Microsoft chief product officer Panos Panay holds the Surface Neo laptop during a Microsoft product event in New York City on October 2, 2019.
Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it is beginning to release the first major update to Windows 11, the current version of its PC operating system. Installing the free update could make PCs more accessible, more convenient, more secure, and maybe even greener.
Over the past decade, Microsoft has diversified away from Windows by expanding its Azure public cloud and acquiring assets such as the LinkedIn enterprise social network, but Windows still generates 12% of the company’s revenue.
The updates help Microsoft show it hasn’t given up on modernizing Windows, which dates back to the 1980s and is more popular than any other PC operating system. But the company only provides one major Windows update each year, compared to two per year for Windows 10, the predecessor to Windows 11.
“Our work is never done to ensure that Windows evolves and adapts to you,” Microsoft product manager Panos Panay wrote in a blog post about the changes.
Among Windows versions, Windows 10 remains the most popular, with around 72% market share, according to data collected by private company StatCounter. Support for this operating system ends in 2025, and many companies still depend on it for their PC fleets. But Windows 11, first released in October 2021, is growing in popularity, with 13% market share in August, up from 2.6% in January.
The Windows 11 2022 Update, as the new version is called, comes with a video editing program, new customization options for the Start menu, and access to additional Android apps. Here are some of the biggest changes:
The Start menu changes. Users were able to pin apps to the Start menu, which now appears in the center of the screen. It now becomes possible to create an applications folder in this Start menu, by dragging an application icon above another. Additionally, the density of the app grid in the Start menu may change. In the Start section of the Settings app, you can click on a button that says “More Pins”. You can also click “More recommendations” to see other suggested files in the Start menu.
A new way to organize windows. Windows 11 comes with a way to neatly organize windows on your screen. The new update goes further. Instead of hovering over a window’s maximize button to see what Microsoft calls Snap Layout options, you’ll be able to drag a window to the top of the screen and then drop it onto an area that appears onscreen. You can then put additional windows in other areas. This feature now works with a touch screen.
New video editing app. A year ago, Microsoft acquired Clipchamp, a startup that created a video editing app. It is now preinstalled in Windows. The free version will let you rotate and trim videos, apply a set of filters, draw over stock images and videos, and generate watermark-free exports.
The Clipchamp video editing application now comes with Windows.
Energy savings. Windows Update, the tool for downloading and installing updates to the operating system, can schedule the installation of updates when local utilities depend on energy resources that generate fewer emissions. To use this feature, your PC must be plugged in, turned on, and connected to the internet, and there must be carbon intensity information for your area. Microsoft said it’s also updated the default power setting for “Sleep” and “Screen Off” modes that will reduce emissions when PCs aren’t doing anything.
Extended access to the Android app. One of Windows 11’s standout features is its ability to run Android apps, thanks to the inclusion of the Amazon Appstore. It’s now available in 31 countries, with more than 20,000 Android apps, Microsoft said. The company promises improved graphics performance for Android apps.
Do not open this application! A feature called Smart App Control can automatically block you from opening an unsafe app or file. You can disable the feature, but Microsoft advises against it, and you won’t be able to re-enable it without reinstalling Windows.
Microsoft’s Windows 11 can now block dangerous files and applications.
Better graphics for older games. Graphics gains will also appear for games that rely on older DirectX 10 or DirectX 11 application programming interfaces and do not run in full screen mode. This includes a variable refresh rate, which can cause more new frames per second to be displayed for devices with higher refresh rates.
Better video calls with advanced PCs. Some newer PCs have built-in AI chips, and if you have one, Windows 11 will be able to suppress background noise during video calls, make the camera follow you as you move around calls and edit your video feed so it appears that you are making eye contact with others on your calls.
If you have a compatible PC, Windows 11 can make it seem like you’re always making eye contact during video calls.
Search better. When you search for apps and settings in the taskbar search box, results appear faster and are more accurate.
Caption all things. People are increasingly turning on captions when watching videos, and a new Windows accessibility feature called Live Captions makes this possible for audio or video in any app.
Windows 11 can provide subtitles for videos and audio.
Voice commands. Another accessibility feature, Voice Access, lets you control your PC by speaking. Sometimes this can be an easier way to navigate than typing on the keyboard or clicking the mouse.
More voice choices. Not everyone liked the sound of the voice reading text on the screen in Windows’ Narrator accessibility feature, so now Microsoft is offering three natural-sounding voices that rely on artificial intelligence.
How to Get Windows 11 2022 Update
People running Windows 11 can install the new update by opening the Settings app, going to Windows Update, and clicking the “Check for updates” button. Those using Windows 10 can see if their PC can run Windows 11 using the PC Health Check app, and Windows Update will show them if they are eligible to upgrade to Windows 11 2022 Update. aka Windows 11, version 22H2.
Not all Windows features that early adopters gained access to through Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program will be immediately available. The ability to view multiple folders as tabs in File Explorer, a feature that came to Apple’s macOS in 2013, is expected to arrive in October.
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