The next major update to Windows 11 is coming next week, and it will bring some of the biggest changes we’ve seen in a while.
When the update to Windows 11 22H2 update arrives on September 26, 2023 it will bring a new design for File Explorer, all those new MS Paint features we’ve seen the company show off recently, and native support for RAR and 7-zip archive files, among other things. But one of the biggest changes is the inclusion of Microsoft’s AI-powered Copilot service.
But now the company is bringing it to all users, promising that you’ll be able to use it to pull together data from across different Microsoft apps and services including the Edge web browser, Office suite, and Bing search engine.
For example, Copilot can:
- Get a brief summary of an email message or list of text messages, and which might be the highest priority
- Snap a picture of an item and then have Copilot open a browser window that will take you to the website for a store where you can buy that thing
- Use data from your phone’s text messages to grab flight information and then find things to do at your travel destination
- Bing’s Image Creator tool, which already lets you generate images from text-based prompts, is getting an upgrade to the Dall-E 3 model soon, bringing support for more realistic pictures
Microsoft says users will be able to invoke Copilot by clicking an icon on their computer or using a voice prompt. In other words, it’s the new Cortana… but powered by new generative AI models, it should be better at understanding natural language and responding in kind.
Of course, it also sounds like it’s going to be most useful if you’re willing to put all of your data in Microsoft’s hands, using the company’s Bing search engine, Edge web browser, Office suite of apps, and smartphone apps to keep your data synchronized between devices. I suspect most folks who just want their operating system to blend into the background so they can use third-party apps won’t find Copilot much more useful than Cortana or Clippy.
But there are a few other interesting features coming to Windows 11 with the 23H2 update, including Windows Ink Anywhere, which allows users with a stylus-enabled device to use their pen in any text input box. And if you are using Copilot, you can also use the pen to highlight things like math problems to have Copilot solve them for you.
Other new features include a new Dynamic Lighting feature in the Windows Settings app, which allows gamers and other users to control lighting effects for keyboards, mice, game controllers, and other hardware that has RGB lighting, a new Volume Mixer that lets you quickly change audio output targets and volumes for specific apps from the taskbar flyout window, and support for copying text from an image you grab using the Windows Snipping Tool.
The Notepad app also automatically saves your data when you close it, so you can pick up where you left off next time you open it, since all text, tabs, and other information will be restored. And the Photos app includes new features like background blur and improved search features.