Microsoft is making good on its promise of releasing Windows Copilot to testers in June. Today’s Windows Insider Dev Channel build (23493) includes early access to Windows Copilot, native support for RAR and 7-Zip files, a new settings homepage, and even a much better volume mixer.
Microsoft first announced Windows Copilot at build earlier this year, and the version that testers can access today works as a sidebar that’s docked to the right-hand side of Windows 11. “It won’t overlap with your desktop content and will run unobstructed alongside your open app windows, allowing you to interact with Windows Copilot anytime you need,” says the Windows team in a blog post today.
You can ask the AI-powered Windows Copilot questions that Bing Chat typically answers or even system commands like:
- Change to dark mode
- Take a screenshot
- Turn on do not disturb
Windows Copilot can also be used, much like the Bing sidebar in Microsoft Edge, to summarize content you’re looking at on the web or to create AI-generated images and text. Microsoft says it will be providing “inline recommendations we think are relevant through ads in Bing,” so you’re bound to see ads in this interface, too.
As this is an early preview, Windows Copilot isn’t fully functional, so it only controls some basic Windows settings, and there’s no third-party plug-in support here yet. “Over time, features will be added as we refine the Windows Copilot experience with Windows Insiders.”
If you’re a fan of RAR or 7-Zip files, then Microsoft is finally adding native support. The additional archive formats include tar, 7-zip, RAR, gz, and many others using the libarchive open-source project. Microsoft does warn there should be some initial performance issues with this new support as it works to improve it in future Windows Insider builds.
Microsoft said at Build that this improved archive format support will ship to everyone in September. “We also plan to provide support for creating those files in those formats in 2024,” said Sharla Soennichsen, a product manager at Microsoft, in a Build session.
Another feature Windows Insiders will now be able to officially test is an improved volume mixer UI in the Quick Settings section of Windows 11. “The updated audio quick settings experience brings a modern volume mixer that allows for quick customization of audio on a per-app basis, with additional control to swap devices on the fly,” says the Windows team. “We’ve also added a new keyboard shortcut (WIN + CTRL + V) to bring you directly to the volume mixer for faster control of the experience.”
This new volume mixer was discovered earlier this year, and with the keyboard shortcut, it looks like a great addition to Windows 11. Microsoft has clearly been inspired by EarTrumpet here, one of my favorite apps for Windows that was built nearly five years ago. I once called it “the Windows 10 volume control app Microsoft should have created.” Ha.
Microsoft is also adding a new Settings homepage to Windows 11. It now includes an overview of the device you’re using mixed with important settings. Right now, you dive immediately into the system section of Settings, so this new homepage is designed to be less jarring with up to seven cards of information. You’ll be able to view information about Microsoft 365 or Xbox subscriptions, manage Bluetooth devices, quickly customize a wallpaper, and check the amount of OneDrive cloud storage you have left.
Finally, Microsoft is testing a new suggestions feature for Snap Layouts in Windows 11. When you hover over minimize or maximize, there will be app icons displayed based on what apps would work best snapped next to each other.