First Major Windows 11 Update: Simpler Is Better

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The first major update to Windows 11 since launching last October has landed, and usability is the main focus for Microsoft, with key new features bringing it in line with other OS experiences.

In a blog post announcing the update, Chief Product Officer Panos Panay says Microsoft has reacted to new working habits that emerged during the pandemic out of necessity but “remain due to convenience and efficiency.”

In other words, simpler is better.

The major updates are functional and initiative, and seem to ape the tablet or smartphone experience: updates to the Start menu, faster and more accurate search, Quick Settings, improved local and current events coverage in the Widgets board, and tabs in File Explorer — the latter of which Microsoft says was the number one requested feature from users.

“All of this helps Windows anticipate your needs and save you time,” Panay says.

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The major change is tabs in File Explorer, bringing it closer to an internet browser.

There’s also a new homepage in Explorer (above), where you can pin files – “even including information at a glance of colleagues’ actions on your shared files through the power of OneDrive and personalised suggestions based on your Microsoft 365 account.”

There’s a ‘discover and share’ airdrop style feature for nearby desktop computers, and the taskbar also now has an overflow feature: basically a second menu with all your ‘overflowed’ apps.

The photo manager has been simplified, with easier browsing, finding, management and consumption of your photos, with OneDrive backup and a ‘Memories’ experience, similar to that on the iPhone or Facebook.

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Windows Studio also adds new Voice Focus mode, to helps you block out background noise when chatting, and Background Blur to block out your visual surroundings. A little more creepier is the feature that makes sure you maintain eye contact with your fellow Studio members.

There’s also new Focus Sessions and Do Not Disturb tools that will basically block access to background apps, distractions, and notifications for a set period of time.

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Smart App Control also gives a sturdy security boost, blocking untrusted or unsigned applications, script files and malicious macros from running on Windows 11.

This latest update also brings system wide live captions that can automatically generate captions from any form of audio content on Windows 11, a tool that allows you to control your PC and author text using only your voice, and Natural Voices for Narrator, which mirrors natural speech more closely, creating more pleasant-sounding audio to assist in reading or browsing the web.

Microsoft has also launched the Clipchamp video editing app, which is a huge leap forward from the clunky, pre-social media Windows Movie Maker. Clipchamp looks like an intuitive, powerful beginner tool, with templates, effects and more.

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Gaming is also a big focus. This update promises to improve latency and unlock features like Auto HDR and Variable Refresh Rate on windowed games. Game Pass is also baked into Windows 11 through the Xbox app.

This update also expands the Amazon Appstore Preview to international markets, “bringing more than 20,000 Android apps and games to Windows 11 devices that meet the feature-specific hardware requirements.”

The update is available now.

 

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