Microsoft is releasing one of its biggest updates to Windows 11 today. It includes access to the new Windows Copilot, AI-powered updates to Paint, Snipping Tool, and Photos, RGB lighting support, a modernized File Explorer, and much more.
Windows Copilot is the big new feature for this Windows 11 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. Microsoft is integrating Copilot into many parts of Windows, too.
Copilot will essentially exist as an AI-powered digital assistant, much like Microsoft’s vision for Cortana. While Microsoft shut down the Cortana app inside Windows 11 last month, Copilot looks like it’s very much Microsoft’s big push into AI.
Microsoft is also adding AI-powered features to Paint, Snipping Tool, and Windows 11’s Photos app. Microsoft Paint is getting Photoshop-like features, with support for transparency and layers.
Microsoft is also adding a new AI image generator to Paint soon. Windows Insiders will be able to sign up to a waitlist to get access to a “Paint Cocreator” feature today that will be available to all Windows 11 users in the coming weeks. “Cocreator unleashes your creativity by simply inputting a text prompt, selecting a style, and generating a unique image,” explains Yusuf Mehdi, head of consumer marketing at Microsoft, in a blog post. “You can then use the array of other tools in Paint to further refine your creation, whether it’s adding layers or drawing on top.”
Microsoft is using credits for this Paint image generation feature during the preview period. 50 credits are available for initial use of Paint Cocreator, with one being used up per use. Microsoft says it may change this credit system after the preview is complete, which suggests it could charge for this feature in the future.
Snipping Tool’s AI upgrades come in the form of text extraction and redaction. You’ll now be able to copy text from an image in Snipping Tool and share it in other apps. It’s similar to the copy text from images feature found on Android or iOS. Microsoft has also added a feature that allows you to automatically redact and hide emails and phone numbers from images.
Microsoft’s Photos app for Windows 11 continues the focus on AI and imagery with a new background blur option with this update. Background blur will automatically find the background in a photo and highlight the subject and blur out the background. You can customize the intensity of the blur or even change the areas that get blurred out.
You may need to wait a few weeks or months to get the AI-enhanced versions of Paint, Photos, and Snipping Tool, though. Microsoft warns these app updates “start rolling out now to a small percentage of consumer users (with full availability targeted in the coming months).”
Microsoft is also adding an improved Windows Backup app with this update. It now lets you back up your PC when you want to migrate to a new device, automatically applying 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.
This latest Windows 11 update also introduces support for passkeys — a method to avoid passwords and use your face, fingerprint, or PIN to sign in to accounts. You can now create, manage, and store passkeys and use them to access websites, apps, and services.
File Explorer is getting a more modern look with this Windows 11 update. 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.
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. Microsoft is also adding the ability to pick drive and folder options for games from the Microsoft Store, much like the Xbox app allows you to install PC games to additional drives.
IT admins and developers have also got some new additions to look out for here. Microsoft is integrating its Windows 365 Cloud PCs into Windows 11 with this update. Windows 365 Boot will allow you to boot straight to Windows 365 Cloud PCs on a device, and Windows 365 Switch will let Windows 365 users switch between a local desktop and a Cloud PC within Windows 11.
Developers now get access to Dev Home, an easier way to set up and use Windows dev machines. Dev Home utilizes Microsoft’s Windows Package Manager (winget) to generate a configuration file to install the apps, tools, and packages that developers need. It also includes the ability to configure coding environments in the cloud using Microsoft Dev Box and GitHub Codespaces.
There are still many Windows 11 features on the way in another update planned for release in the fourth quarter of 2023. “As announced in July, the Windows 11 2023 Update (version 23H2) will be released in the fourth quarter of 2023,” says John Cable, head of Windows servicing and delivery, in a blog post today. We still don’t know exactly what’s in the Windows 11 2023 Update or why Microsoft pushed some previously planned features for that update into today’s 22H2 update.
A new volume mixer is on the way, alongside native RAR and 7-zip support and even app labels and ungrouping for the Windows 11 taskbar. Microsoft also mentioned a new inking experience onstage at its Surface and AI event last week, but those features won’t be a part of this update.
If you want to get today’s big Windows 11 update right now, you can head into Settings > Windows Update and turn on “Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available.” Otherwise, you may need to wait until the November monthly Patch Tuesday to get this latest big Windows 11 update.