Windows 11 just received a new preview build that brings a host of changes, including a new volume mixer, as well as some tweaks for better accessibility in the OS.
Preview build 25309 has just been made available through the Dev channel, and it has given the volume mixer a whole new look.
As you may have noticed, some UI elements inherited from the Windows 11 interface are outdated and rather jarring when suddenly appearing on the screen. The volume mixer, accessible from the taskbar (system tray on the right), is one of them, but in the new preview version it now has a nicely modernized appearance.
The mixer allows for global volume and per-app volume adjustment, plus there’s a new addition here in the form of quick access to spatial audio settings. This lets you toggle the feature 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 function in build 25309, redesigned the help page that shows you all the voice commands that can be used in Windows 11. This now has a cleaner layout and is easier to understand, with a search bar allowing users locate commands they might need when operating Windows via voice.
On top of that, Voice Access is now available in some new English dialects, so in addition to US we now have UK English, as well as Australian, Canadian, Indian and New Zealand English.
Oh, and there are new voice commands too, one of which lets you select a specific block of text (from ‘a’ word to ‘b’ word).
Lots of tweaks are also highlighted elsewhere with the Windows 11 interface. We’re talking about updated touch keyboard settings (new options for when to show it) and minor tweaks for the taskbar (the search box is therefore lighter when Windows is set to a custom color mode, such as dark mode).
Widgets are given theme-aware icons, which means their contrast ratios will be adjusted based on dark or light themes to help them stand out better and make their relevant details clearer.
There are also changes for Instant Layouts with build 25309. Microsoft is still experimenting with shorter time periods for the Instant Flyout to appear, to improve the visibility of this feature.
For the full list of changes and known issues – there’s plenty of other interface work present here – as well as bug fixes, see Microsoft blog post (opens in a new tab).
Analysis: A lot of progress for the user interface
It’s good to see Microsoft maintaining its efforts for better accessibility, which has been a theme lately. There’s a lot of commendable work on voice commands in this new preview build, with some useful additional commands to work with. speech to text easier, and this improved help menu, which looks much better now. Changes made to provide better contrast ratios on widget icons will also help visually impaired people. Good product.
There’s also some interface work going on in the background, because as leaker PhantomOfEarth pointed out on Twitter (opens in a new tab)the photo gallery feature (hidden) in File Explorer (read more about it here) received a touch of polish in this release. Obviously there’s a lot going on with the interface right now.
As always, we can expect bugs with early versions of the software (and the Dev channel is the oldest). Indeed, Microsoft specifically notes that Voice Access Help may go wrong in some places at this point, and that descriptions and additional information for some commands may be inaccurate, so be careful of that.