Some users think 2022 was not the best year for Microsoft’s desktop operating system. It took a while for Windows 11 to surpass the now-dead Windows 7, and the significantly steeper hardware requirements surely do not help the OS crank up its rollout speed. Another stumbling block is questionable feature changes (with even more questionable excuses from Microsoft) that make Windows 11 less attractive for those with eligible hardware. You can also add to the list Microsoft’s failed promise to deliver a single update per year—no one knows when and how many updates Windows 11 will receive.
Still, it is not all that grim. In this article, I want to mention five neat features (in no particular order) Windows 11 received in 2022. They are not earth-shattering by any means. After all, I do not think Windows 11 (and even Windows 10) lacks something major. Still, smaller features and changes make the operating system more productive, accessible, and enjoyable.
Note: I will not praise Microsoft for restoring the features it took away during the Windows 10 to 11 transition period. No one should credit the software giant for removing and restoring with much fanfare the option to launch Task Manager with a right-click on the taskbar. Also, you will not find tabbed File Explorer here because it sucks, which is a topic for another rant-filled article.
Finally, the following list is purely subjective—feel free to disagree with me and mention your favorite changes Microsoft introduced in 2022.
Changing the volume with a wheel on hover
I love changes that allow doing things with fewer clicks. Windows 11 allows adjusting the volume with a scroll wheel when hovering the cursor over the volume indicator. There is no longer a need to open the Quick Settings menu (Microsoft still does not allow decoupling volume from the network and battery indicators), which makes me, a person way too easy to distract, a little happier.
Here I should also note that the Twinkle Tray app I mentioned in my recent “Top 11 apps for Windows 11 users” articles offers the same feature for managing brightness.
And yes, speaking of volume, nothing beats the redesigned volume/brightness flyouts. They are second to none.
Improved Snap Layouts
Snap Layouts on itself is a great feature that takes window management on Windows to another level. It is particularly handy on touchscreen devices, where dragging and arranging windows is slightly less convenient. In 2022, Microsoft made using Snap Layouts with a keyboard easier. You can press Win + Z and use numbers to arrange apps in the desired layouts quickly.
Again, fewer clicks and faster performance result in better productivity, especially if your hands are tied to a keyboard.
Although Windows 11’s taskbar has room for improvement, in 2022, it got a few neat mention-worthy upgrades. The notification area has received a fresh coat of paint with modern tooltips, fancy animations, and the option to remove the overflow menu altogether (an excellent customization tool if you like minimalism).
Also, Windows 11 now features a new tablet-optimized variant that collapses the taskbar into a smartphone-like status bar with only the necessary indicators and the clock, giving you more space for apps and their content.
Note: Taskbar upgrades are available in the stable version of Windows 11, but they currently require enabling using the Vivetool app as described in our dedicated guide.
Focus mode lets you set a timer to focus on a task. Windows 11 silences notifications during focus sessions and delivers them in a summary once your timer is over. Focus mode is one of those underrated and less apparent features every Windows 11 should use.
Besides Focus mode, Windows 11 now offers a separate Do not disturb mode with flexible rules and personalization. However, Focus mode is sometimes a better option because it lets you remove all distractions for a specified period with just two clicks. A true productivity-boosting feature.
Major accessibility improvements
Although I do not need accessibility features for my daily PC use, I want to mention three major features Microsoft added to Windows 11 in 2022:
- System-wide live captions that work with any sound source on your computer.
- Voice access lets you control a computer with your voice, similar (to some extent) to how you use it with a mouse.
- Improved Narrator with natural voices that sound less robotic.
It is great to see Microsoft making its operating system easier to use for people with physical limitations, and I want the company to continue doing so since you cannot have enough accessibility features in such a complex product.
Those are the five cool features Microsoft added to Windows 11 in 2022. 2023 and the three feature updates it allegedly should bring to Windows 11 will deliver even more. Be sure to check out our recent “5 neat features coming soon to Windows 11” and its counterpart describing not-so-great changes.