Microsoft is unveiling a few key new features in beta builds of Windows 11 that it released today, though they’re not all in a single release.
Windows Insiders in the Dev Channel may see new “treatments” of the personalized Windows Spotlight imagery, along with an updated Settings menu that zeros in on improving the PC graphics settings, as part of the Windows Insider Preview Build 25281. Microsoft also released Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22621.1180 and 22623.1180 to the Beta Channel, which tweaks Widgets and the OneDrive dashboard.
Microsoft separately released an updated version of Notepad, which adds the tabbed user interface, to the Dev Channel.
Recall that Microsoft uses the Beta Channel as a means to test code that it plans to eventually release, while the Dev Channel is labeled as experimental code. Therefore, it’s much more likely that you’ll see those two new improvements roll out to the Windows 11 stable code base eventually, even if you don’t want to test them out yourselves. (The two builds for the Beta Channel determine whether the new features are actually on: 22621 is off, 22623 is on.)
The two improvements here are minimal: Microsoft has added an updated dashboard to the Accounts page within the Settings menu, which will list your available OneDrive storage quota, break it down between Outlook attachments and general storage, and offer an opportunity to add more storage, as well. The second update is also minor, but somewhat startling: The Widgets dashboard doesn’t require you to sign in with a Microsoft account to use it. Normally, Microsoft leans heavily on forcing you to use a Microsoft account — even requiring one to set up Windows 11 Home — so freeing users from an account requirement is unusual.
Windows 11 Insider Build 25281 is being released for the Dev Channel, with two key features. First up is a new “treatment” of Windows Spotlight, a key personalization feature of the Windows 11 2022 Update that you can see at the top of this page. Spotlight takes one of the often-breathtaking shots of nature photography in Microsoft’s archives and uses it as your home screen. Sometimes, though, you’re left wanting to know more about the image. Microsoft currently adds a small camera icon to your desktop as a link to an explanatory page. The update, however, will add either previews, pop-outs, or a full-screen experience that offers more detail.
Microsoft is also improving the UI within the Settings > Display > Graphics portion of the Windows 11 Settings menu “to help you get to graphics configurations such as ‘GPU preference’ and ‘Auto HDR’ with greater ease,” Microsoft said in a blog post.
Finally, Microsoft is releasing a tabbed version of Notepad to the Dev Channel, as well. There aren’t any surprises here; the tabbed layout looks much like a browser or like Windows 11’s new File Explorer. Still, if you’re used to opening multiple text documents at once, this will likely help keep your desktop more neatly organized.