Microsoft continues to shape the future of Windows 11 with its latest Insider Preview Build 23550, released to the Dev Channel. This update focuses on enhancing accessibility through voice commands, refining the Windows Subsystem for Linux, and introducing multiple fixes to improve the overall user experience. Let’s take a closer look at the highlights of this build and what it means for the Windows ecosystem.

Voice Access in OOBE: Accessibility Takes Center Stage

As a follow-up to the work initiated in Build 23516, Microsoft is enhancing voice access capabilities throughout the Windows operating system. One of the notable features is the introduction of voice access during the “Out of Box Experience” (OOBE). This allows users to set up new Windows devices using voice commands, thereby making the process more accessible.

To enable this feature, users need to click on the accessibility flyout located at the bottom right corner of their screens during the OOBE. It’s important to note that an internet connection is required to download the necessary language models for voice access to function.

What Does This Mean?

The voice access feature offers users the ability to navigate through OOBE, insert passwords via the on-screen keyboard, and even control the mouse and focus using number and grid overlays. This is a significant leap towards making Windows more inclusive and user-friendly.

Updates to Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)

The Windows Subsystem for Linux receives a series of networking improvements in this build. Although the details are outlined in a separate blog post, the update aims to enhance the WSL experience, particularly for developers who rely on it for various tasks.

General Fixes and Improvements

  • Explorer and Start Menu: Microsoft has addressed an issue causing sporadic crashes in explorer.exe and the Start menu.
  • File Explorer: An issue causing thumbnails to flash while scrolling in Gallery view has been fixed.
  • Start Menu: Fixes have been applied to correctly display icons in the Start’s recommended section.
  • Search on Taskbar: A visual glitch affecting the display of the magnifying glass icon has been corrected.
  • Task Manager: Various issues affecting Task Manager, including its launch behavior and dialog descriptions, have been resolved.

Known Issues

  • Start Menu: Some apps, like PWA apps installed via Microsoft Edge, may be incorrectly labeled as a system component.
  • Windows Copilot: The preview is not available in certain regions, and focus-related issues have been reported.

For Developers: SDK and NuGet Packages

Developers can now download the latest Windows Insider SDK, which includes .NET TFM packages for use in .NET apps and C++ packages for Win32 headers and libs per architecture. These NuGet packages aim to provide more granular access to the SDK and facilitate better CI/CD pipeline integration.

Dev Channel: What to Expect

The Dev Channel is intended for long-lead work, often featuring experimental concepts and features that may or may not make it to the final release. Users need to be aware that the stability and features of the Dev Channel builds are not indicative of any specific Windows release.

Wrapping Up: A Step Towards a More Robust Windows 11

Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 23550 represents Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to make the operating system more accessible, reliable, and efficient. With a particular focus on voice-enabled accessibility and numerous quality-of-life improvements, this build is a glimpse into what the future holds for Windows 11 users. While it’s still in the Dev Channel and subject to changes, the update reflects the company’s commitment to refining and expanding the capabilities of its flagship OS.