Windows 11 search just got better – and so did its voice access feature

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Windows 11 has got a new preview build that brings in a whole lot of fresh bits and pieces, including a major change and some further minor tweaks for the taskbar, and improvements on the accessibility front.

Microsoft just pushed out build 22621.1343 to the Release Preview Channel, and it reintroduces a search box to the taskbar.

As Windows 11 users are doubtless aware, the operating system changed the traditional search box as seen on Windows 10, morphing it into a button that you had to click, before typing your query in a box at the top of the search panel.

With this new preview, though, we have the traditional box sat back in the taskbar, into which you can directly type your query.

Further minor changes to the taskbar include an adjustment for the system tray, where the icons now have a rounded focus (when moused over). And for tablets (2-in-1s), there’s a touch-optimized taskbar that’s easier to use with your fingers (and it gets fully out of your way when collapsed, to maximize screen real-estate on a smaller display).

As well as a fair bit of work to the taskbar, there’s also a raft of additions in terms of accessibility.

We’re talking about bolstered support for braille devices, and extra voice access functions (with the ‘click’ command in particular, that lets you verbally instruct the cursor to click on various elements on the screen), plus better scrolling using voice controls.

Alongside the new features, there are the expected bug fixes and tinkering. Microsoft also notes: “We improved the reliability of Windows after you installed an update,” which sounds like a useful change to us. It’s a pretty broad-reaching statement, of course, but more post-update stability has got to be a good thing.

For the full list of feature introductions and fixes – it’s a long one in this case – check out Microsoft’s blog post.

Analysis: Smoothing out search and advancing with accessibility

Microsoft has done some good work here, for sure, with a focus on the taskbar and accessibility as noted, and a tasty bone thrown in for 2-in-1 laptop users.

We’re pleased to see the change to the rather clunky search button, or at least that’s how we found it. Not that we often search that much in Windows, mind, but having the box right there is a definite boon – we always saw the button as a step backwards that added some unnecessary faffing about.

That said, not everyone wants a sizeable box on the taskbar, but the good news for those folks is that there are Taskbar settings for how you want to have the search function – you can turn it back into a button if you wish.

The new voice features, and there are plenty of them, are commendable additions, too. Granted, voice clicking (and now scrolling) can be a rather slow way of getting about the desktop, but it’s clearly going to be an invaluable option for some folks.

As these changes are in Release Preview, the last tier of testing before features come to the full version of Windows 11, we can be hopeful that we might see some of this functionality sooner rather than later. Perhaps even in the next big update known as Moment 3? Watch this space…

Via Tom’s Hardware

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