of Start. Sort of like Live Tiles back in Windows 10 days. A somewhat similar concept was also shared by Windows 11 fans on Reddit many years ago.

Integrated with Widgets, these Companions use data from frequently used widgets, and developers can also choose whether they’re docked or undocked. The demo shows widgets like weather or market forecast, but it’s safe to expect to see more in future builds. You can also toggle them on/off through Settings > Personalization. 

Earlier this week, Microsoft launched the Windows 11 Preview Build 26212 for folks in the Canary channel. It then fixes a lot of crashes in File Explorer and brings a few changes that were introduced in previous builds.