Microsoft has just released the same Windows 11 Insider build 22581 for testers in both the Dev and Beta channels today. This is quite unexpected, but this means that Beta channel Insiders can now start testing new features that previously made their debut in the Dev Channel, including Start folders, Live Captions, the redesigned Task Manager, and the tablet-optimized taskbar.
“Now that the Dev and Beta Channels are receiving the same builds, the limited window has opened for Insiders to switch channels if desired,” the Windows Insider team emphasized today. It’s not exactly clear for how long the Dev and Beta channels will keep receiving the same builds, but Dev Channel testers who want to switch to the Beta Channel now have the opportunity to do so, and vice versa. Moreover, Beta channel testers who want to stay on the released version of Windows 11 are now invited to switch to the Release Preview channel.
Previously, Microsoft has been releasing more experimental builds for the Dev channel, while Insiders on the Beta channel have been receiving the same builds as testers on the Release Preview channel. This was still the case last week when the Windows 11 build 22000.588 started rolling out to the Beta and Release Preview channels, while Microsoft shipped the Windows 11 build 22579 for Dev channel testers.
Microsoft didn’t really explain today why it now wants Dev and Beta channels to be on the same page, at least temporarily. However, the Windows Insider team reiterated today that the Dev and Beta channel still represent “parallel development paths.” Moreover, the Dev Channel will continue to receive experimental features that may never ship to all Windows 11 users.
“The Dev Channel will be a place where we will try out different concepts, incubate new ideas, and work on long lead items that may not get released to general customers. The Beta Channel will be the place we preview experiences that are closer to what we will ship to our general customers. However, this does not mean every feature we try out in the Beta Channel will ship,” the team said today.
Now that we’ve got these important Windows Insider Program changes out of the way, today’s Windows 11 build 22581 does bring a couple of notable changes for the taskbar. First of all, the tablet-optimized taskbar that Microsoft previously tested with a subset of Insiders is now available for all Dev and Beta channel testers who will install this build.
Keep in mind that this tablet-optimized taskbar will only show up on Windows 11 tablets, and the expanded state makes it much easier to tap icons. “Several fixes to taskbar such as the top border line now extending across the entire taskbar will be seen for everyone regardless of device type,” the Windows Insider team also emphasized.
In this build, Microsoft has also updated the keyboard focus and mouse hover for Win32 system tray icons, as well as the “Show hidden icons” flyouts to match the rest of the visual style of the taskbar. When dragging something to pin to the taskbar, the message on the dragged item will also have rounded corners.
Today’s build 22581 also includes various bug fixes and improvements for the Start Menu, File Explorer, Task Manager, and the Settings app. There’s definitely a lot more to see for Beta Channel Insiders who were still on the released version of Windows 11 until today, but again, those Insiders may want to skip this build and switch to the Release Preview channel if they don’t want to start receiving more unstable builds.