Big update

Windows 11 build 22518 brings Spotlight for desktop and Voice Access

Microsoft pushes a new preview of Windows 11 in the Dev Channel with major changes, including Spotlight for the desktop, Voice Access, Widgets tweaks, and more.

Windows 11 build 22518
  • Windows 11 build 22518 is now available in the Dev Channel.
  • This flight introduces the Spotlight collection background feature for the desktop.
  • Voice Access feature to control the Windows 11 experience with your voice.
  • And updated Taskbar Widgets icons with weather information.

As part of the active development branch, Microsoft is now rolling out Windows 11 build 22518 for devices enrolled in the Dev Channel of the Windows Insider Program. This is considered a major release since it introduces several important features and changes.

According to the company official notes, build 22518 for Windows 11 introduces a new Spotlight collection background feature for the desktop, updates Widgets with weather information in the Taskbar, and introduces a new feature known as Voice Access to navigate the entire Windows 11 experience with your voice. Also, this flight delivers a new interface to change inputs like languages and layouts and the Windows Subsystem for Linux installation package to the Microsoft Store.

See also this hands-on video highlighting all the new improvements with this flight at the Pureinfotech YouTube channel.

Windows 11 build 22518 new features

Here are all the new features and changes that Microsoft is shipping with build 22518.

Spotlight collection

On build 22518, Windows 11 introduces “Spotlight collection,” a new feature that changes the desktop background automatically every day with different pictures around the world.

Spotlight for desktop
Spotlight for desktop (Source: Microsoft)

The feature is similar to Spotlight for the Lock screen, and you can enable it from Settings > Personalization > Backgroud and select the “Spotlight collection” option under the “Personalize your background” dropdown setting.

When you enable the feature, you will also see a Spotlight icon on the desktop that lets you change the image quickly. You will get the options to like or dislike so that future photos will be more tailored to your likings, and if you like the picture, you can double-click the icon to open Microsoft Edge to find out more information.

The first image will be a picture from Whitehaven Beach in Australia. Later in the day, a new collection of up to five backgrounds will download and be available on the computer. This process could take up to 24 hours.

Currently, this feature is only available in Australia, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., the U.S, and more countries will be added over time.

Widgets tweaks

Windows 11 is updating the Widget icon as well. Starting with this release, the entry point will be located on the left side of the Taskbar with the current weather information similar to the widget available on Windows 10, and the Widgets dashboard will now open as you hover over the icon.

Taskbar Widgets weather icon
Taskbar Widgets weather icon (Source: Microsoft)

If you choose to align the Taskbar icons to the left, the Widgets icon will appear next to the Task View icon.

Voice Access

Microsoft is also introducing Voice Access with build 22518. The new feature enables anyone to control their laptop or desktop computer using their voice.

When using Voice Access, you can use your voice to open and switch apps, browse the web, dictate emails, etc. According to the company, voice access “leverages modern, on-device speech recognition to recognize speech accurately and is supported without an internet connection.”

The feature only supports the English-U.S. language, which means that the “Windows display language should be set to English-U.S. Otherwise, voice access may not work as expected.”

Voice Access
Voice Access (Source: Microsoft)

Voice Acces is available on Settings > Accessibility > Speech. When you enable the feature for the first time, you will need to download a speech model for the on-device speech recognition. Once the package has been downloaded, you can choose a microphone to use your voice to control Windows 11.

You can choose to auto-start Voice Access the next time you sign in via the Settings app. You can also use voice commands or keyboard shortcuts (Alt + Shift + C and Alt + Shift + B) to control whether voice access is listening or not listening.

Once the feature is activated, you can say “Voice access wake up,” “Unmute” to get voice access and start listening to you. “Voice access sleep,” “Mute” to put voice access to sleep. Or “Turn off microphone” to stop voice access from listening to you.

You can learn about how to use the feature using the interactive guide, where you will also find a list of all the commands to use with Voice Access.

Voice Access guide
Voice Access guide (Source: Microsoft)

Navigating the Windows 11 experience is quite simple. For example, you can say things like “Open,” e.g., “Open Edge,” “Open Word,” to open an app. Or “Switch to,” e.g., “Switch to Edge” to switch to an active app. or “Minimize window,” “Maximize window,” “Close window” to manage windows. Or “Click,” e.g., “Click Start,” “Click Cancel” to click an item, like a button or a link, just to name a few.

Windows Subsystem for Linux

Although Microsoft has already announced the availability of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), starting with build 22518, the platform is now officially available for download through the Microsoft Store to streamline the installation process with one click.

In addition, the company is also updating the wsl --install command so that when running the command in Command Prompt, the packages will also download from the Microsoft Store.

As part of the wsl --install command, this flight brings new arguments, including wsl –install –no-launch, which will install a new WSL distro without immediately launching it.

Input switcher

Finally, Windows 11 build 22518 also has a new interface to switch between languages and keyboard layouts with an acrylic background, and it improves the overall performance and reliability.

New input switcher
New input switcher (Source: Microsoft)

File explorer

As part of the File Explorer improvements, the context menu adds a few new top-level options, including “Install” when right-clicking on font files and .inf files. “Install certificate” when right-clicking on .cer files. “Map network drive” and “Disconnect network drive” when right-clicking on This PC. And “Disconnect” when right-clicking on network drives.

Finally, the personalized combinations of emoji based on the face and skin tones of family members, couples with heart, kissing, and people holding hands is now available for all testers. This feature was originally introduced with build 22504.

The ability to display the clock and date on all monitors is now also available for all testers. This feature was originally introduced with build 22509.

Also, Microsoft has added a new extra-large candidate height option for Simplified Chinese IME users under Personalization > Text Input in Settings.

Windows 11 build 22518 delivers several fixes for the Taskbar, Search, File Explorer, input, windowing, Settings, and more as part of the fixes. Also, there are some known issues regarding the Start menu, Taskbar, Search, Settings, Widgets, and Voice Access.

Install Windows 11 build 22518

If you want to download and install the Windows 11 build 22518, you need to enroll your device in the Dev Channel using the “Windows Insider Program” settings from the “Update & Security” section.

Once you enroll the computer in the program, you can download build 22518 from the “Windows Update” settings by clicking the Check for Updates button. However, you will need a device that meets the minimum system requirements to receive the update if you are new to the Windows Insider Program.

You can also read this guide with all the new features Microsoft has been working on for the next version of Windows 11 (22H2).

Update December 13, 2021: Microsoft is now rolling out build 22518.1012 as update KB5009380. However, the update does not include anything new, it’s only designed to test the update mechanism through the Dev Channel.