How to work with the Windows 11 Widget panel

Windows 11 has introduced a brand new Widgets panel, where you can access a variety of updated information using configurable topic boxes (what Microsoft calls information cards). It’s made up of two sections: a top section that offers widgets for weather, sports, your latest photos, and other personalized topics, and a news section that offers clickable headlines from a variety of sources.

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

Access your widgets
To access the widgets, select the Widgets icon in the taskbar (it’s the one that looks like a square divided into white and blue sections). You can also hit the Window + W keys or, if you’ve got a touchscreen, swipe from the left.

You’ll probably see a variety of starter widgets on top that will give you info about sports scores, the weather, stock prices, and any images you may have in your OneDrive account. There is also a search field and a button that lets you add new widgets. Under that, you can scroll down to find a number of news sources.

Adjust your widgets
There are a variety of ways you can tweak your widget panel.

To move your widgets around, long-press on the top of a widget until you see an open hand. (This is as opposed to a “pointing” hand, which enables you to click on a link.) You can then change its position on the panel.

To change the size of a widget, remove it from your panel, or customize it, click on the three dots in the upper right corner. The selections that you see will 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 either in Fahrenheit or Celsius. The Photos app, meanwhile, only sizes to medium or large and has no other customizations.

Click on the name of the widget in the upper left corner, and you will be taken to a separate page where you can access more information — more details on the weather, for example, or more of the latest sports scores.

If you want to see the current selection of widgets available, click on the “Add widgets” button that is between your widgets and the news feeds. It’s not a large list right now — I counted 11, all available are Microsoft-produced. Hopefully, however, there will be additional third-party entries coming.

News feed

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

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

Personalize your interests

The “Add widgets” button also offers a link (in the lower-left corner) that lets you tell the Widget app what you are and are not interested in. (You can get to the same place by clicking on the three dots next to a news story and select “Manage interests.”)

Either way, you’ll end up on the Microsoft Start page — essentially, the settings page for the Edge browser. Using the “My Interests” tab, you can tell Windows what types of news stories you want or don’t want. On the left side of the page, you can choose from categories such as News, Sports, Travel, Health, etc.; as you click on each of those categories, you’ll 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 is called the “Microsoft News Community”), “My Saves” (any stories you saved), “History” (a list of stories you’ve read within the last 48 hours), and “Experience Settings.” You may want to visit this last: it lets you choose the language of your feed (the default is English) or toggle several features on and off, including those Facebook-like reaction icons. You can also toggle off some of the basic information cards, such as finance or weather.

Currently, the Windows 11 widgets seem to be more of a curiosity or a way to take a quick break than a real tool. However, if and when third-party widgets become available, the widget pane could become truly useful.