If you download the latest Windows 11 Insider build, you may get to try out Microsoft’s retro future: widgets on the desktop. Specifically, you’ll have a shot at Windows 11 planting a search box right on your desktop.
Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 25120 for the Dev Channel exposes what Microsoft has referred to as conceptual ideas, or using the Dev Channel release as a test bench for ideas that may never make it to the release version of Windows. That’s nothing new. It sounds like the new build represents a sort of statement to that effect, however.
Here’s what the new build offers: A search bar that hovers at the top of your desktop. No, it’s not in your taskbar or in the Start menu. It’s right on your desktop, as shown in the picture above.
“Starting with this preview build, some Insiders will see one of these conceptual features as we begin to explore exposing lightweight interactive content on the Windows desktop,” Microsoft said in a blog post describing the new build. “Today, Windows exposes this type of content in the Widgets board. To begin assessing this general idea and interaction model, the first exploration in this area adds a search box displayed on the desktop that enables you to search the web.”
Unfortunately, this build doesn’t guarantee that you’ll receive the search box. If you do, and you don’t want it, you can also toggle it off by right-clicking the desktop, going to Show more options, and toggle off the Show search option.
The rest of the build contains minor tweaks and fixes you probably won’t notice.
Right now, the Widgets section within Windows 11 contains a mix of news, stock quotes, weather, photos culled from OneDrive, and more. But the search box is more reminiscent of features like Windows Gadgets and Sidebar, which appeared in Windows Vista and Windows 7, before Microsoft advised users to remove them for security’s sake. Neither made an appearance in Windows 8, either.
It’s difficult to believe that something as quirky as a free-floating Windows widget will eventually appear in an OS as staid as Windows 11, but who knows?