The next Windows update, which Microsoft refers to as a big annual update, is Windows 11 23H2. It will offer numerous new features, which I will discuss in this article. Microsoft has not yet announced the release date; however, we expect to see it in September or October 2023.
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These features are expected to enhance the overall Windows 11 experience: Windows Copilot, an improved File Explorer, taskbar ungrouping, a new volume mixer, RGB lighting controls, improved Windows backup, a new Windows spotlight experience, native 7z and RAR support, run Paint in dark mode, Dev Drive, smarter inking, and a new Settings home.

Windows Copilot

Microsoft plans to integrate Windows Copilot into Windows 11, making it the first PC platform with an integrated AI assistant. You will be able to access it directly from the taskbar. This assistant will help you with various activities, such as answering questions about Windows customization. For example, you can ask, "How can I extend my disks?" It will also assist you in personalizing and navigating your PC, such as configuring focus time.

Windows Copilot will also be capable of helping you with your documents. For instance, you can upload a PDF file and ask Windows Copilot to rewrite or summarize it. It works seamlessly with your apps, enabling you to ask them to send files to your colleagues via Microsoft Teams.

Windows Copilot

Windows Copilot

Enhanced File Explorer

Microsoft has already redesigned File Explorer in Windows 11, giving it a modern appearance. In Windows 11 Update 23H2, Microsoft will make some minor changes, such as moving the address bar closer to the tab bar and shifting commands down to be nearer to the file pane.

Additionally, the address bar will feature OneDrive integration. You will also experience a new Gallery view, which will make it easier to browse your photos. The Home page is also being redesigned, featuring recommended files for users and Azure Active Directory (AAD) account integration.

Taskbar ungrouping is back

Taskbar ungrouping assists you in visualizing your taskbar icons on a single screen or across multiple screens. The following options are available: Combine the taskbar button and hide labels, and combine taskbar buttons and hide labels on other taskbars.

The Combine taskbar button and hide labels option allows you to decide whether you want to group open icons together and whether you wish to display a name label alongside each taskbar icon. You can choose the following options to show name labels: Always, Never, or Only if the taskbar is full.

Microsoft initially integrated taskbar ungrouping but later removed it, which resulted in numerous user complaints. However, Microsoft is addressing this feedback and bringing back the taskbar ungrouping feature in Windows 11 version 23H2.

Combine the Taskbar button and hide labels

Combine the Taskbar button and hide labels

The second option, Combine taskbar buttons and hide labels on other taskbars, helps you to reflect the taskbar behavior across multiple screens.

You can access it by navigating to Settings > Personalization > Taskbar > Taskbar behaviors.

Taskbar ungrouping options

Taskbar ungrouping options

New volume mixer

Microsoft is introducing a volume mixer to the taskbar on the Quick Settings panel. The Volume Mixer is a built-in tool designed to help you quickly switch between audio inputs (such as microphones) and outputs (such as speakers). Additionally, it enables you to fine-tune the volume levels of individual applications directly.

You will also be able to access it by pressing Windows + Ctrl + V. This will be a redesigned volume mixer compared to the old one, which has been there since Windows XP.

RGB lighting controls

Microsoft will include dynamic lighting in the Settings app. This feature will help you manage the lighting effects of your devices (motherboard, graphic cards, fans, etc.) using the HID LampArray standard. Nowadays, to manage red, green, and blue (RGB) lighting on your devices, you need to download and use third-party tools. With dynamic lighting, this is natively supported.

You can access it under Settings > Personalization > Dynamic Lighting.

Dynamic Lighting

Dynamic Lighting

Improved Windows Backup

In the upcoming release, Windows 11 Update 23H2, Windows Backup will be able to remember where your apps were pinned on the taskbar and Start Menu. Additionally, it will allow you to manually select when you want to perform a backup and choose what data you want to back up.

You can access these options by navigating to Settings > Accounts > Windows backup.

Windows Backup 1

Windows Backup 1

Native 7z and RAR support

In the upcoming release, Windows 11 will natively support many file archives, including 7Z, which is one of the most widely recognized file archiving formats.

Paint with dark mode

Paint will now support a dark mode, which is a long-awaited feature based on customer feedback. In addition, there will also be improved zoom control available.

Click the Settings menu at the top right, and then change the app theme to Dark.

Paint in dark mode

Paint in dark mode

Dev Drive

Dev Drive is a new type of storage volume available to enhance the performance of key developer workloads. It enhances performance by using the Resilient File System (ReFS), which is optimized for developer workloads such as cloning, building, copying files, and package restore. Dev Drive also offers a performance mode for Microsoft Defender Antivirus, which reduces the impact of antivirus protection on file I/O scenarios. Dev Drive can deliver up to 30% faster performance for overall build times compared to current Windows 11 versions.

To set up a new Dev Drive, you need to be on the Windows 11 Insider Program Build: Dev Channel and have some unallocated space on disk or a virtual hard disk. You can create a Dev Drive from the Windows Settings app under System > Storage > Advanced Storage Settings > Disks & Volumes. A Dev Drive is automatically trusted by the system, meaning that the developer has high confidence in the security of the content stored there.

Dev Drive

Dev Drive

New Windows spotlight experience

Microsoft aims to enhance the background experience by providing related images and an option to switch between them. Additionally, in Windows 11, Windows Spotlight supports 4K wallpapers, adding to the visual appeal of the system.

You can activate it under Settings > Personalization > Background.

Smarter inking

Smart inking is a feature that allows you to use your finger or a pen to write or draw on any application in Windows with the ability to convert handwritten or drawn text into editable text. Currently, Microsoft has only enabled it for US English; other languages are still in development.

Microsoft is switching up how inking works in Windows 11 with this update. Instead of using a separate handwriting panel that transfers your text to a text field, you can simply write directly in the text field where you want to add your text.

Home is added to Settings

In the upcoming release, Microsoft will add a Home page to the Settings app. It will include interactive cards about your machine's status. Directly from the Home screen, you will be able to personalize your device, account, Bluetooth devices, Taskbar, adjust the display, and much more.

When you open the Settings menu, Home will be positioned directly above the System section.

Home in the Settings menu

Home in the Settings menu

Home in the Settings menu

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What is your take on the new features in Windows 11 23H2? Are you planning to upgrade, or is the update not necessary for your work?

  1. Christopher Neal 1 month ago

    This is great information!

    Thank you!

  2. Tope Raheem 1 month ago

    Am I the only one who feels like there are lots of other features that need attention? One that really bothered me since I updated to 11 earlier this year was the lack of optimisation in the tab integration of file explorer, notepad…
    Personally, I never use the feature simply because of this. I mean ffs they’re tabs right? they should at least be somewhat interactive kinda like tabs in web browsers and by that I mean one should have the ability to drag and drop them as individual Windows, pin, duplicate them e.t.c Microsoft’s def not reading this lol but it would be pretty cool if the developers work on this suggestion

  3. Xemanth 1 month ago

    It would be crucial to get back the function that you can pin taskbar vertically to the monitor edges. I can’t live without that 🙁 Major dealbreaker of W11. It still surprises me after these years that MS has not restored this function. Microsoft Feedback hub has 22187 upvotes and 1783 comments

  4. bill 1 month ago

    happens to be my birthday

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