A Windows 11 background with the words Windows 11 features in development at the top.
Image: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

To keep an edge on any competition, now and in the future, Microsoft is constantly looking to improve and enhance the Windows 11 operating system. Generally, improvements include new features, better features or simply more features. These new and improved elements are in development now and can be previewed before they are released to the public if you are a member of the Windows Insights program.

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While few of the new features in development are groundbreaking or paradigm shifting, they will enhance or improve the overall Windows 11 user experience for just about everyone. With this in mind, we look at some of the operating system elements currently in development by Microsoft.

Windows 11 features currently in development

1. Improving the taskbar for tablets

Microsoft has been testing a version of the taskbar that will shrink when a touchscreen device is active without a mouse or keyboard. Essential information like the remaining battery power, time, and the status of the internet connection will be displayed continuously, but users will have to swipe up to access apps, files and other normal taskbar actions.

The feature is currently available for preview for Windows Insiders members in the Dev channel but was almost released with the recent Windows 11 22H2 major update. Accordingly, the improved tablet-ready version of the taskbar feature should be released relatively soon.

2. Adding seconds to the taskbar clock

For reasons never explained, Microsoft does not currently allow the display of seconds in the taskbar system clock. To add seconds to the taskbar clock in Windows 10, we had to make an edit to the Windows Registry file. In Windows 11, that path was blocked, and we had to resort to a third-party app to add a separate time display to the taskbar.

Now, apparently Microsoft has conceded and will eventually allow the display of seconds in the taskbar system clock as a normal option in Settings. The feature is currently available for preview for Windows Insiders members in the Dev channel.

3. Creating better widgets

The implementation of widgets in Windows 11 is, charitably speaking, hit and miss. Much more needs to be done to streamline and personalize the content displayed by the widget app. Fortunately, Microsoft agrees with this assessment and is working on improvements and enhancements.

A preview of the improved widgets feature is available in the Dev channel and includes a simple toggle button to expand and contract the widgets screen from its normal half screen view to a full screen view. Microsoft has also turned to third-party partners like Spotify and Meta to develop integrated widgets for their services.

4. Adding Windows Studio effects to Quick Settings

An enhanced version of Windows Studio Effects is currently available for preview for Windows Insiders in the Beta channel. This version still allows users to add audio and video effects to their webcams and microphones, including portrait blur, eye contact and background noise removal.

However, Microsoft is also adding access to Windows Studio Effects to the Quick Settings panel in Windows 11. When this feature is widely available, users will be able to turn on an effect quickly without a deep dive into Settings.

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5. Improving Microsoft Account management

Windows Insiders participating in the Dev channel can now preview a new and improved version of the Windows 11 Account Manager. The new Account Manager now reveals more detailed information about the cloud storage available in your Microsoft account. This change is necessary because Microsoft has changed how cloud storage usage is measured. For example, Outlook attachments now count towards your total, and users will see that reflected in the Settings app.

For gamers, the new Windows 11 Account Manager in development will now also display detailed information about Xbox-related subscriptions, including Xbox Game Pass for Console, PC Game Pass, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Xbox Live Gold.

6. Improving voice access with new commands

Improved accessibility for impaired and special needs users continues to be a priority for Microsoft developers. While Voice Activation received many improvements in Windows 11 22H2, there are still more improvements in development. New voice commands and accommodations specifically related to Microsoft apps are available for preview in the Dev channel.

7. Adding a tabs feature to Notepad

Consistent with recent updates to other built-in Windows 11 apps, Microsoft is currently testing a new version of Notepad that will support tabs for separate files. This new feature will allow users to manage different documents using a single window. It also includes a redesigned indicator for unsaved changes in a document. This update is currently available for preview in both the Dev and Beta channels.

8. Adding a screen recorder to Snipping Tool

Available for preview to users participating in the Dev and Beta channels is an updated version of the Windows 11 Snipping Tool. This new version will add screen recording the apps capabilities.

When users activate this new record mode, they will then be asked to specify which area of the screen to record. Currently, the version under development only works with a single screen, but multiple screen capability may be in the works.

Participating in Dev and Beta channels

To get preview access to Windows 11 features and applications in development, all you have to do is join the Windows Insider program. The program is free and available to anyone.

Microsoft’s Windows Insider program is designed for developers, systems administrators, journalists and anyone else who wants to get a look at new features before major updates. It’s pretty much a Windows beta program that’s always open to the public.

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