Microsoft updates Windows 11 with improved Copilot, Widgets and more

Microsoft is starting to roll out a new update for Windows 11 that includes a slew of improvements and new built-in features. Copilot in Windows 11 is getting more options to control your PC as part of this update, along with a new Generative Clear option in Photos, voice shortcuts for accessibility, improved Snap layouts, changes to the Widgets system, and more.

While the Windows 11 update is available starting today, Microsoft says not all features will be enabled right away. Copilot’s new options will roll out in late March, enabling new skills such as the ability to ask the AI ​​chatbot to enable battery saver mode or launch accessibility features like Narrator or Magnifier. Copilot can also show available Wi-Fi networks, storage space, and even empty your trash.

More AI-powered features are also coming to the built-in Photos app. A new Generative Erase feature lets you remove unwanted objects from a photo by simply selecting and deleting them. It’s similar to the magical AI selective photo erasers found on Google and Samsung devices. Clipchamp, Microsoft’s video editor, also gains the ability to remove awkward silences from a video.

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Microsoft is also improving the Widgets features and built-in Snap layouts in Windows 11. Widgets have always been useful, but are marred by Microsoft’s junk news feed from MSN. Now you can finally disable the “Microsoft Start” feed, and the Windows Widgets board is also interoperable as part of Microsoft’s Digital Markets Act commitments to the European Commission. This means that Google could build a plug-in for the Widgets board that, for example, shows content from Google News.

The Snap feature in Windows 11 that makes it easy to resize app windows gets smarter in this update, so it now remembers your frequently used apps and automatically suggests layouts.

If you own a Windows tablet with a stylus, this latest Windows 11 update also brings the ability to write directly in text boxes across the operating system. This includes Windows Ink support in apps like Photos, Paint, WhatsApp and more.

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The built-in casting feature that lets you send content to a nearby screen in Windows 11 is also being improved for the better. You now get notifications with suggestions to use the Cast feature when multitasking, and there are improvements in Cast to help find nearby displays and troubleshoot connection issues.

If you’re someone who shares Windows content with other devices or you own an Android phone, this latest Windows 11 update includes some improvements to make it easier to share content to and from devices. Nearby Sharing now has faster transfer speeds when you share with people or devices on the same network, and you can also give your PC a descriptive name to make it easier for others to recognize you.

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The Phone Link system in Windows 11 now includes the ability to access recent photos or use your phone as a webcam in video conferencing apps. The feature is rolling out today for Windows Insiders to test on devices running Android 9 or later and a Link to Windows app version 1.24012* or later. To enable this, look under the Bluetooth & mobile settings menu, select manage devices and allow your PC to access your Android phone.

Last but not least, Microsoft is making some accessibility improvements in Windows 11. A new Voice Shortcuts feature lets you create custom commands to automate tasks in Windows 11’s Voice Access feature. This is like a macro for your voice, so in one voice command you can for example, automatically open a URL and perform some actions.

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You can also use voice access on multiple displays, including number and grid overlays on secondary displays. Microsoft is also improving the built-in Narrator feature in Windows 11, adding natural voices that use on-device text-to-speech once downloaded to a device.

Microsoft will start rolling out this new Windows 11 update today, but it may take some time before it’s available on your own device. To get them immediately, you’ll need to enable the “Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available” option in Windows Update and then check for updates.

“Most of these new Windows 11 features will be enabled by default in the March 2024 optional non-security preview release for all editions of Windows 11, versions 23H2 and 22H2,” explained Yusuf Mehdi, executive vice president and consumer chief marketing officer. officer at Microsoft. . “As is our normal practice, we will closely monitor the rollout of these new Windows 11 features and continue to share timely information about the status of the rollout and known issues (open and resolved) via the Windows release health dashboard and @Windows Update.”

Other big changes should come to Windows soon in the European Union. Microsoft is making changes to comply with the Digital Market Act, allowing users to, among other things, remove Cortana and choose their search engine from Windows Search. The features will be rolled out on an optional basis ahead of the March 6 compliance deadline.

“We will begin enabling DMA changes through our controlled feature rollout technology in February’s optional non-security releases and will post a public update on DMA progress soon,” said Aaron Grady, a product manager for Windows, in an emailed statement.

Update February 29, 3:00 PM ET: Added details for the Windows Insider rollout test support for Android devices as webcams.

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