Windows 11 version 22H2 is the first major update to its initial release. It adds a lot of new features, improvements and enhancements. It aims to fix some of the annoyances widely criticized by users of the "gold" release, and to extend capabilities of the OS.
Microsoft has confirmed build 22621 to be the RTM version of Windows 11, version 22H2. You will find in it changes made to the Start menu, File Explorer, inbox apps including Task Manager and Settings, and much more. Let's review them in detail.
What is new in Windows 11, version 22H2
Similar to Windows 11 Home, the Pro edition will now require an internet connection during setup, as well as a Microsoft Account.
There are workarounds for both changes.
- How to Install Windows 11 with Local Account
- How to Install Windows 11 without an Internet Connection
But this may change at any moment if Microsoft decides so.
The Start menu in this release has received a massive overhaul. First of all, it now supports folders, so you can combine icons into named groups. This works for the pinned icon area.
Another change is the ability to choose a different layout for the Start menu which can be set to 2 pinned app rows and 8 recommended files, 3 pinned app rows and 6 recommended files, or 4 pinned app rows and 2 recommended files.
Besides, the "More" and "All Apps" buttons have got a context menu from which you can refresh the "Recommended" section and open the Start menu settings.
Finally, right-clicking the Start button will now show you PowerShell instead of Windows Terminal entries if you have uninstalled the latter.
Perhaps the most welcome and most awaited change is the ability to drag and drop files onto running app icons in the taskbar. Microsoft has removed it in the initial release of Windows 11. The OS comes with a newer version of the taskbar, inherited from the now-cancelled Windows 10X. The new taskbar lacked a lot from its predecessor, including the missing context menu and drag-n-drop. So, it is only Windows 11 version 22H2 where the drag-n-drop has returned.
This has also made possible to pin apps to the taskbar by dragging exe files onto it.
With version 22H2, Microsoft has restyled most flyouts, including notification center, tray icon pop-up, quick actions, and even the search pane. These all are now of the Fluent Design style, and appear centered related to their buttons.
The taskbar can optionally display a weather forecast on the left side. It receives updates in real time. Hovering the mouse cursor over the forecast button will open the widget panel.
The taskbar now clearly indicates if you have a shared window over Teams, or an app is using a microphone. Clicking the microphone icon brings up a confirmation dialog.
The same is for the Cast feature. If you cast your screen to another device, you will see a special icon in the taskbar.
The tray icon area takes a special place in this feature update. Finally you can change your sound volume level by scrolling the mouse wheel over the speaker icon. The on-screen slider has been updated with the Fluent Design.
Also, its tooltip will now show if the spatial sound is enabled or not.
The estimated battery life time will appear when you hover the mouse pointer over the battery icon.
Windows 11 version 22H2 comes with Windows Spotlight enabled for the Desktop background. When it is active, it will provide you with fresh wallpapers from the Internet. But the default image in the desktop Windows Spotlight remains "Windows Bloom", light edition.
Additionally, it will also place an icon to the Desktop, which you can right-click and switch to the next image, learn more about the current spotlight, and a few more options.
You can learn how to remove the Spotlight desktop icon here.
Microsoft has added ClipChamp to the set of pre-installed apps. It's an easy to use video editor with essential tools like easy-to-use timeline, trimming and splitting. Also, the app allows applying transitions and animated text effects, as well as webcam and screen capture tools.
Microsoft Family is a new inbox app on Windows 11 Home. It allows managing parental controls in a flexible way, including kid-friendly website lists, screen time limits, and so on.
Windows HDR Calibration
Windows HDR Calibration has been added as a default app. It is designed to solve the color issues and improve image consistency on displays connected to your PC.
The classic Control panel app lost a few more option in flavor of the modern Settings app.
- The "View network status and tasks" link now opens Settings to the "Network & internet" page.
- The "View devices and printers" and "Add a device" options now open the "Bluetooth & devices" section of Settings.
- The same for the "Advanced printer setup" which opens the "Printer & scanners" page of Settings.
- "Uninstall a program" refers to the "Installed apps" Settings page.
- "View installed updates" will open the "Uninstall updates" Settings page.
- The networking options Network Discovery, File and Printer Sharing, and Public Folder Sharing are only configurable in Settings.
The File Explorer has been heavily reworked in this release. First of all, it now supports tabs. However, it is not clear if Microsoft will enable tabs out of the box in the 22H2 release, or they will activate it with a forthcoming cumulative update. At the moment of this writing, you still need to activate the tabs manually.
The startup location is now called Home. There, the Quick Access name is now used instead of Frequent folders.
Between Quick Access and Recent files, which is now simply called Recent, there is a new section "Favorites". You can right-click a file in Explorer and add or remove it from favorites via the context menu.
It also features a new navigation pane with three sections. The top one hosts Home and OneDrive, the middle one lists pinned and frequent folders, and the bottom-most is for classic icons like This PC, Network, etc. Expanding This PC will show local drives and partitions.
Besides the recent and favorite files, the "Home" folder also shows files pinned on OneDrive/Office.com/Teams/SharePoint when you are using a Microsoft Account.
Another change is folder previews. If a folder contains images or other media, it will have a nifty preview thumbnail over the folder icon to reveal its contents.
One more change to the File Explorer app is even tighter integration with OneDrive. You can now see the quota and sync status without having to leave File Explorer.
Finally, File Explorer has got several minor but useful improvements.
- You can now copy the file or folder path with the Ctrl + Shift + C shortcut.
- There are new icons in the context menu to clearly indicate what the entry does.
- If you press and hold the Shift key, then right-click any folder or file, you will see the full classic context menu.
- There are several context menu improvements, such as map/disconnect network drive in the new context menu of This PC, the Install command for fonts, and so on.
The Task Manager is one more app has received drastic UI changes. It now has a new hamburger style navigation bar and a new settings page. A new command bar on each page gives access to common actions. The app finally follows the system theme and supports its both light and dark variants.
The grid of apps and processes, as well as accent color for tabs and controls in the app will now follow the accent color you have set in Windows 11 Settings. This adds the UI consistency that many users are looking for.
There are also new icons and the return of Efficiency mode for apps (formerly Eco mode), a dedicated Settings page, and more. The Efficiency mode feature will allow to suspend a running app to pause its activity and free up its system resources.
To apply the Efficiency Mode, click the button on the command bar on the Processes page or use the right-click context menu. You can only apply a mode to one process, not to the entire group. If the parameter is not available, then this process is critical for Windows, which means that it can affect the performance of the OS. Processes for which the mode is applied will be marked with a green leaf icon. Paused processes will now use the pause icon.
In Windows 11 22H2 Microsoft has renamed the classic Windows Media Player app to Windows Media Player Legacy. That's because the company now offers a modern Media Player app which is a reworked Groove/Music app with several enhancements.
Eventually it will be an in-place replacement for the legacy Windows Media Player.
Microsoft has also updated the built-in security dashboard. Windows Security now includes a new Memory integrity option in Device Security > Core isolation.
Smart App Control is one more new feature of the app. It will block untrusted or potentially dangerous applications. Windows 11 enables it when you perform a clean install.
The settings app itself has got several changes and improvements. It has better search performance, and bigger icons on the left. You can also use the arrow keys to expand its sections and categories that are collapsed by default.
You will also find a new "Do not disturb" option under System > Notifications. The appropriate switch is available in the Quick Action flyout (Win+A).
"Your Phone" has been renamed to "Phone Link", and "Focus assist" has been renamed to "Focus".
When you enable Bluetooth or Wi-Fi in airplane mode, Windows will remember your choice. Next time you go to airplane mode, it will enable what you had enabled last time.
Finally, to uninstall an installed update, you have to use the Settings app. The "Uninstall" link appears on Settings > Windows Update > Update history > Uninstall updates. All you need to do is to find the update you want to remove in the list and click the link next to its name.
Dynamic Refresh Rate (DRR)
Dynamic refresh rate is a new feature of Windows 22H2 that changes the display refresh rate on demand. The operating system will analyze your activity at PC, and then seamlessly change the refresh rate. A lower value allow to save more power, which is very important for mobile devices.
DDR is currently available for laptops with a display that supports Variable refresh rate (VRR) and a refresh rate of at least 120Hz. This allows Windows 11 to refresh such a display at 60Hz for daily productivity tasks, such as email, typing a document, and thus save the battery life.
If you launch a game, or some media content, Windows 11 will dynamically raise the refresh rate to 120Hz.
The notification center (Win + N) has got a new option, "Do not disturb", which you will find at the top of the flyout. Silencing notifications is now a matter of two clicks.
The Focus feature is now resides in the calendar pane. You can now start sessions from there with lengths from 15 to 240 minutes in the interval of 15 minutes. Also, it has tight integration with the Clock app and its productivity features.
The Task View is now capable to show snap groups. If you have organized several windows in one group, it will appear as a group thumbnail preview in the Task View. Another nice addition is that the taskbar no longer disappears with Task View even if you made it auto-hide.
The Alt + Tab dialog now appears in the center of the desktop, like in older Windows releases. It no longer occupies the whole screen.
When you move a window, a panel with a grid of snap layouts will appear at the top of the screen. The panel will appear as a drop-down flyout at the top of the screen.
Drag a window to the top of the screen to reveal the snap layouts, then drop the window on top of a zone to snap it. Snap Assist will offer to fill the rest of the available slots with other open applications.
When resizing an app with other snapped apps on the screen, you will see the app icon to understand what exactly app is running.
Snap layouts switching
The snap layouts feature (Win+Z) now shows numbers for all the layouts. So you can press the number keys to quickly apply the desired layout with the keyboard.
Multi-finger touch gestures will now use animations that follow your finger. There are also new gestures.
- Swipe from the right side of the screen to open the Notification Center will now follow your finger instead of playing a fixed animation.
- Swipe in from the middle of the taskbar to open the Start menu and swipe down to close it.
- Swipe between Pinned/All apps and Recommended/More on Start: Within Start, swipe right to left from Pinned to get to All apps and left to right to get back to Pinned. The same gesture works for Recommended/More.
- Swipe in from the bottom right edge of the taskbar to bring up quick settings and swipe down to close them.
- In full-screen apps and touch-oriented games (such as Solitaire), pay attention to the gripper that appears when you swipe from the edges of the screen. This feature is designed to keep you in the app if you accidentally swipe near the edge of the screen. If you need to access the content, then swipe the gripper again to grab it.
Live Captions and Voice Access are two new accessibility features of Windows 11 version 22H2.
The operating system can generate captions for any content with audio. It can show captions at the top or bottom of the screen, or in a floating resizable window. Also, Live Captions can be enabled for microphone audio during conversations with your friends and colleagues.
The hotkey to enable Live Captions is WIN + Ctrl + L. There is also a button in quick actions (Win + A).
Being part of Accessibility tools, it allows you to control the OS with voice commands. For example, you can use it for opening and switching between apps, browsing the web, and reading and authoring mail. It can also emulate keyboard and mouse input via voice commands.
This feature currently works with US English only, for those who have US English set for the Windows interface.
When enabled, it shows a grid with screen areas. You can specify with your voice in which area Windows should interact with buttons and links.
Check out this guide to learn how to enable or disable Voice Access.
It can work offline, without an Internet connection. Voice Access does on-device speech recognition to recognize speech, and does that accurately. The full list of voice commands here.
Natural voices in Narrator
Narrator supports a few new natural voices, “Jenny” and “Aria” for English-U.S. You may need to add them manually.
- The language switcher now opens much faster. It also has the Fluent Style design.
- The lock screen now has a new battery icon and updated media controls to match the overall appearance of the OS.
- The task view and alt+tab dialogs now draw a thicker border with the accent color when you switch between windows using the keyboard.
- Windows skips the boot sound when restarting after installing an update.
- The context menu highlight color has been changed to play better with both the light and dark themes.
- Microsoft Journal is now pinned by default on the Pen menu. If you don’t have the app installed, it will be installed from the Microsoft Store if chosen on the Pen menu.
- PowerShell now allows managing languages and language opеions.
- Wideband speech support for Apple AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max.
- Removing files from the Recycle Bin is now much faster.
- SMB1 is no longer enabled in Windows 11 Home. Also, by default Windows 11 will use SMB compression where available.
That's all about the changes. If I didn't mention something important, do not hesitate to point it out in the comments.
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