Like so many people in the world, Windows 11 is my everyday operating system. Still, this was undoubtedly a bigger-than-usual year for Windows. To mark the first anniversary of Windows 11, Microsoft released the Windows 11 22H2 update, which added long-requested features that brought positive changes to the day-to-day use of the operating system for many people, including me. There are five features added in 2022, mainly in the 22H2 update, which have made a huge difference to both work and play this year.
At the top of my list are folders in the start menu. As a writer who reviews PCs for a living and uses many apps such as Photoshop, Geekbench, Crossmark, and Microsoft Word, my workflow depends on a lot. Before the Windows 11 22H2 update, finding my favorite everyday apps was a bit of a mess. The Start menu was cramped, with a standard layout showing only three rows of apps and recommended content I didn’t care for much. I couldn’t fit all the apps I cared about beforehand.
After the update, I was able to show more of my favorite apps and pin a row of four to the bottom of my screen, with fewer file and folder suggestions. I could even create folders in the start menu for different categories of apps – apps I use for work and apps I use after work. It was now so much easier to get to my favorite apps on Windows and it helped me be more productive.
Touch gestures that made Windows tablets more useful
My daily drivers are two Windows devices: a Surface Pro 8 and Surface Laptop Studio, both of which have a touchscreen. However, I never really used these 2-in-1s as tablet devices before the Windows 11 22H2 update. It didn’t feel natural, and the keyboard and mouse felt much more inviting than using touch capabilities. However, this changed in the second half of 2022 thanks to some changes from Microsoft made to touch gestures.
In the second half of 2022, Microsoft made many changes to touch gestures. The first is a handy ability to swipe up on the Start menu to bring it up. As I mentioned above, the 22H2 update made it easier to access my apps. Swiping up is much easier to use than touching a small Windows logo. It’s also something I’m familiar with, as I already swipe up on my iPhone to get to my home screen.
Another one I liked is the ability to create Snap Layouts for finger gesture multitasking. Instead of hovering over the maximize button to see available layouts for multitasking, I was suddenly able to multitask a bit more when holding my Surface Pro 8 as a tablet. All I had to do was drag the window to the top center of the screen and choose one of the layouts I wanted. Once I disconnected the keyboard from my Surface Pro 8, I was able to stack social media apps or Microsoft Edge windows side by side, which was a great productivity boost
Tabs in File Explorer
I really depend on File Explorer as my main hub to get to files, folders, and other content. After the Windows 11 22H2 update, Microsoft added a great feature that made File Explorer even more user-friendly. It was something many Windows fans, like myself, have long been asking for: a tabbed interface in File Explorer.
This feature was there once during the Windows Insider version of Windows 10 before Microsoft discontinued it, so I’m glad it returned to Windows 11 this year. The ability to open multiple tabs at once in File Explorer made it easier for me to manage folders or compare files.
Take this example. When copying files from my camera’s SD card to a folder on my desktop and then to another folder for resizing and watermarking, I was able to have three tabs open. This allows me to compare and see which files are where without opening separate File Explorer windows. This was a considerable time saver in the long run.
This change may seem minor compared to some of the others, but the Windows 11 22H2 update finally tweaked the Quick Settings area to make it more useful. I can now see my previously connected devices at a glance in Quick Settings, which is great for switching and connecting to my various Bluetooth accessories (like my Pixel Buds Pro) instead of having to go to the Bluetooth settings page. I can just click the arrow next to the Bluetooth icon and get started right away. It’s yet another feature that makes a small difference in saving time during my busy day.
I love customizing the look of my Windows PC, and one of the huge changes Microsoft made with Windows 11 in 2022 that made this even better was the addition of Windows spotlight wallpaper. This feature makes my PC feel a little more personal. If I spend six or more hours a day on my PC, it’s great to see a new wallpaper straight from Microsoft every day. Whether I see cool scenes from around the world or cute images of animals, the mix of images makes my PC feel different every day when I use it.
I’ve just picked five of my favorite 2022 Windows 11 features, but the 22H2 update is really Windows 11 and added a lot more functionality. There are smaller things like new volume and brightness sliders, a revamped task manager, and new accessibility features, all of which have made using Windows more exciting and useful. With Microsoft promising more frequent “moment” updates for Windows 11, I am sure there will be even better features in 2023.