Microsoft’s piecemeal approach to updating and unifying Windows 11’s new look has led to updates for all kinds of old and obscure corners of the operating system, including everything from the volume indicator and the system icons to the humble Paint, Calculator, and Notepad apps. The next app to get its once-every-decade-or-two design renovation may be the Windows Task Manager, and it would be the first major update since Windows 8 came out a decade ago.
The Verge reports that engineering student Gustave Monce spotted the new Task Manager design lurking in a current preview build of Windows 11 (the FireCube Studios Twitter account later posted instructions for enabling it yourself). The app’s basic structure is visible in these builds—like all Windows 11-era apps, the window uses Mica theming and has dark mode support, and it trades the current Task Manager’s horizontal row of tabs for a vertical stack of navigation buttons that mirrors the modern Settings and Windows Security apps. Those text labels will also collapse into a vertical stack of buttons if the window is resized.
According to screenshots posted by users who have the new Task Manager working, it doesn’t look like the redesigned app includes significant functional improvements; the vertical buttons all correspond to the tabs in the current Task Manager, and the views for monitoring processes and resource usage all look pretty much the same as they do now. But the new design is clearly a work in progress, and Microsoft may have more changes planned before it formally introduces the redesigned app to Windows Insiders.
The Task Manager hasn’t gone totally untouched since the Windows 8 days—the tool gained the ability to monitor GPU usage back in 2017 for GPUs with sufficiently updated drivers, for example. This vertically oriented redesign would be the Task Manager’s first visual overhaul since 2012, but the pre-Windows 8 design was even more long-lived. Its basic design stayed the same from the Task Manager’s introduction in Windows NT 4.0 in 1996 all the way through to Windows 7 in 2009.
Listing image by FireCubeStudios