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Microsoft tests Windows 11 desktop widgets with web search bar

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An experimental feature in the latest Preview Build of Windows 11

A screenshot of the web search box in the latest Windows 11 Preview Build.
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft is adding an optional web search to the Windows 11 desktop in the operating system’s latest Insider Preview Build. The company describes the feature as “lightweight interactive content” — the first, it says, of many such tools it’s considering adding to Windows 11 — but let’s call the thing what it really is: a widget.

Not everyone signed up to the latest Windows 11 preview build will see the new search box, but anyone who does and doesn’t like it can disable the feature by right-clicking on the desktop, selecting “Show more options,” and then toggling “Show search.”

If you are running the latest preview build, you’ll also have to restart your computer to give the search box a chance to show up.

Is it a useful feature? Probably for some, and probably not for others. It’s a web search rather than a system search (which you can add to the taskbar in Windows 10 and 11 for easy access), and could be useful if you need to quickly pull up content after starting your machine from scratch. But most people, I suspect, constantly have at least one browser window open, and will probably find it easier to search from there than go to the desktop. (A cynic might note that it’s also another way for Microsoft to steer users to Edge and Bing.)

At any rate, it’s interesting to see the company play with desktop widgets, as opposed to corralling these tools into a separate panel (for more on that, see our review of Windows 11).