What’s coming to Windows 11: An overview of Windows 11 22H2

Microsoft is finalizing the first major update to Windows 11: version 22H2. The update is rumored to become available anytime between July and October 2022, and it looks like the operating system’s new features and changes are finalized. Windows Insiders can already test it in the Release Preview channel and experience the many new things included in it. If you don’t want to be a beta tester for Microsoft, but you’re curious about what’s coming to Windows 11, here’s a summary of the most significant changes. Spoiler alert: not all changes are going to please users! Here’s why:

A better, more personalizable Start Menu

In the 22H2 version of Windows 11, Microsoft focused on improving the Start Menu. You can now set it to use three types of layouts:

  • More pins - with more space for app shortcuts and folders. I love this, and many users will do too.
  • Default - the same 50/50 split between pinned items and recommended ones from the initial Windows 11 version.
  • More recommendations - more space for recommended files and apps and less for pinned items. I think that most people will ignore this setting.

More layouts for the Start Menu

In the next version of Windows 11, I would like to get a fourth setting that tells the Start Menu to display only the Pinned section and remove the Recommended section. Many users want the same option, and they made a request here in the Feedback Hub. If you want it too, don’t forget to upvote it.

TIP: For more information on giving feedback to Microsoft, read this article: What is the Feedback Hub? How to find and give feedback to Microsoft.

Another positive change in Windows 11 22H2 is that you can create folders with shortcuts on the Start Menu, just like in Windows 10. You also get a quick access button that opens the “Sign-in options” page as part of the Power sub-menu.

The improved Start Menu

However, you still can’t resize the Start Menu - another popular request in the Feedback Hub that you should upvote, to have Microsoft consider it for future versions of Windows 11.

A slightly improved, more functional taskbar

The taskbar has been improved slightly, even though it’s still not as customizable as the one in Windows 10. The first minor improvement is that you can drag and drop executable files to the taskbar to create shortcuts to them. You can also drag and drop app shortcuts from the Start Menu’s All apps list.

Drag and drop executable files on the taskbar

Unfortunately, you still can’t drag pinned items from the Start Menu to the taskbar. Also, you can’t open files in an app by dragging them onto the app’s taskbar icon. Finally, you still can’t change the icon size or the taskbar height or move the taskbar to the left or right side of the screen.

On the upside, you can do some new things: there’s a new taskbar setting that allows you to share any window from the taskbar in screen-sharing apps like Microsoft Teams. Also, you can now scroll the mouse wheel on the taskbar Volume icon to change the sound level.

The taskbar offers more personalization options

One last taskbar improvement is aimed at tablet users. Because we don’t have a Tablet Mode in Windows 11, the new version of the taskbar compensates for this missing functionality by becoming larger when used on a tablet, with the icons a bit more spaced out to make them more touch-friendly.

A new Task Manager with an Efficiency mode for apps

My favorite feature in Windows 11 22H2 is the new Task Manager. The app has a new design, with a hamburger menu on the left, a new page that allows you to set the default tab that is shown each time you open Task Manager, and other useful settings. You also get Dark Mode support and a new command bar at the top side of each tab, with useful contextual options. Task Manager also includes a new Efficiency mode feature that lowers process priority and improves power efficiency. However, you can enable this mode only for a single process, not for a group of processes. There’s also a new Pause icon that indicates when a process is in Suspended mode.

The new Task Manager rocks

In addition, the new Task Manager features accent colors in the Processes tab heatmap, helping you quickly identify which processes use the most resources. I very much like the new Task Manager, and I think you will do too.

You can set the default browser (and other default apps) with one click

One of the most disliked aspects of Windows 11 was that it was a pain to change the default browser. With version 22H2, this is no longer true. When you go to Settings > Apps > Default apps, you can set your default browser with one click (or tap).

Setting the default browser in Windows 11 22H2 is easy

Hooray! This should have been Microsoft’s approach in the first place, don’t you think?

Improved Quick Settings with a right-click option

The Quick Settings also get some attention in Windows 11 22H2. For example, it’s now easier to set the default speakers using the icon next to the Volume slider. You also get a right-click menu for all the buttons shown in Quick Settings. In addition, you’ll find a “Go to Settings” option that takes you to the Settings page of the feature you want to configure. Also, on a PC configured with more than one color profile, you can add a quick setting to switch more easily between color modes.

The Quick Settings are better in Windows 11 22H2

Next, we get an updated flyout design for the system hardware indicators, including Volume, Brightness, and Camera privacy, to align with the design language from Windows 11. Another improvement is that Windows 11 now shows the estimated battery life in the tooltip for the Battery icon in the system tray. All these new elements support the light and dark color modes, are very handy, and improve the overall user experience.

Improved window management tweaks and more touchscreen gestures

The Task View now works better on systems with multiple monitors, and we also get a new way to snap windows into snap layouts for both touch and mouse. You can try it by dragging an app window to the top of the screen to reveal the snap layouts, dropping the window on top of a zone to snap it, and using Snap Assist to finish snapping app windows in the layout you want.

Snapping app windows is even better

Another cool trick is that now it’s possible to use Snap Layouts with a keyboard shortcut: press the Win + Z keys and then the number of your preferred layout.

Snap Layouts can be accessed with a keyboard shortcut

For tablet users, Microsoft has added several touch gestures:

  • Do a four-finger swipe from the middle of the taskbar to open the Start Menu. Then, swipe back down to close it.
  • Swipe right to left from the Pinned section of the Start Menu to open the All apps list. Then, swipe left to right to get back to the Pinned section.
  • Swipe up from the bottom-right of the taskbar to see the Quick Settings.
  • Swipe from the left side of the screen to see the Widgets menu.
  • Swipe in from the right side of the screen to see the Notifications Center.
  • Swipe left or right on the screen with three fingers to toggle back and forth between your two most recently used apps.

A slightly better File Explorer, with improved OneDrive integration

Windows 11 22H2 brings a new Home page to File Explorer. It includes the previous Quick Access section, a new Favorites section where you can pin items you access more frequently, and the Recent section with the last couple of things you’ve accessed.

File Explorer has a new Home page

The right-click context menu in File Explorer also adds a few top-level options, including Install when right-clicking on font files and .inf files, “Map network drive,” and “Disconnect network drive” when right-clicking on This PC.

File Explorer has a new OneDrive integration to help control your cloud storage and ensure your files are syncing. When browsing your OneDrive, you can see the sync status and quota usage straight from File Explorer.

File Explorer is better integrated with OneDrive

File Explorer also includes new icons for Rename, Properties, and Optimize options to be more consistent with the visual design of the app and the operating system.

What’s missing, though, is File Explorer with tabs. This feature is still in development and testing, and it will likely launch after Windows 11 22H2.

A new loading animation when booting Windows 11 or when installing updates

When Windows 11 is loading or installing updates after a restart, the operating system displays a different animation, as shown below.

I like the new loading animation

I like it better than the old animation that was inherited from Windows 10. See the old one in action below.

The old loading animation is boring by comparison

Frustrating change: You can’t install Windows 11 using a local account!

In Windows 10 and the first version of Windows 11, you could install the Pro editions of the operating system using a local account. In contrast, in the Home editions, you were forced to use a Microsoft account. Unfortunately, as of version 22H2, even the Pro edition of Windows 11 forces users to use a Microsoft account during the installation process. As a result, you can no longer install Windows 11 with a local account.

Even Windows 11 Pro users have to use a Microsoft account

This is a rather unfortunate choice that is going to frustrate users. However, this policy only applies to new Windows 11 installations, and it won't affect you if you're upgrading a PC that's already set up. Also, you will be able to create local accounts post-installation, no matter which edition of Windows 11 you’re using.

TIP: For more information about the different editions and versions of Windows 11, read this article: How to check what version and edition of Windows 11 you have.

Potentially frustrating: Suggested content inside Windows 11 Search

The Windows 11 Search window gets new data from Bing, MSN, and other Microsoft web properties. Alongside the usual search options that help you find what you need, you’ll also see cards with gift ideas, quotes, trending searches on Bing, etc.

Search displays data from Microsoft

Most people won’t use this additional content, and some will be annoyed. So I chose to ignore it and simply perform the searches I needed. What about you? Do you like this new “feature”?

Other minor improvements to Windows 11

Windows 11 22H2 includes many other minor changes, some of which are likely to be released as individual updates before this new version is released:

  • Windows Spotlight for desktop wallpapers is already here, and it allows users to get a free daily Bing Wallpaper on their desktop, not just on their Lock Screen.
  • A new Sound Recorder app will replace the old Voice Recorder inherited from Windows 10. The new app looks a lot better, has Dark Mode support, and, most importantly, it allows you to change the recording format between m4a, mp3, WMA, FLAC, or WAV with four audio quality settings.
  • The saga of improving and expanding the Settings app continues. We get many new settings, a rehauled Accounts page, the option to uninstall updates, and improved visuals and structure.
  • Windows 11 has redesigned the Print Queue window with updated visuals that make it easier to view and manage print jobs. The Print dialog has also been updated, and it can now discover network printers automatically.
  • In the WinX Menu, the Apps & Features entry has been renamed to Installed apps.
  • Windows Security gets a new Smart App Control, that spots and blocks malicious apps on your system, and an improved Memory Integrity feature.
  • Where available, Windows 11 22H2 will use data from electricityMap and Watttime to determine the best time to install Windows updates. This activity is then performed when your local power grid uses wind, solar, or hydroelectric power. Microsoft wants to reduce carbon emissions while installing Windows 11 updates and rebooting your PC. This won't apply to PCs running on battery and when carbon intensity data isn't available in your area.
  • Microsoft is expanding the Touch Keyboard theming experience and the collection of emojis available in Windows 11.
  • Improved accessibility features, including a new Narrator experience, a Magnifier that now uses modern icons, and Voice Typing.

Do you like what Microsoft has in store for Windows 11 22H2?

I like the 22H2 update for Windows 11, and I can’t wait for it to be released sometime in the second half of this year. I think this update is what Windows 11 should have been when it was first released. Microsoft should not have rushed the initial launch of this operating system as it did and should have waited until it got close to a stage like 22H2. Leaving this aside, I think many existing Windows 11 users will appreciate the changes made in this version. This operating system will finally offer some of the improvements it needs to convince more Windows 10 users to make the switch. Before closing, don’t hesitate to comment and share your thoughts: Do you like what Windows 11 22H2 offers? Or do you want more from Microsoft before upgrading to Windows 11?

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