In Windows 11, there’s a new widgets button on the taskbar that opens a menu with quick access to weather, traffic, news, sports scores, and more. Here’s how it works.
What Is a Widget, Anyway?
In computer software, a widget is usually a small graphical app designed for quickly referencing information such as weather, sports scores, and news. Widgets are often (but not always) presented separately from regular apps in an operating system, sometimes on their own screen or in their own sidebar or menu. They often stay running in the background while doing other tasks, so you can check them quickly without having to wait for a large application to load.
In Windows Vista and Windows 7, Microsoft called widgets “Gadgets” and presented them in a special Windows Sidebar app. They were never particularly popular and eventually got the axe due to security concerns. In Windows 11, widgets work differently and live in a special menu that’s accessible from the taskbar.
How to Access Widgets in Windows 11
To access the widgets menu in Windows 11, you click the widgets button on the taskbar. It looks like a blue rectangle with rounded white and cyan rectangles inside it.
After clicking the taskbar button, the widgets menu will pop up. You’ll see a variety of widgets on display by default—usually Weather, stocks, sports scores, Photos, or Traffic.
At the very top, performing a search in the search bar will open up a Bing web search in the Edge browser. Below the widgets, you’ll see a section devoted to Bing News that you can’t currently disable.
Here’s a list of the widgets currently available in the initial Windows 11 Insider Preview:
- Weather: Your current weather conditions and a forecast.
- Watchlist: A list of current stock values. You can add ticker symbols to customize the list.
- Calendar: A small calendar that shows the current day and week outlook along with upcoming events.
- To Do: A to-do list where you can add items and check them off when they’re completed.
- Photos: Displays photos linked to your Microsoft account in a small box.
- Tips: This shows tips that help you use Windows 11 and Microsoft apps like Edge better.
- Sports: Current sports scores and results. You can enter a team name to customize the list.
- Traffic: Shows a small overhead map with traffic conditions in your area.
- Entertainment: A list of recent releases linked to films or TV shows that you can purchase in the Microsoft Store.
- Esports: The latest eSports scores and results.
Microsoft might remove some of these widgets or add more before the full release of Windows 11 in the fall of 2021. Eventually, third-party widgets could be available, but Microsoft hasn’t provided any details about how that might work just yet.
Configuring the Widgets Menu in Windows 11
To add a widget to the menu in Windows 11, you can either click your profile avatar in the upper-right corner of the widgets menu or scroll down and click the “Add Widgets” button.
A “Widget Settings” window will open that allows you to add (but not remove) widgets to the menu. In the “Add Widgets” list, click the widgets that you’d like to add.
In this same menu, you can also manage your widget menu news feed by clicking “Manage your news and interests” down at the bottom of the window. This will open a special MSN website in the Edge browser where you can pick topics that you might want to read about. When you’re done, close the Edge browser and close the “Widget Settings” window.
To remove widgets from the menu, click the three-dot ellipses menu in the upper-right corner of the widget that you want to remove. In the menu that appears, select “Remove Widget.”
Using the same three-dot menu, you can also customize widgets (add stocks, sports teams, or change your weather location, for example) and change the size of the widgets in the widgets menu. To close the widgets menu when you’re done, click outside of the menu or click the widgets button on the taskbar again.
If you’d like to remove the widget button from your taskbar, right-click the widgets icon and select “Hide From Taskbar.” To get it back, right-click the taskbar and select “Taskbar Settings,” and then turn the switch beside “Widgets” in the “Taskbar Items” section to “On.”
Overall, the widgets menu currently operates a lot like the “News and Interests” taskbar menu that recently debuted in Windows 10. It seems pretty rough around the edges and also seems designed specifically to direct Windows users to Microsoft products such as Bing, MSN News, and Edge. It still has plenty of time to improve, however—perhaps by allowing non-Microsoft services into the widgets bar—but only time will tell.
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