Originally posted on forbes.
The first big refresh of Windows 11 is due to land in ten days’ time and there are plenty of new features. Many are tiny tweaks, but some are standout new features, all of which add up to a significant update.
Here are five new features that I think make Windows 11 22H2 a seriously strong update.
Microsoft doesn’t get enough credit for the effort it puts into making Windows accessible to all and Live Captions carries on that good work. However, this is an accessibility feature that could also find a general audience.
Live Captions provides a transcript of any audio that’s playing on your computer. That could be a Netflix movie, a Zoom call or a podcast.
Even if you’re blessed with perfect hearing, that could be a great way to keep on top of a video meeting when you can’t listen in, or even sneakily keep across something at work. (Don’t blame me if you get fired.)
The Live Captions don’t require an internet connection nor the speaker volume to be up, so you could use them to ‘listen’ to something on a train when you don’t have your headphones with you.
Live Captions can be switched on by searching for the feature in the Windows start menu.
Modern computing life is an endless stream of distractions. Even while writing this article, I’ve got one eye on a Twitter feed and am being constantly pinged with Slack and email notifications.
There are times – such as when writing articles for world-famous websites – that you should give a job maximum focus, and Focus Sessions allow you to do just that.
Activated by clicking the clock in the bottom-right of the desktop, Focus Sessions switch on Do Not Disturb mode, as well as disabling notification badges on the Taskbar icons and preventing icons from flashing to alert you of a new update.
By default, it’s set to 30 minutes, which might be just enough time to let me get to the end of this piece without checking my inbox…
This is another hugely impressive accessibility feature. Voice Access lets you control the PC with voice alone, using ingenious methods to work your way around apps and settings.
I’m able bodied and have never used voice controls on a PC before, but I was able to navigate around Windows 11 with Voice Access pretty seamlessly, if not as quickly as I could with mouse/keyboard.
Voice Access uses different methods to let you work your way around. You can, for example, tell the computer to put a grid over the screen, with each sector given a number between 1 and 9. Each of those squares can then be further broken down into smaller squares until you’ve precisely targeted the icon or link that you want to ‘click’.
You can open specific apps by name, tell the PC to scroll up/down, to click or tap specific items on screen, to maximize or minimize windows and all manner of different commands.
As with Live Captions, the accuracy is awesome – at least for this British, male speaker.
Improved Snap Layouts
One of Windows’s best usability features is Snap Layouts – the ability to snap an app into part of the screen, and work alongside other apps. In this era of big high-res displays, it makes multitasking a cinch.
Snap Layouts are much improved in Windows 11 22H2. You can now drag a window to the top of the screen and the various Snap Layouts will appear, meaning it takes no time at all to ping, say, a Word doc to one side of the screen and your web browser to the other.
Alternatively, you can press Windows + Z in the active window and a little pop-up showing available Snap Layouts appears. Select the number you want by pressing the relevant number key and the window is docked in place.
These two methods combine to make Snap Layouts easier to access and that’s a very good thing.
Energy Saving settings
Not before time, Microsoft is making Windows 11’s screen and sleep settings more aggressive.
When on battery power, the screen will now switch off and sleep mode will kick in after only three minutes of inactivity. Previously, it took five minutes to kill the screen and 15 to go to sleep.
When plugged into the mains, the screen’s switched off and sleep mode activated after five minutes, huge savings on the previous ten and 30 minutes respectively.
These defaults can be changed if you find them irritatingly brusque, but most people won’t. And with Windows 11 now installed on tens, if not hundreds of millions of PCs, the combined energy savings will be significant.
When can I get the new Windows 11?
Windows 11 22H2 arrives on September 20, although Microsoft normally staggers major releases and you may not be offered the update immediately.