In the ever-evolving environment of Windows 11, Microsoft is once again stirring the pot with a new experiment in the Start menu. After facing criticism for introducing ads within the Start menu interface, the tech giant is now venturing into the realm of widgets.

Recently discovered by a keen-eyed user named Albacore on X (formerly Twitter), the latest Windows 11 test build showcases a novel addition: a floating panel filled with widgets nestled within the Start menu.

Dubbed “Start Menu Companions,” these widgets function as apps presented as “Adaptive Cards” within a floating island that gracefully appears on either the right or left side of the Start menu. Offering a touch of personalisation, users can tailor these companions to their liking by navigating to Settings > Personalisation > Start.

Within the Start menu customisation interface, users will find a comprehensive list of installed companions, accompanied by a convenient toggle for swift activation or deactivation. Additionally, Windows 11 may provide links to the providers’ websites for further exploration. According to the insider, these companions are poised to be “very web-centric,” echoing the dynamic functionality of widgets.

Drawing inspiration from the now-retired Windows Phone interface, these companions evoke memories of the animated Live Tiles that once adorned the mobile platform. However, amid hopes for innovation, users express a collective desire for Microsoft to refrain from injecting ads into the floating panel, akin to the widget panel’s current state in Windows 11.

Beyond the realm of Start menu widgets, Microsoft is also tinkering with a new feature aimed at enhancing user experience within the Settings interface. In cases where the search box yields no results, users may soon have the option to summon “Copilot” for assistance, signalling the company’s commitment to streamlining accessibility and functionality across its ecosystem.

As the Windows 11 journey continues to unfold, these incremental changes underscore Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to refine its flagship operating system, balancing innovation with user feedback to deliver a seamless computing experience.