Windows 11 to bring floating Live Tiles-like widgets to Start menu (build 26212)

Microsoft could be planning to bring a new form of Live Tiles on Windows 11 inside the Start menu side panel.

Start menu widgets panel
Start menu widgets panel / Image: @thebookisclosed
  • The Start menu could be getting a new form of Live Tiles with a new floating panel that displays widgets.
  • The feature hides inside the Windows 11 build 26212 available in the Canary Channel.
  • This release also hides a new Copilot integration inside the Settings app, tweaks for the sign-in experience, and changes to the Share UI.

UPDATED 5/10/2024: Microsoft is experimenting with a new Start menu design for Windows 11, adding a side panel to show adaptive cards (fancy name for widgets similar to Windows 10 Live Tiles). The feature is known as “Companions,” and it has been spotted by user @thebookisclosed on X as part of the Windows 11 build 26212 release in the Canary Channel.

Start menu Live Tiles

The Start menu Companions is still in the early stages, and it doesn’t work, but according to the screenshots, the menu will be getting a floating side panel that can show widgets from different apps. Also, users will be able to dock the panel on the right or left side.

Start menu side panel
Start menu side panel / Image: @thebookisclosed

Of course, developers will have to integrate this functionality into their apps, and you will be able to configure it from the “Start” settings page in the “Personalization” section of the Settings app. In addition, users will be able to customize each widget in a way similar to how it’s possible today with the Widgets dashboard.

Start settings widgets settings
Start settings widgets settings / Image: @thebookisclosed

It’s important to note that these widgets will use the “Adaptive Cards” feature, which is simple for developers to code and uses JSON structure.

At first glance, the panel resembles a miniature version of the Widgets dashboard, and it reminds me of the Live Tile feature for the Start menu design on Windows 10, which the company removed from the operating system with the release of Windows 11. However, since these widgets will display dynamic content from applications, it’s seems like Microsoft is trying to recreate the Live Tile experience.

Microsoft hasn’t officially announced the feature. As such, there isn’t much information other than speculations on how this feature will work. 

Settings app with Copilot

In addition, Microsoft watcher @thebookisclosed has also discovered that the company is planning to integrate Copilot into the Settings app.

Settings app with Copilot
Settings app with Copilot / Image: @thebookisclosed

While you won’t have a dedicated button to access the chatbot AI inside the Settings app, whenever you use the search feature, the drop-down will include an “Ask Copilot in Windows” option to send your query to the digital assistant. If Copilot understands the prompt and knows how to handle the task, it may even change the system settings for you automatically.

Recall and snapshots (AI Explorer) settings

This update also hides an entry for the upcoming AI Explorer feature. On build 26212, the “Privacy & security” settings section hides a new page known as “Recall and snapshots” that clearly makes reference to the AI Explorer. 

Recall and snapshots
Recall and snapshots / Image: @thebookisclosed

Although many aspects of the feature are still unknown, the icon clearly suggests that the page is to control the settings for the “AI Explorer” feature. However, the name also suggests that the feature may be known by a different name, and “AI Explorer” could be only an internal name. 

If the company ends up naming the feature “Recall and snapshots,” it could be because of the probability of users confusing the feature with File Explorer. 

Lock Screen enhancements

As part of the Lock Screen improvements, the Windows 11 build 26212 also changes the welcome greeting to “Welcome back!”

Login welcome back
Login welcome back / Image: @thebookisclosed

Share interface changes 

Finally, build 26212 also introduces various changes for the Share interface, including the ability to create QR codes for links and cloud files when using the feature through Microsoft Edge. If you use Gmail and the account is connected to Windows 11, you will be able to send emails directly from the Share interface. Furthermore, the Share interface will no longer close when clicking outside the interface, meaning you’ll now have to click the close button to dismiss it.

Share with QR code
Share with QR code / Image: Microsoft

This isn’t technically a new feature since the company already made it available with the release of build 22635.3420.

Windows 11 build 26120.470 changes

Microsoft is also releasing preview build 26120.470 in the Dev Channel. This is a small update that begins the rollout of the “Game Pass” recommendation card on the Settings Home page. The recommendation will only appear when the system detects that you actively play games on your computer. Also, it will only show for devices running the Pro and Home editions of the operating system.

Settings Home with Game Pass promo
Settings Home with Game Pass promo / Image: Microsoft

The official notes highlight several fixes, including an update that resolves an issue with Windows Hello for Business. This release also fixes networking, security, USB audio, Remote Desktop, and the Settings app problems, and the Task Manager resolves an issue that prevented certain NPUs from showing up in the app.

Windows 11 build 22635.3575 changes

Finally, the company also made available the Windows 11 build 22635.3575 (KB5037862) in the Beta Channel. This is also a small update that rolls out the copy link button for the Share interface.

Furthermore, the official notes point out several fixes for the Taskbar and File Explorer, and it lists a bunch of known issues.

What are your thoughts about the Companions feature for the Start menu? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Update May 10, 2024: This page has been updated to include more information about the preview in the Canary Channel, and it adds the information for the latest preview builds available in the Dev and Beta Channels.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].