Microsoft’s Windows 11 launch was disliked by many courtesy of the company removing some pretty popular features and design elements that people liked about Windows 11. A year later, Windows 11’s first big update, 22H2, is here, and it hopes to fix quite a few things that Microsoft broke.
The new update features a lot of quality-of-life improvements, new productivity enhancements, and important updates to the taskbar and addresses a lot of common complaints that have come up since the original launch. That said, the update is still not perfect, and there are still things left unpolished.
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An enhanced File Explorer
The File Explorer gets a significant overhaul in the 22H2 update. However, a lot of these changes seem region specific for some reason as our test machine didn’t get some of the most talked about changes to the File Explorer.
For example, apparently Microsoft has moved your user folders from the “This PC” page to a new ‘Home’ page on the sidebar. On our machine, the folders are accessible either way. The Home page also lets you pin any files to the favourite area, a nice touch to keep a frequently used file handy.
The new Home page is at the top of the redesigned sidebar.
The sidebar UI has been slightly changed to make it appear less cluttered and in case it is, atleast appear better visually. The Home and OneDrive folders are right on top of everything else. Speaking of which, the new updates also brings much better OneDrive integration with Windows.
Your OneDrive directory can be set as the default home page for File Explorer if you want and the new sync activity indicator is a helpful thing to keep an eye on your uploads and the available cloud storage.
The new folder previews are sweet.
The ‘Open with’ dialog box has also changed to be more in line with the rest of the Windows 11 design language. Last but not least, the File Explorer is also getting tabs, although this update is coming seperately from the 22H2 update so expect to see it in perhaps late October or November.
There are also new Snap layouts, and accessing them is easier as well. Just drag a window to the top of the screen and Windows will automatically show you six layouts to choose from to snap windows.
Taskbar and the Start Menu
Windows 11 brough with itself a brand new taskbar and Start Menu — one of the most significant changes over Windows 10. This got mixed reactions from the user base as even though the new changes might’ve looked good, Microsoft had removed a lot of the features people had become accustomed in from previous Windows verisons.
Users can now create app folders inside the Start Menu and resize pinned apps to show up in more or fewer row. Folders are also made the way you’d expect — by dragging and dropping one app on another. Once made, folders can be renamed, apps inside the folder can be rearranged and the folder itself can be moved around in the pinned area of the Start Menu.
App folders in the Start Menu are a welcome addition.
Speaking of which, you can resize the entire pinned area as well. It does require some extra steps which involve opening the settings and choosing between the given options. It’s still a nice option to have though.
The Taskbar hasn’t changed a lot, but drag-and-drop functionality is back. You still change change the location and size of the taskbar like you could back on Windows 10, which is a bit of a frustration but Microsoft does seem to be moving in the right direction here.
The new Action Center is more compact.
Outside of these two the Action Center has received some improvements as well. It’s more compact and looks better visually. You also get a focus timer under the calender, which is paired with the Windows 11 Clock app meaning you can sync your Microsoft To-Do list and Spotify with the focus timer. Finally, the Bluetooth quick action can now view and manage Bluetooth devices without having to go settings.
You can start Focus timers right from under the calendar.
A quick sidenote about the new taskbar update, if you were using something like Rainmeter widgets or other third-party apps like Taskbar X to modify your taskbar’s appearance, those apps and widgets are going to stop working, unless of course their respective authors update them to work with the new update. Another thing we noticed was a one pixel high white line across the taskbar on all three displays on our test machine, although the issue seems to have resolved itself automatically since.
Windows Apps and settings
More and more default Windows apps have been slowly visually update to suit the Windows 11 aesthetic, and it’s the Task Manager’s turn this time. The new Task Manager is more powerful in terms of features and finally looks like it’s a part of Windows instead of a legacy piece of software.
You get a sidebar with the new interface that lets you quickly switch between tabs and it can switch to the dark theme now if that’s what you’re using in Windows. All of the Task manager’s usual features are still here, they just look prettier. Common actions like starting and ending tasks have been moved to the top right.
The new Task Manager looks rather good.
There are some new settings to play around with too, the most exciting being “Suggested Actions” which automatically suggests some actions as soon as you copy something like an address, phone number or date. Unfortunately this feature is only limited to Windows 11 users in the United States and Canada at the time but Microsoft has confirmed that it’ll be rolling out worldwide later.
Another new setting is the “Spotlight Wallpaper” feature. As you can probably guess by the name, it automatically changes your desktop wallpaper, much like the daily Bing wallpapers for your lockscree and it works rather well. Although if you’re using something like Rainmeter you might want to keep the feature disabled.
Oh and in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s finally an in-built sound recording app now, paired with a Maps and Family Safety app. Microsoft also threw in a basic video editor called Clipchamp.
More accessibility, security and better touch support
Last but not least, the new update also comes with a lot of accessibilty features accompanied by better security and touch support.
In terms of accessibility you get voice access to voice control your computer and system-wide live captions enabled by on-device AI. Do keep in mind that you need to download and set up love captions first before using them and they’re only available in English at the moment.
Live captions work surprisingly well.
The update also brings Smart App Control, a feature designed to block any scripting attacks or untrusted apps from launching themselves or any daemons. Although you do need to format your PC and install Windows from scratch for it to activate.
Finally, there’s much better touch support and support for gestures. Here are all the new gestures availabe with 22H2.
- Swipe up with three fingers from the middle of the screen to access the Task View.
- Swipe down with three fingers from the middle of the screen to minimize all running .
- Swipe left or right with three fingers from the middle of the screen to swtich between apps.
- Swipe up from the bottom middle of the screen to access Start.
- Swipe right in the Start menu to access the All Apps list.
- Swipe up from the bottom right of the screen to access Control Center.
So what’s left now?
The new update however, isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and there are a few new things that aren’t so good.
For starters, a Microsoft account is now required to finish installing Windows 11 on a PC. There’s a workaround available, but it puts quite the hurdle for offline Windows 11 deployements regardless. No other platform, including macOS and ChomeOS does this, so it’s a little wierd on Microsoft’s part.
Other than that, missing previews, slight animation hiccups and legacy parts of the OS still waiting to be modernised are all still there. To their credit Microsoft has been at work since the Windows 11 launch to fix these small issues but seeing them even after such a major version update still feels like that this iteration of Windows isn’t quite complete yet.
Someone who writes/edits/shoots/hosts all things tech and when he’s not, streams himself racing virtual cars. You can reach out to Yadullah at [email protected], or follow him on Instagram or Twitter.