Microsoft today announced that the next major version of Windows 11, aptly named Windows 11 2022 Update, has begun rolling out to the more than 190 countries where Windows is available. Highlights include updates to the Start menu and tabs in File Explorer, as well as new accessibility features, including system-wide live captions, voice access that lets you control a PC with your voice, and Smart App Control for enhanced security.
Users with eligible devices running Windows 11 can upgrade by opening the Windows Update settings screen (Settings > Windows Update) and selecting “Check for updates”.
The most obvious changes are on the UI front. Windows 11 2022 Update brings updates to the Start menu, “faster and more accurate search”, Quick Settings, and the aforementioned tabs in File Explorer – the latest of which will arrive in October. (File Explorer now also lets you pin files for quick access.) There’s improved coverage of local and current events in the Widgets board and better Snap layouts with improved touch navigation, plus the ability to pin multiple browser tabs in Microsoft Edge to lay.
An update to the Photos app introduces a new photo management experience and makes it easier to back up your photos to OneDrive, Microsoft says. And at the system level, Windows 11 lets you copy phone numbers and future dates, and get suggested actions like calling with Teams or Skype or adding an event in the Calendar app.
In terms of accessibility, Windows for Narrator’s new, natural-sounding voices use AI-powered text-to-speech that better mirrors the voices of real people — in theory, everything from browsing the web to reading and writing documents, better for users listening to their screens. The system-wide live captioning feature, meanwhile, transcribes personal conversations by recording microphone audio and displaying it in a floating window at the top of the screen.
The new Focus feature in Windows 11 enables Do Not Disturb, which disables notifications and disables taskbar badges and application flashes on the taskbar. Focus is integrated with the Clock app, Microsoft says, and starts a timer to help you focus and remind you to take breaks.
The latest version of Windows 11 comes with enhanced security in the form of Smart App Control, which aims to prevent script attacks and protect users from running untrusted or unsigned applications related to malware or attack tools. Smart App Control creates an AI model based on the 43 trillion security signals collected daily to predict whether an app is secure, based on the same core operating system capabilities used in Windows Defender Application Control.
The free new Microsoft Defender SmartScreen identifies when people enter their Microsoft credentials into a malicious app or hacked website to warn them.
Businesses using Windows Hello for Business can now take advantage of an optional presence detection feature, allowing devices equipped with presence sensors to sign in employees when they approach and lock the device when they leave.
Gaming and apps
The arrival of Windows 11 2022 Update marks the expansion of the Amazon Appstore Preview to international markets, bringing more than 20,000 Android apps and games to Windows 11 devices that meet the specific hardware requirements. It also brings a new HDR calibration app and a “gaming homepage” in Edge that highlights upcoming game releases.
Elsewhere in the refreshed Windows 11, there’s an updated display of the Xbox Game Bar – accessible by pressing the Xbox button on an Xbox wireless controller or compatible controller connected to the PC. Further graphical improvements are needed, including improved display latency, Auto HDR and variable refresh rate for games with windows.
Windows Studio’s new camera and audio effects in the Windows 11 2022 Update include Voice Focus to filter out background noise, Background Blur to blur backgrounds, and Automatic Framing so the camera stays with subjects as they move. In a related development, video editor Clipchamp, which was recently acquired by Microsoft, is now standard in Windows 11.