When Microsoft launched Windows 11 with the Widgets feature, it became clear quickly that the initial feature set was limited. Apart from relying solely on first-party widgets created by Microsoft, widgets also required a Microsoft account.
Now, it appears, that both of these initial limitations are lifted. We have already seen the release of the first third-party widgets, at least in developer builds of the Windows 11 operating system. Eagle-eyed Twitter user PhantomOcean3 spotted a second change in recent versions of the operating system.
According to the post on Twitter, Windows 11 widgets do no longer require that users sign-in to use the provided features. A short screen capture attached to the post shows the Widgets interface without an account. The very top suggests to sign-in to an account to sync the interests across devices.
Microsoft signed-in users automatically to Widgets if they sign in to the Windows 11 operating system. Those who used a local Windows 11 account or signed-out could not use the Widgets panel in the past.
Tip: read Ashwin’s guide on uninstalling widgets in Windows 11.
Anonymous Windows 11 widgets
Microsoft launched the change in Windows 11 Insider builds, which it published in December 2022. Now, the feature is not restricted anymore. It needs to be noted, however, that users need the latest Windows Web Experience Pack on the Windows 11 device. It needs to be build 423.3000.10.0 or newer.
The Windows Web Experience Pack is available via the Microsoft Store. Once installed, Widgets becomes usable without a Microsoft Account. Installation of the app is straightforward.
Windows 11 users who are signed-in at the time may click on the profile icon in the Widgets interface to select the sign-out option from the context menu. Widgets remain visible on the screen, including customizations.
It is interesting to note that guest access still allows users to customize widgets. While customization of the feed is still done on a webpage, all changes made there are reflected in the widgets area, even when signed-out in Microsoft Edge. Widgets may also be enabled or disabled in the interface on the Windows 11 system directly.
A click on the plus icon in the Widgets interface displays the list of available widgets. These may then be enabled or disabled individually using the menu.
Some features may still require an account for data to be displayed. Generally speaking, widgets can be customized without account going forward. The main limitation for users who are not signed-in is that their customizations are not synced across their devices.
Microsoft addressed two of the main points of criticism leveled against widgets. It took the company nearly 18 months to do so, however, and it remains to be seen if the move improves use of the feature significantly. The first batch of third-party widgets, e.g., the Spotify and Meta widgets, may have the strength to pull more users into the ecosystem.
There is also a full-screen mode in development that is coming to stable builds of Windows 11 in the near future.
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