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Valve’s new beta lets you use the Steam Deck UI on your desktop

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Valve is officially letting users try out a new version of Steam’s Big Picture mode, making the game client look like its popular Steam Deck handheld. The long-awaited change (we heard rumors about it in July 2021) is a major upgrade to the gamepad-friendly version of the Steam UI.

In a news item, the company warns that the new UI has “rough edges,” but says it’s seeking community feedback on it. In addition to the updated look, the test also includes new features, including a universal search that brings up results from your library, friends list and the store, as well as updates to the quick access and system menus and controller configurator.

It’s probably a welcome change for people who often use Steam with a controller – the current version of the Big Picture mode is quite functional, but the aesthetic hasn’t changed much since the feature launched in 2012. While the Steam client itself doesn’t feel particularly modern, it’s still a bit jarring when you switch to the (very blue) Big Picture mode.

To test the new Big Picture mode for yourself, enable the beta version of the client by clicking the “Steam” button in the top left corner and going to Settings > Account and clicking the “Change” button in the ” Beta Participation” section. Select “Steam Beta Update” from the drop-down menu, press OK and restart Steam to download the update.

This is what the shortcut file should look like. I changed the name of mine to indicate that it is the one that starts the new Big Picture mode.

Next, you need to set up a shortcut that will launch Steam in beta Big Picture mode (clicking the Big Picture button in the client will launch the old version). To do that, go to your Start menu, type in Steam, right-click on the app and select ‘open file location’. Personally, I chose to copy the shortcut to my desktop rather than change the one in the Start menu so that I would have the option to launch the normal UI or the Steam Deck version. Whichever route you take, right click on the shortcut, click on ‘Properties’, then add ‘-gamepadui’ to the end of the target path – you want it outside the existing quotes and make sure you don’t copy the quotes shown here. Hit Apply and you’re left with a shortcut to launch the new UI.

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