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First they came for Notepad. Now they're coming for Task Manager

Is nothing safe from the dead hand of the Windows 11 design aesthetic?

Windows' murderous Task Manager looks set to get a makeover in Windows 11 after a work-in-progress turned up in the latest Insider Dev Channel build.

Task Manager in Windows XP

Remembering the good times

The build, 22538, is an otherwise relatively mundane emission from the Windows team.

Sure, there was great excitement among the community when the volume control that harked back to the days of Windows 8 was ditched in favour of something a bit more in keeping with the world of Windows 11 (you can now change the volume using your mouse or touchpad). But Task Manager has so far retained its last redesign, and still looks like a throwback to Windows of yesteryear.

That's assuming users can actually find it. Infamously, Microsoft removed the familiar right-click-on-the-taskbar approach of old for Windows 11 and adopted a slightly odd right-click-on-the-start-button method instead.

The original Task Manager was a utility developed by former Microsoft programmer Dave Plummer and first turned up in Windows NT 4. "Task Manager is," said Plummer, "quite frankly, a natural born killer."

Or at least it was, until the poor thing was defanged as Windows evolved. Its inability to be quite as murderous these days as Plummer had originally intended has led to gnashing of teeth by administrators and a "You were supposed to kill the Not Responding Tasks, not join them" meme.

Still, no trace of the occasionally muddled UI of Windows 10 must remain, and this is no doubt why Microsoft is tinkering with the appearance of Task Manager, as noted by @FireCubeStudios with credit to other users including @gus33000 (Gustave Monce - notable for other tinkering, including getting Windows 11 up and running on a Lumia 950 XL phone.)

We managed to get the work in progress up and running, and yes - it does indeed look like Microsoft is pondering a redesign of Task Manager to fit better with the Windows 11 aesthetic.

However, the new design can't really be described as functional at this stage (and would not be dissuaded from its conviction that we were running on a Surface Pro 8). It does seem that after the Notepad redesign, nothing is sacred in the eyes of the Windows behemoth.

Hidden goodies aside, the new build also contains updates to the voice access feature and a fix to stop Explorer crashing for some users when hardware volume control buttons are jabbed. Interestingly, there was also a fix for "an issue that was impacting Task Manager reliability."

Sadly, we were afflicted by one of the known issues : there are two arrows on our taskbar for the hidden icon flyout and text and icons are misaligned. Microsoft recommended a reboot, which had no effect for us. But hey – this is development code after all. ®

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