Windows 11 just got a new preview build that brings a slew of changes, including a new volume mixer, plus some tweaks for better accessibility in the operating system.
Preview build 25309 has just been made available through the Dev channel and has given the volume mixer a brand new look.
As you may have noticed, there are bits of old UI elements in the Windows 11 interface that are outdated and rather jarring when they suddenly appear on screen. The volume mixer, accessible from the taskbar (system tray on the right), is one of them, but in the new preview it now looks nicely modernized.
The mixer allows for overall and per-app volume adjustments, and there’s a new addition here in the form of quick access to spatial audio settings. This allows you to switch the function on and off, or select different types of spatial audio, such as Dolby Atmos, for example.
Microsoft has also made improvements with the Voice Access feature in build 25309, revamping the help page that shows you all the voice commands that can be used in Windows 11. It now has a cleaner layout and is easier to handle, with a search bar so users can find the commands they may need when controlling Windows by voice.
In addition, Voice Access is now available in a number of new English dialects, so in addition to US, we now have British English, along with Australian, Canadian, Indian and New Zealand English.
Oh, and there are also some new voice commands, one of which allows you to select a specific piece of text (from word ‘a’ to word ‘b’).
A lot of tweaking can also be seen elsewhere in the Windows 11 interface. We’re talking updated settings for the touch keyboard (new options for when it should show) and tweaks for the taskbar (so that the search box is brighter when Windows is set to a custom color mode, such as dark mode).
Widgets get theme-aware icons, which means their icons’ contrast ratios are adjusted based on dark or light themes, making them more noticeable and revealing their relevant details.
There are also changes for snap layouts with build 25309. Microsoft is still experimenting with shorter snap flyout time periods to improve the discoverability of this feature.
For the full list of changes and known issues – there’s a lot of other interface work here – as well as bug fixes, check out Microsoft’s blog post (opens in new tab).
Analysis: A lot of progress for the user interface
It’s good to see Microsoft continue to push for better accessibility, which has been a theme lately. There’s a lot of commendable work done on voice commands in this new preview build, with some useful additional commands to make working with speech to text easier, and that improved help menu, which now looks much better. The changes to provide better contrast ratios on widget icons will also help people with low vision. Good stuff.
There’s also some interface work going on in the background, because as leaker PhantomOfEarth pointed out Twitter (opens in new tab), the (hidden) photo gallery feature in File Explorer (read more about that here) has been given a touch of polish in this build. It is clear that there is a lot going on with the interface right now.
As always, we can expect bugs with early versions of software (and the Dev channel is the earliest). Indeed, Microsoft specifically notes that voice access assistance can go awry in places at this stage, and that descriptions and additional information for some commands may be inaccurate, so beware.