Sunday, January 16

Apple should copy these features from Windows 11 to macOS

While writing our Windows 11 event live blog, I was quite impressed by much of what Microsoft was doing. And while I don’t see myself changing anytime soon, I would love if Apple could learn (even steal) from Windows 11, in selective and intelligent ways.

But before I give Microsoft too much credit, I’ll point out that Windows 11 does indeed catch up with macOS Big Sur and the M1-based Macs that were released last year. That’s when Apple finally started bringing iOS and iPadOS apps to Mac, something Microsoft is finally doing with Android apps on Windows. They’re only getting Amazon’s app store though, which seems like a half measure at best. Hopefully downloading Android apps on Windows 11 works.

While my adult life has been primarily lived within Apple’s Walled Gardens, I have been using a PC in my spare time to go live on Twitch. Over the past few months, I’ve both gotten to know Windows better, but I’ve also become more aware of its problems. Now that Microsoft is fixing some of its flaws, I have found some recommendations for macOS 13, as it is probably too late to request changes in macOS 12 Monterey.

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macOS needs to learn Windows 11 multitasking

Throughout all of Apple’s work to improve multitasking on the iPad, it still lets macOS languish in this category. You still have two windows in split view at most, and that’s not always enough, especially, I must add, if you’ve docked your Mac to an external monitor.

I’m using my MacBook Pro with a 29-inch monitor right now, one where I would never think of using split view mode, due to all the wasted space. Instead, I just have a giant stack of many, many windows. It’s not ideal, but it still gives me more visibility than just a couple of apps.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

And then I look at Windows 11, which knows that four is better than two, especially in multitasking. Yes, Apple can design its split screen options based on the notion of how many apps you need at once, but I can always use a third or fourth app open. Right now, I’d like to take a quick look at the Slack company as I type this article in one window and reference my notes in a second window.

Windows 11 can even remember the window groupings you used, through something called Snap Groups. This way, if you like a certain screen layout, you can minimize that group of windows and turn it back on to get back to work just as easily.

Windows 11 understands that we live different lives

When I’m off the clock, I try to stay that way. Of course, I always have the possibility of failing, because my work-life balance has been shattered even more over the past year. But Windows 11 really wants to help fix this problem, allowing you to customize different desktops for the different ways you use your PC.

If I could have such a feature on my MacBook, I could edit my base for every section of my life. On the Work desktop, I’d have Slack, Chrome, Calendars, Stickies, Pixelmator, and Voice Memos, and thinking about this now, I really want it. Because I don’t want to use no one of those apps (maybe Chrome) when I’m not on the watch.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Then I’d switch to independent favorites that I can’t use for work, like Bear, Todoist, Drafts, Due, and Deliveries. Heck, I’d launch the Music app there too, because I have a weird habit where I don’t like listening to music while I’m working. Instead, I have a very long and cluttered dock, full of apps that I don’t really need half the time.

You will also be able to make further customizations on Windows 11 desktops, so your wallpaper and themes may differ in those areas as well. For example, when I’m at work, I might feel less comfortable having a laconic pro wrestler Orange Cassidy wallpaper than when I’m at home. This way, you can easily switch from one mode to another.

Windows 11 shows Apple a way to play the Mac

We get it, Apple doesn’t want to make a touchscreen Mac. You know what? I also wouldn’t want to try tapping the icons and tapping the macOS Monterey targets. They are super small and made for a cursor.

That’s why I respectfully chuckled at Microsoft when they showed that Windows 11’s interface changes slightly when switched to tablet mode. For example, the space between icons on the taskbar is expanded, making it easier to touch the one you want.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The demo also highlighted that this tablet mode adds visual cues and increases the size of touch targets (buttons and corners of screens, the things you’re trying to touch), so everything feels natural.

I’m sure Apple’s mental confidence could find a way to keep a macOS 13 touch mode looking and feeling just enough like macOS 12 that no one bothers. Would that eliminate the need for the iPad? I doubt it. Some people want a device dedicated to touch, while others want the flexibility for both.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

I was never very big on the Start menu, but Windows 11 adds one thing that I really like: a section for recommended documents. macOS does something similar, but different enough that you want it to change. A list of recent files is found both in the Finder’s Favorites list and hidden under the Apple icon in the menu bar under Recent Items.

This is a very simple way to show you the files you want and it doesn’t take advantage of Apple’s intelligence. Siri may struggle as a voice assistant, but its apps and widget recommendations on the iPhone and iPad are spectacular. If Apple could find some way to use that information to suggest the pages or files that you are most likely to want at the moment, and do all the processing locally for your own privacy, you would have a winner on your hands.

Windows 11 has a restricted use of color

(Image credit: Microsoft)

In Safari on macOS Monterey and Apple’s iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, the application toolbar now changes to match the website you are using. This may be good for some people, but it is too chaotic for me.

I’ll know better when I have more time with it, but I respect how Windows 11’s general default shades seem to mix neutral tones and translucency. For now, I just hope I can quickly find the setting to disable Safari’s new color settings when using the operating system.

Apple, ignora Teams

(Image credit: Microsoft)

With that said, the Windows 11 event showed me one thing that I don’t want Apple to copy. The equipment may seem minimal in the previous implementation, but that small menu hides a world of complications.

I know enough about Teams and its family and friend integrations that I have no interest in using it. There are too many things in there, and I prefer Messages and FaceTime on their own. However, it would be great if Apple and Microsoft could make them work together. Especially to bring SharePlay to a wider audience. Let people keep using the reminder and calendar apps they want, and don’t try to allow Type A family members to pressure their relatives to use and conform to this great productivity web.

Waiting to see how Windows 11 actually works

Spending more time looking at Windows 11 in beta over the next year should give everyone plenty of time to see what really works and what makes for a good presentation and sizzling vibe.

I’ll probably continue to divide my time between PC and Mac, but these new features give everyone a reason to keep an eye on Windows, even the most die-hard Mac users like me.

  • Read more: Windows 11: Here are all the features Microsoft just removed

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