Microsoft issued a meaty Windows Insider Build on Wednesday for
the Dev channel, testing one substantial improvement: Voice Access,
as well as a couple of personalization improvements that should be
welcomed by Windows users.
Technically, the new features offered in Build 22518 of the Dev
Channel for Windows 11 are new, untested code, which might not even
make it to the stable channel. Still, there's a good chance that at
least Voice Access will come to market, as it leans on Microsoft's
Microsoft's new build has also added a Spotlight feature that
will provide fresh, updated desktop backgrounds, and it tweaked the
Widgets feature to resemble Windows 10.
How Voice Access
works within Windows
Microsoft describes Voice Access as a new feature, and one
that's distinct from dictation, which has been in Windows for some
time. The two are similar, in that Voice Access also uses speech
recognition to control your PC. But while dictation is primarily
used to create text, Microsoft says that Voice Access can be used
for everything from opening and switching between apps, browsing
the web, and reading and authoring mail.
According to Microsoft, Voice Access will be controlled by
Settings Accessibility Speech within the Windows
11 Settings menu. You'll need to navigate here to turn on the
master switch, so to speak, to enable Voice Access. Once it's
turned on, you'll obviously need an available mic (either on your
laptop or via a headset or earbuds) to control it.
Voice Access will be
managed via the Windows 11 Settings menu.Microsoft
Here, you can turn on Voice Access in one of two ways: either
via the Alt+Shift+C shortcut, or by saying Voice
access wake up. (That's the only way Voice Access will turn on,
Microsoft says.) You can either turn it off entirely by saying Turn
off microphone or simply put it to sleep by saying Voice access
sleep or Mute. In the latter scenario, Voice Access can be woken
again by saying Voice Access wake up or Unmute.
Microsoft has a ton of available commands that can be used with
Voice Access, most of which are designed to be used by those who
need additional accessibility options. But there's also a number
that can be used as a modality—Microsoft's way of describing
different ways to interact with your PC, including mouse and
touchscreens. Suggested commands include Open Edge or Open Word, or
search on [search engine] for [search term], as well as ways to
navigate around a document and add text to it.
Microsoft plans to add
a cute training module to help users get accustomed to Voice
All in all, Voice Access is not something you need to use, at
all. But it appears to offer new ways of interacting with your PC—f
or every user, and not just those who require additional
One of the more enjoyable things to do within Windows is to personalize your PC, using everything from
Themes to custom sounds. For years, Microsoft has offered the
ability to download custom theme packs for your PC. You've also
been able to take advantage of Bing's image of the day and set it
as your daily desktop background via Microsoft's utility. Now, Microsoft appears to be
making the latter feature more accessible, via Spotlight.
If you'd like, you can simply right-click on your desktop, and
then choose PersonalizeBackgroundSpotlight
collection after downloading the new build. You will get
beautiful new desktop pictures from around the world every day and
fun facts about each picture, Microsoft says.
It looks like Spotlight will be a bit more active, too: Later in
the day, the background will be replaced with a collection of up to
five new background photos that you can cycle through by clicking
on a new Spotlight icon on the desktop. Double-clicking on the icon
will open a landing page with more information about the
More changes are coming to the Windows 11 taskbar, too—well, no,
not the ability to resize the taskbar, anyway. Instead, Microsoft
is reverting the Windows 11 Widgets icon to what's essentially the
news and interests taskbar widget on Windows
10: a brief summary of the weather outside. Microsoft is also
pushing the Widgets widget all the way to the left-hand corner,
where the Start menu used to reside. For users who choose to align
their taskbar [to the left], the Widgets entry point will be to the
right of the Task view icon, Microsoft says—though without the
weather and temperature info.
With the new build,
the Widgets widget has been moved to the bottom left-hand corner Microsoft
Microsoft is also expanding some of the features it announced
earlier. For one, Microsoft is now placing the clock and calendar
on all displays for all Dev Channel Insiders, rather than the
subset who tested it earlier. Microsoft has also completed the
transition to push the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) to the
Microsoft Store, and tweaked a few commands and the setup option.
(To update to the Store version, you can simply type wsl
-update to get started.)
Microsoft has also tweaked the context menu in File Explorer to
place commonly used commands front and center, though they're only
available to .cer (certificate) and font files in this build.
For the full list of tweaks and changes, you can view Microsoft's blog post.