Microsoft Releases New Windows 11 Pre-Release Build With Several New Features

Posted on December 8, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 7 Comments

Windows 11 Insider Preview build 22518 is now available for testing for those in the Dev channel, and this one adds several new features. Given the timing, it’s reasonable to assume this will be the last major update before the holidays.

“This build has several new features for Windows Insiders to try out including Spotlight collection backgrounds, an updated entry point for Widgets with weather and voice access,” the announcement post notes, adding that it’s not yet available on ARM-based PCs “due to an issue that causes these [PCs] to rollback when attempting to update to this build.” Microsoft is working on a fix.

New features include:

Spotlight collection. Many Windows users enjoy the Spotlight feature on the lock screen, which brings nice, Bing-based photography will signing in. With this related feature, Windows 11 will deliver similar imagery to the desktop, with a new photograph and related “fun facts” every day.

Widgets update. For some reason, Microsoft looked at the terrible Widgets feature in Windows 11 and decided that what it needed to fix was where the Widgets icon is located in the taskbar. So it’s testing a new location: to the far left of the taskbar, where the Start button should be. That will get some nice misclicks, I bet, disingenuously driving Edge, MSN, and Bing usage. On the good news front, this change is fixing a regression, at least: you will once again see a weather update on the taskbar instead of an icon before you remove the icon for good.

Voice Access. This “new experience [will] enable everyone, including people with mobility disabilities, to control their PC and author text using their voice.” This works with such things as “opening and switching between apps, browsing the web, and reading and authoring mail,” and it leverages on-device speech recognition and doesn’t require an internet connection.

Windows Subsystem from Linux (WSL) improvements. As you know, WSL 2 is now available from the Microsoft Store, and in this build, Microsoft is making it easier to get the latest updates. Now, when you use the `wsl.exe –install` command, it will install it from the Microsoft Store by default. There are also some additional command-line arguments to help better configure the install. You can learn more here.

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Comments (7)

7 responses to “Microsoft Releases New Windows 11 Pre-Release Build With Several New Features”

  1. erichk

    Widgets. To me this is one of those features that sounds good on paper, but so far since I started using Windows 11 I hardly ever use them.

  2. epguy40

    not sure if this dev build fixes the performance bugs with some nvme ssds as reported here

  3. Jim Lewis

    Since Microsoft bought Nuance, mainly for the applications of voice recognition/voice control in the health/medical industry according to Nadella awhile back in an analysts' conference call on quarterly earnings, I'm not sure that we can look forward to future versions of Dragon Naturally Speaking (which far exceeds Win10 voice abilities). Hopefully though, Microsoft will use the acquisition of Nuance to provide Dragon-like capability or better in Windows 11. I'm optimistically looking forward to that, especially since DNS 15 is getting long of tooth with regard to menu control ability in more modern apps and with regard to the new interface of Windows 11.

    • RussDW

      I think I read recently that the Nuance acquisition by Microsoft may close later this month. Hopefully, the deal will go through, and Microsoft will make a little money selling the speech software into vertical markets like healthcare and legal.

      But also, it would be really nice to see consumers and general businesses benefit as well. Microsoft should definitely integrate the Dragon speech software into Windows. The Nuance software is better than what's in Windows now. And I think, going forward, Microsoft would be a better steward of this speech software than Nuance has been in the past.

  4. jimchamplin

    ... Does the Widgets icon remain on the far left if you set the Taskbar to left-justified icons?

    It's like a bad joke, though. Bring back the weather status but screw up the execution.

  5. roundaboutskid

    Windows 11 is a complete disaster. What is actually new? There is only some screwed up UI tweaks, and inexplicable resource requirements. Utter crap!

    Well, at least someone will take the reins and deliver a better version with Windows 12. If past releases are any indication.