How to work with the Windows 11 widget panel

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Windows 11 has introduced a new widget panel, where you can access a variety of up-to-date information using configurable topic boxes (what Microsoft calls info cards). It consists of two sections: a top section that offers widgets for weather, sports, your latest photos, and other custom themes, and a news section that offers clickable headlines from a variety of sources.

Here’s how to get the most out of current Windows 11 widgets.

Access your widgets

To access the widgets, select the Widgets icon on the taskbar (it’s the one that looks like a square divided into white and blue sections). You can also press the Window + W keys or, if you have a touch screen, swipe from the left.

You will probably see a variety of home widgets at the top that will give you information about sports scores, weather, stock prices, and any images you may have in your OneDrive account. There is also a search field and a button that allows you to add new widgets. Below that, you can scroll down to find a number of news sources.

Adjust your widgets

There are several ways to modify the widget panel.

  • To move your widgets, press and hold at the top of a widget until you see an open hand. (This is unlike a “pointing” hand, which allows you to click on a link). Then you can change its position on the panel.
  • To resize a widget, remove it from your panel, or customize it, click the three dots in the upper right corner. The selections you see depend on the widget; for example, the Weather widget can be small, medium, or large, and you can customize it to set a default location and work in Fahrenheit or Celsius. Meanwhile, the Photos app is only medium or large in size and has no other customizations.

The three points

The three “More” dots allow you to adjust the size of the widget, customize it, or remove it.

  • Click on the name of the widget in the upper left corner and you will be directed to a separate page where you can access more information, for example more details about the weather or more of the latest sports scores.
  • If you want to see the current selection of available widgets, click the “Add Widgets” button between your widgets and news feeds. Not a big list at the moment – I counted 11, all available are produced by Microsoft. However, hopefully there will be additional third-party inputs.

Windows 11 doesn't have many widgets yet, but that may change.

Windows 11 doesn’t have many widgets yet, but that may change.

News

The news section is below the “Add widgets” button. It is headed by a “Featured News” section that highlights multiple headlines, followed by individual stories. They both come with Facebook-like icons that you can attach to each story (including thumbs up, heart, “shocked,” “thinking,” sad, or angry).

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You can “react” to each story with an appropriate mood icon.

Select the three dots next to each title and you can see more or fewer stories like that, hide stories from that source, save them for later (in other words, bookmark them), or report them. Any story marked as a favorite will have a gray square around those three dots.

Customize your interests

The “Add Widgets” button also provides a link (in the lower left corner) that allows you to tell the Widget what you are interested in and what you are not interested in. (You can get to the same place by clicking on the three dots next to a news item and selecting “Manage interests”).

You can influence what appears in your news feed.

You can influence what appears in your news feed.

Either way, you’ll end up on Microsoft’s home page, essentially the settings page for the Edge browser. With the “My Interests” tab, you can tell Windows what kind of news you want or don’t want. On the left side of the page, you can choose from categories like News, Sports, Travel, Health, etc .; By clicking on each of those categories, you will get a list of specific topics in the main window. For example, if you select “Entertainment,” you can choose from topics such as “Celebrities,” “Music,” or “Books,” among others.

Other tabs you can choose from include “Profile” (which introduces you to what’s called the “Microsoft News Community”), “My Saved Data” (any story you’ve saved), “History” (a list of the stories you’ve saved) read in the last 48 hours) and “Experience settings”. You may want to visit the latter – it allows you to choose the language of your feed (the default is English) or toggle various features on and off, including Facebook-like reaction icons. You can also disable some of the basic information cards, such as finance or weather.

If you're not in the mood for community reactions, you can delete them.

If you’re not in the mood for community reactions, you can delete them.

Currently, Windows 11 widgets seem to be more of a curiosity or a way to take a quick break than a real tool. However, if third-party widgets are available, the widget panel could be really useful.

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