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Windows 11's nifty new search feature has one major downside

Bringing inspiration from Android, the new search feature has divided onlookers

Microsoft has begun trialling a new feature for Windows 11 Preview users that lets users search the web directly from the desktop.

The new widget was found by users of the Windows 11 25120 build, exclusive to members of the Windows Insider programme.

Users that have registered for the program have access to early builds of Windows with features Microsoft wants to run by Windows fans before they are considered for implementation into the final public-facing version.

The new search functionality comes in the form of a widget that stretches across a large percentage of the width of a display and looks similar to the Google search bar on Android home screens.

The feature allows users to search without loading a browser but in its current state, the new widget only allows users to search using the Microsoft Edge browser and the Bing search engine, regardless of the user’s default browser/engine configuration.

The functionality differs slightly from the enhanced search bar originally introduced in Windows 10 that displayed results for a given term both from the web and on the local system. 

The widget is exclusive from the Windows taskbar and only searches the web, opening an Edge browser window once the term has been entered. 

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Not every user running the Windows 11 25120 preview build has access to the search widget, according to user reports, but some users have been able to enable it using third-party software ViveTool. 

The new feature won’t be to everyone’s liking, especially given the restrictions relating to the browser and search engine, but it’s easily disabled by right-clicking the desktop, clicking ‘Show more options’ and then unchecking ‘Show search’.

It’s important to note that the feature is only in the current preview build and many of the features Microsoft trials in these versions don’t end up making the final, stable version that is released to all users.

Microsoft recently tested a controversial feature in a previous preview build that showed adverts for other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Editor, inside applications like File Explorer.

The Windows community criticised Microsoft heavily for trialling the feature in the March 2022 preview build and the company later told IT Pro that it was an experimental feature that was ultimately removed.

Long-time Windows users will also remember that Microsoft also attempted this in 2021 with ads in the Start Menu, and back in Windows 10 too when users were served OneDrive ads, again, within File Explorer.

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