Everything you can try right now

Windows 11 first showed its face on June 24, 2021, and became officially available on October 5 of that same year. Today, most laptops sold come with Windows 11 installed out of the box, but the Windows development cycle never stops, and there’s always something to look forward to. That’s where the Windows Insider Program comes into play, as it lets fans try out new Windows 11 features in preview before anybody else.

At any given moment, there’s something Windows Insiders can try that most other users don’t yet have, but sometimes, it’s hard to keep track of what those things are. If you’re curious about the future of Windows, we’ve rounded up all the Windows 11 features that are currently available in preview, so you can get a glance at what’s coming, or maybe even decide if now is a good time to become a Windows Insider yourself. Though, if you’re considering that, definitely check out our guide to the Windows Insider Program channels first. With that out of the way, let’s get into what you can try right now.

Windows 11 2022 Update (version 22H2)

Although it’s no longer exclusive to Windows Insiders, Microsoft recently released the Windows 11 2022 Update, bringing a ton of new features to the table. The update is rolling out gradually to the public, but the Windows Insider program is an easy way to get it early by joining the Release Preview channel. The new features include more touch gestures, Start menu folders, and the return of drag-and-drop support for apps on the taskbar. We recommend checking out everything new in the Windows 11 2022 Update if you haven’t already.

A recently released feature drop added even more features like File Explorer tabs. Again, this is no longer exclusive to Windows Insiders, but it’s a big update, and it’s worth checking out if you don’t know about it yet.

Desktop environment

Tablet-optimized taskbar

One of the biggest changes for touchscreen users is the new tablet-optimized taskbar. This was in testing prior to the launch of Windows 11 version 22H2, but it was removed before the official launch. Microsoft has now re-added this feature only for Windows Insiders in the Dev channel.

Essentially, this allows the taskbar to collapse into a smaller view when you’re using a touch-enabled device without a keyboard or mouse attached. This will make it so that the taskbar only displays information like the battery, time, and internet connection. If you want to access the apps on your taskbar, you have to swipe up from the bottom to see them.

Additionally, all devices (not just tablets and 2-in-1s) will see an updated design for the system tray, featuring a tweaked look when you hover over the icons in the system tray area.

These changes are available in both the Dev channel and the Beta channel. You’ll need to be running build 22623.730 or higher in the Beta channel to have it. Only select Insiders can see them, however.

Other taskbar improvements

Microsoft briefly experimented with placing a search bar on the desktop to replace the old Search button, but the company is now trying something else. You may see a variant of the Search button on the taskbar. One option redesigns the Search icon with a logo representing the web, while the other two options show a search bar saying Search or Search the web, which could make it easier for new users to know what the icon does right away.

This new feature is being tested only in the Dev channel for now.

Widget improvements

Released with Windows 11 build 25201 in the Dev channel, Microsoft has made it possible to open an expanded view of your Widgets panel, which takes up the entire screen. This allows you to see more of your widgets at once or more news in the news feed. You can click an icon in the top-right corner of the Widgets panel to switch to the expanded view or switch back to the regular view.

Starting with Windows 11 build 25227, Microsoft has also redesigned the Widgets panel with a new navigation bar, which can show up at the top or on the left side of the Widgets board. This navigation bar includes a few buttons that let you see different kinds of content, along with the usual buttons to add new widgets and your profile picture, which lets you change your widget settings.

In fact, that’s another one of the changes Microsoft is currently testing. The profile picture button and the + (plus) button now do different things. The latter still lets you add new widgets or remove existing ones, but now you can click your profile picture to change settings, such as whether you want to see notifications badges for breaking news.

Xbox Game Pass widget

A new addition to the Widgets panel is the Xbox Game Pass widget, which lets you quickly see information about games on Xbox Game Pass, including recently-added titles, games leaving the program soon, and other highlighted games in specific categories. You can also sign into your Microsoft account through the Game Pass widget to get more personalized recommendations and the ability to jump back into recently-played titles.

The Xbox Game Pass widget is only available in the Dev channel for now.

Support for third-party widgets

Starting with Windows 11 build 25217 in the Dev channel, Microsoft has begun enabling support for app developers to create third-party widgets. End users probably won’t see this for now, but this could make the Widgets panel far more useful in the future.

One small change Microsoft added in Windows 11 build 25227 is the ability to display notification badges over your profile picture in the Start menu, letting you know when you may need to take certain actions.

Settings app

Better Microsoft account management in Settings

A minor update that’s also been made is the ability to see information about your standalone OneDrive subscription in the Settings app. In Windows 11 version 22H2, this only works with Microsoft 365, which also includes OneDrive storage, but if you happen to have a standalone 100GB OneDrive subscription, you can see it now. There’s also a banner at the top of your account page that warns you if you’re close to your storage limit.

This feature is available in all the Insider channels.

Additionally, you can now see information about perpetual licenses of Office 2019 or 2021 that are linked to your account. And, if you have a Microsoft 365 subscription, you can now see an option to install your Office apps directly on the Accounts page without having to navigate to the Microsoft account page manually.

There’s yet another capability added to this page with Windows 11 build 25193. You can also now manage your Xbox-related subscriptions, including Xbox Game Pass for Console, PC Game Pass, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and Xbox Live Gold. These changes are only available in the Dev channel.

Windows Spotlight theme

In the Personalization section of the Settings app, you can now find a new theme option out of the box, called the Windows Spotlight theme. This is a feature that shows you new background images every day. You can already use it even if you’re not an Insider, but you’d have to specifically go into the Background settings. You can also find the Windows Spotlight theme directly under Personalization, so it also includes a theme color associated with the theme

The theme is represented by a preview showing multiple background images and a small icon indicating that the images rotate. This is currently only available in the Dev channel.

New setting for touch keyboard

Another smaller change Microsoft has made in the Settings app concerns the touch keyboard settings. Now, you can choose whether you want the touch keyboard to never appear automatically, to appear only when there’s no physical keyboard detected, or to always appear when you tap a text input box. Before, only the first two options were available.

This new setting is only available in the Dev channel at this time.

Gateway information for Wi-Fi and Ethernet

The summary page for Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections in the Settings app now shows gateway information directly. Additionally, you can now view the security key for a Wi-FI network you’re connected to, making it easier to share with someone else.

New animations

Microsoft has added a new visual flourish to the Settings app by animating icons on the side menu. When you switch to a different category in the side menu, you’ll see a brief animation play for the section you’re switching to, making the interface feel a bit more alive.

Currently, these animated icons are only available to Windows Insiders in the Dev channel, starting with build 25197.

Dynamic refresh rate support for external monitors

Dynamic refresh rate is one of the features that debuted with Windows 11, specifically with the Surface Laptop Studio and Surface Pro 8. However, it’s only ever been available to built-in displays on select devices. Now, if you have an external monitor with a refresh rate of 120Hz or higher, you can also use a dynamic refresh rate. This change is currently only available in the Dev channel starting with build 25206.


Braille improvements

Microsoft has also improved support for Braille devices to make the experience better for blind or low-vision users. This makes it so that your Braille device can continue to work properly when switching between the Narrator and third-party screen readers, so your experience isn’t interrupted.

In another update, Microsoft has added support for more Braille displays, in addition to adding new Braille input and output languages. You’ll need to uninstall the previous Braille support in the Settings app, then reinstall it for this to work.

These improvements are currently available in the Dev and Beta channels.

Built-in apps

Some Windows 11 apps also often get updates exclusively for Windows Insiders. These tend to roll out to everyone over time without requiring a full OS update, but some changes may require such an update.

Local Administrator Password Solution built-in

For business users relying on the Local Administrator Password Solution (LAPS) software, you’ll be happy to know that Microsoft has built it into Windows 11. It also includes some new capabilities. Once setting the feature up, you’ll be able to see LAPS in your Group Policy Editor and edit it as necessary.

This feature is only available in the Dev channel.

A new Photos app

Microsoft also recently began rolling out a completely redesigned Photos app for Windows Insiders in the Dev channel. This new app has an updated gallery view and improved navigation thanks to the new sidebar. You can now easily access your OneDrive memories and view how much storage you still have on OneDrive directly on the app’s main screen.

This version of the app does remove the video editor feature because Microsoft now includes Clipchamp with Windows 11, which is a much more capable video editor. This new Photos app is expected to be available to everybody in late October to early November. Microsoft recently revealed that this new Photos app will also feature integration with iCloud Photos, so you can see all your pictures in one place if you have an Apple device. The new design for the Photos app is available in all the Insider channels, but iCloud integration is only available in the Dev channel for now.

Snipping Tool automatically saves screenshots

Another recently added change to the Windows Insider program is the Snipping Tool app. With version 11.2209.2.0, the Snipping Tool automatically saves any screenshots you take to the Screenshots folder. You can change this behavior in the app’s settings.

Microsoft also recently announced that the Snipping Tool will soon be able to record videos, though this feature isn’t available to try just yet.

Miscellaneous improvements

Typing and input improvements

In the Dev channel, Microsoft is currently testing the ability to use the clipboard history (Win + V) in password fields, so you can more easily paste previously copied passwords.

Additionally, for those that use on-device speech recognition, it’s now possible to contribute clips of your voice to help Microsoft improve its speech recognition technology. Microsoft is testing the ability to let you sync voice typing settings as part of your Windows backup.

Improved Euphemia typeface

If you speak a language that uses the Euphemia typeface — mostly covering languages that use the Canadian Syllabic script — you’ll notice an improved Euphemia typeface. Over 200 characters have been updated to be more easily readable, plus new glyphs to help it line up with the latest Unicode 14 standard. There are new characters for the Nattilik language of the Canadian arctic region in this update. This is currently only available to Windows Insiders in the Dev channel.

Kiosk mode

Another big change coming to Windows 11, especially for IT administrators and public spaces, is the multi-app kiosk mode. This feature isn’t new to Windows itself, but it’s making its debut in Windows 11 now. A kiosk mode allows administrators to select a few specific apps that can be accessed by users, which can be useful for demo units or public computers where it’s important to prevent tampering with the experience. This feature is only available in the Dev channel.

SMB authentication rate limiter

With Windows 11 build 25206, Microsoft also enabled the SMB authentication rate limiter by default. This is a security feature that causes a delay whenever a user tries to log into an SMB server and enters the wrong credentials. Now, every failed attempt causes a 2-second delay until another authentication attempt can be made again, significantly slowing down brute force attacks to hack into an SMB server. For example, an attacker could previously have tried to submit 300 authentication attempts per second for five minutes, resulting in 90,000 submitted passwords. With this delay, entering 90,000 passwords would take over 50 hours.

Update management

In the Dev channel, Microsoft is now making it easier for IT admins to control how updates are deployed in enterprise environments. There are now group policies allowing admins to set different deadlines for installing quality (cumulative) updates and feature updates, so there’s more granular control about when updates are installed. Deadlines are also calculated differently, so they’re based on when the client device first detects the update.

And those are all the Windows 11 features that are currently in preview for Windows Insiders. With Windows 11 version 22H2 expected in the next few weeks and months, that’s definitely the most exciting thing you can test right now, but there are a few other features here and there that are interesting. We’ll keep this list updated as new features are released, so keep checking back.

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