Major Windows 11 update adds Notepad tabs, iPhone pairing, and a dash of AI
Update, 11:42 am ET: We've added information about iMessage support in the Your Phone app.
Original story: Today, Microsoft announced 2023's first major batch of updates for Windows 11, part of the company's plan to release new Windows features "when they are ready" instead of waiting for the big annual update in the fall.
The headliner, at least for people who have signed up for the AI-powered preview of "the new Bing," is support for those AI-powered Bing features (including the infamous Bing chatbot) in the Windows taskbar. We've written more about those features separately. The other changes are more typical of a regular Windows 11 release, featuring a combination of things we've seen before and stuff Microsoft has been testing in its Insider Preview channels for the last few weeks or months.
Some of the additions enhance existing Windows 11 apps or features. The Notepad app, updated relatively recently with a Windows 11-style design and dark mode support, now supports tabs so you can view multiple notes in a single window. A redesigned Quick Assist app streamlines the process of remotely connecting to, viewing the screen of, and taking control of a PC you're providing remote tech support for. And the Snipping Tool now supports recording onscreen video in addition to screenshots, making it more useful for recording quick app demos or other snippets.
Microsoft has added a handful of taskbar and Start menu features, too. New first- and third-party Widgets will seek to make Widgets more useful than they currently are--the screenshots show new widgets for Facebook Messenger and Spotify, as well as Microsoft's Phone Link app and Xbox Game Pass. A "collapsed," icon-free version of the taskbar will now appear on convertible PCs when the keyboard is detached or folded away, allowing more room for websites and apps.
There's also an "energy recommendations" section in the Settings app that will recommend tweaks to your sleep and power settings to optimize your battery life--these mostly appear to amount to things like "let your PC sleep faster" and "keep automatic screen brightness enabled," handy tips for casual PC users but nothing ground-breaking for experts.
One potentially exciting addition for iPhone users is the addition of iOS support to the Phone Link app, which should be available now (or soon) via the Windows Store for anyone enrolled in any of the Windows Insider Preview channels. As with Android phones, you'll be able to make and receive phone calls, view and send text messages (no photos or videos allowed, whether sending or receiving), and view your phone's contacts. Microsoft's blog post doesn't mention iMessage by name, but The Verge reports that users will be able to send and receive iMessages using the Your Phone app. But unlike on Macs or iPads, you won't be able to view your message history, and you won't be able to tell whether you're sending SMS messages or iMessages until you return to your phone.
The Your Phone app supports more features when paired with Android phones, particularly those from Samsung; this update will also allow Samsung phone users to take advantage of easy hotspot pairing from Windows' Wi-Fi menu and to send browser tabs from phone to PC.
It's worth reading the full post to learn more about all of the changes, which include support for braille displays and additional voice control options, easier access to Windows 365 PCs in the cloud, and new ways to control the AI-powered webcam Studio Effects settings for the few PCs that support them.
All of these updates require the Windows 11 2022 Update (aka 22H2) to be installed first. If you're running Windows 11 22H2, most of the new changes are available to download today by checking Windows Update and manually installing the available update preview. Barring major issues, the update will automatically roll out to all Windows 11 22H2 PCs starting next month.
We're likely to get a few more big Windows 11 feature drops throughout this year, including the 23H2 update in the fall. We're still waiting for that update to take shape, but between leaks and bits and pieces discovered in the preview builds, it seems like Microsoft is testing a redesigned File Explorer with a more modernized codebase and a possible replacement for obnoxious RGB lighting controller apps. The 22H2 release was finalized in May 2022, several months before its release in September, so we'll hopefully know more about 23H2's additions this spring.