What’s New in Windows – February 2023

Apple M2 Hero Approved

It’s been a busy month. Microsoft started testing the next Windows 11 ‘moment’, plus the Unified Update Platform (UUP) is coming to WSUS and ConfigMgr at the end of March. And Microsoft is now officially supporting Windows on Arm on Apple silicon. And much more! So, let’s get started.

Windows 11 ‘Moment’ drops

Microsoft announced February 28 that it was releasing its next ‘moment’ update for Windows 11. It’s available for testing as an optional download via Windows Update but it won’t be pushed out more generally until mid-March. And only for those on Windows 11 22H2.

Let’s take a look at what it includes.

Updated search experience

The biggest change is that the Search box on the taskbar is now ‘typable’. Before, you clicked Search and it would open a dialog where you start typing your query. Now, you can type your query directly in the Search box on the taskbar and press ENTER to open the dialog to get a list of results.

Additionally, the dialog has been updated to accommodate Prometheus, the new Bing A.I. search engine that is currently available in preview to users who have signed up.

More on Petri: Microsoft Bing ‘Prometheus’ – A First of Its Kind A.I. Model

Updated Search in Windows 11 22H2 Moment
Updated Search in Windows 11 22H2 Moment (Image Credit: Microsoft)

Interestingly, Microsoft says that the search box is one of the most widely used features on Windows. It has more than half a billion users every month. So, it’s no wonder Microsoft won’t let you change the search engine used in Windows to anything other than Bing.

Phone Link for iOS

There’s a preview of functionality that will allow meaningful interaction between Microsoft’s Phone Link app, previously Your Phone, and iOS devices. Phone Link will now allow iPhone users to send and receive messages and calls, and see notifications. Although there’s no mention of photos at the moment.

Phone Link iOS Windows 11
Phone Link iOS Windows 11 (Image Credit: Microsoft)

The functionality being offered at this stage in Phone Link uses a Bluetooth connection between the iOS device and PC. Which is how Intel Unison works, although Unison already has support for viewing and transferring photos.

Android users aren’t left out. They are getting a richer experience. Providing you have a Samsung phone that is. Microsoft has made it easier to activate the personal hotspot with a single click in the list of Wi-Fi networks on your PC. That’s quite cool. And it’s easier to transfer browser sessions from Samsung smartphones to Windows PCs using the Recent Websites feature.

Windows Studio Effects

Windows Studio Effects are now available from the taskbar in Quick Settings. Windows Studio Effects is only available on devices with compatible hardware.

Microsoft Teams for Windows 11

I’m not sure who is using the consumer version of Teams that’s integrated with Windows 11, but Microsoft has worked to improve the experience with this update. Including a fully revamped chat experience where you can preview your video and go straight to a call or share a call link. You can also navigate between conversations in Chat in one window.

Quick Assist redesigned

Aside from a slightly new look, the app is now easily accessible from the Start menu. Plus, a new laser pointer can be used to highlight anything you need on the screen.

New widgets

New widgets from Microsoft and third parties include:

  • Phone Link
  • Xbox Game Pass
  • Meta
  • Spotify

Updated touch experience

When you detach your keyboard from a touch device, the taskbar now slides away to give you more screen real estate. And if you need to get it back, you just swipe up from the bottom of the screen to expand it.

Screen recording in the Snipping Tool

If you didn’t have a third-party tool, screen recording was available in Windows in a round about kind of a way through the Xbox Game Bar. And it wasn’t ideal for sure. Now, screen recording is built directly into the Snipping Tool.

Notepad gets tabs

File Explorer got tabs at the tail end of 2022. Now it’s the turn of Notepad. Not much to say about this but I think it’s a welcome feature.

New energy recommendations

The Settings app brings new energy recommendations. The updated interface lets you more easily understand the choices you have to configure your PC to be more power efficient.

Windows 11 Energy Recommendations
Windows 11 Energy Recommendations (Image Credit: Microsoft)

Recommended Files is A.I. powered

If you are running Windows 11 Pro devices and higher that are joined to Azure Active Directory (AAD), then you can benefit from the new A.I. powered Recommended Files feature on the Start menu. As far as I can work out, before it just showed you a list of recently accessed files.

Microsoft also mentions ‘fastest every file search to recommended local and cloud files’ in File Explorer. I’m not sure if this is a change in this update or just a mention of what already exists in the form of the Quick access, Favorites, and Recent sections under Home in File Explorer. Most likely the latter.

New Windows 365 app for Cloud PCs

The Windows 365 app is now generally available in the Microsoft Store.

More on Petri: Microsoft’s New Windows 365 App Brings Cloud PCs into Windows 11

More on Petri: What IT Pros Need to Know About the Latest Windows 11 Feature Update

Windows 11 now supported officially on Apple Silicon

No, this is not the return of Bootcamp. But Microsoft now officially supports Windows 11 on Arm running in a virtual machine (VM) on Apple hardware. Parallels 18 makes it easy for you to set up Windows 11 in a VM. And this is a good stopgap solution while we wait for actual hardware that can run Windows 11 on Arm natively with the same speed and battery life afforded to Apple users.

More on Petri: How to Install Windows 11 on a Mac with Parallels Desktop

File Explorer moving to Windows App SDK

In a live WinUI Community Call this month, Microsoft revealed that it was working to move File Explorer to the Windows App SDK and WinUI 3, which is the evolution of UWP apps. Microsoft says the rebuilt File Explorer will be available in the Windows Insider Preview Program soon.

More on Thurrott.com: Microsoft is Moving File Explorer to the Windows App SDK

.NET Framework updates to require less reboots and Unified Update Platform comes to on-premises update technology

Less reboots is always a good thing. This month Microsoft said that .NET Framework updates would require less updates when at the end of March, the Unified Update Platform (UUP) becomes available to on-premises WSUS and ConfigMgr setups.

UUP has been available for devices updating from the cloud using Microsoft Update for several years. Microsoft says that UUP is “a single publishing, hosting, scan and download model for all types of OS updates … for everything from monthly quality updates to new feature updates”.

All Windows 11 22H2 and later updates will be delivered using UUP starting from the end of March. And those updating from Windows 10 to Windows 11 22H2.

Once you are on Windows 11 22H2 or later, you can benefit from UUP and .NET Framework updates with less reboots. And a better update experience overall, including:

  • More control over installation time
  • More seamless updates
  • Better battery life
  • Lighter download size
  • And more

More on Petri: Microsoft Introduces the On-Premises Unified Update Platform for Seamless Windows Updates

Adobe Acrobat is coming to Microsoft Edge

Microsoft said this month that it will be partnering with Adobe to bring Acrobat PDF features to its Edge browser. This will involve natively embedding Acrobat PDF code in the browser to deliver a more complete experience compared to the current PDF viewer in Edge.

More on Thurrott.com: Microsoft is Bringing Adobe Acrobat PDF to Edge

Windows users can now escape the Insider Preview Program until March 8th, 2023

Apparently, Microsoft is letting you off-ramp windows so that you can unenroll devices from the Windows Insider Program. You have the chance until March 8, 2023. But only if you are currently on Build 22621.1325 or 22623.1325.

Windows Subsystem for Android February updates

Windows Insiders got an update for the Windows Subsystem for Android this month, bringing improvements for the camera, graphics, and general reliability and security updates. The updates include:

  • Better audio input latency and reliability
  • Improved framerate performance
  • Fixed zooming out (in apps)
  • Latest Chromium WebView (version 108)
  • Android 13 security updates

And that’s it for another month!