Microsoft will release its next big Windows 11 update, 23H2, on September 26th. The update will include the new AI-powered Windows Copilot feature, a redesigned File Explorer, a new Ink Anywhere feature for pen users, big improvements to the Paint app, native RAR and 7-zip file support, a new volume mixer, and much more.
Windows Copilot is the headline feature for the Windows 11 23H2 update, bringing the same Bing Chat feature straight to the Windows 11 desktop. It appears as a sidebar in Windows 11, allowing you to control settings on a PC, launch apps, or simply answer queries. It’s integrated all over the operating system, too: Microsoft executives demoed using Copilot to write text messages using data from your calendar, navigation options in Outlook, and more.
This is also Microsoft’s latest attempt to deliver a digital assistant inside Windows after the company shut down the Cortana app inside Windows 11 last month. It might be more successful this time, particularly as it’s powered by the same technologies behind Bing Chat, so you can ask real questions and get answers (that might not always be accurate) in return.
If the idea of an AI assistant isn’t your thing, Microsoft still has plenty to offer with this update. File Explorer is getting a more modern look. The updated File Explorer UI includes a modern home interface with large file thumbnails and a carousel interface that can surface recent files and favorited ones. These changes make File Explorer blend in better with the overall Windows 11 design.
Microsoft is also adding native RAR and 7-zip support to Windows 11 with this update. That means you’ll be able to easily open files like tar, 7-zip, rar, gz, and many others using the libarchive open-source project that’s now built into Windows 11. Microsoft is also planning to provide support for creating these file formats in 2024.
A new Windows volume mixer is on the way with this update, too. The new volume mixer provides quick access from the taskbar to switch audio outputs and control individual app volumes. It also looks a lot like EarTrumpet, a third-party audio app for Windows that I once called “the Windows 10 volume control app Microsoft should have created.”
Stylus users are getting a key new feature called Ink Anywhere, which allows you to handwrite with the Surface Pen or another stylus in any text box anywhere in Windows. The OS will convert your writing to text, and use it where applicable.
If you’re a PC gamer, Microsoft has an interesting addition in this update: native RGB lighting controls. Known as Dynamic Lighting, this Windows 11 feature will control RGB lights using the open HID LampArray standard. Acer, Asus, HP, HyperX, Logitech, Razer, and Twinkly have all partnered with Microsoft on this Dynamic Lighting feature, which allows Windows apps to control devices as well as the Settings section of Windows 11.
If you have a mouse, keyboard, monitor, case fans, or anything else that has controllable RGB lighting, the plan is that Windows will eventually be able to control it without a third-party app. That means less fiddling with apps just to get your color scheme on point.
An improved Windows Backup app will now let you back up your PC when you want to migrate to a new device. This tool will automatically apply your existing settings to a new PC thanks to backup to the cloud. Pinned apps on your Start menu and taskbar will also transfer, and any apps from the Microsoft Store will be automatically restored.
Microsoft has also added back app labels and ungrouping for the Windows 11 taskbar. These were missing at the launch of Windows 11, but Microsoft has been gradually improving the taskbar after it rebuilt it for Windows 11. Microsoft Paint is also finally getting a dark mode, but you’ll need to wait a little longer for the new Photoshop-like layers and transparency support.
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