16th April 2024

A Virtual World of Live Pictures

Technology and Computer

The Windows 11 Moment 5 update isn’t the most exciting, but it’s very welcome

Key Takeaways

  • Say goodbye to unwanted news in Widgets with the EEA-induced removal of Microsoft Start & Bing search.
  • Snap Layouts get smarter with suggestions for multi-app layouts, enhancing multitasking efficiency.
  • Copilot now overlays rather than pushes other apps aside, making better use of screen space for users.

Windows 11 is set to receive yet another feature update — what’s often called the Moment 5 update — this month. Comparing the sheer number of changes, this is one of the smaller updates Microsoft has released so far in terms of new features. However, while Windows 11 Moment 5 may not appear that exciting on paper, there are some great changes on board, and one in particular makes me very excited about this update.


Windows 11: Everything you need to know

Windows 11 is official, and here’s what we know about the release date, new features on the way, and everything else about it.

Goodbye, useless news

Thank you, EEA

Screenshot of the Windows 11 Widgets board in the My Widgets view

It all comes down to this one particular set of updates that comes as a result of legislation in the European Economic Area (EEA). Due to the recent Digital Markets Act, Microsoft has been forced to do the unthinkable and provide its users with choice. And that choice includes the ability to remove the news feed from the Widgets board, as well as removing Bing from the Search bar, though this particular improvement is exclusive to users in the EEA.

From the initial announcement of Windows 11, Widgets has always felt like one of the potential best features of the operating system. Having quick access to information from apps I care about is great, and the Widgets panel provided an excellent way to get exactly that. However, over time, Microsoft kept trying to promote its news service, Microsoft Start, through the widgets panel, eating away at the space that should have been reserved for those widgets.

With this change, you can finally hide the news feed altogether and focus your Widgets board on the information you actually want to have handy. There are already some third-party apps that support widgets, but my hope is to see that many more show up as time goes on, and with widgets actually becoming usable, hopefully developers will embrace them more.

Removing Bing from the Search bar is also a welcome improvement, not necessarily because Bing is a bad search engine but mostly because web results are often forced on top of local ones, so it’s happened multiple times that I’ll try to launch an app and instead search for it on Bing. And choice is always nice, so the ability to add your preferred search engine to the search bar is also very welcome, and I wish it was also available to users in the United States.

The EEA requirements also have some other positives, like being able to uninstall Microsoft Edge and other included apps like Photos, Camera, and Cortana. Many of these apps can be uninstalled regardless of your region, too, so it’s not limited to Europe.

Snap layouts get better

Snap all your apps in one go

Screenshot of a Microsoft Edge windows in Windows 11 with snap layouts suggesting apps to snap alongside the active window

Another change I very much appreciate is the addition of suggestions for Snap Layouts when you have multiple apps open. Multi-tasking is essential to me, and while I mostly rely on PowerToys’ FancyZones tool, making Snap Layouts more useful can only be a good thing.


Windows 11 deep dive: Snap Layouts and Snap Groups

Windows 11 comes with a handful of new productivity features that multitasking easier, and Snap Layouts and Groups are two great additions.

With this update, if you have a lot of apps open and you try to snap one of them using the Snap Layouts, you might see suggestions for other apps to pin alongside it. That way, instead of choosing one app at a time to create the perfect layout, you can have all your desired apps in their respective positions in one go. It can make it much faster to get set up.

Copilot as an overlay

Why did it ever work any differently?

Screenshot of Copilot after the user asks it to open Microsoft Teams. Copilot fails to open the app, despite it being installed

If there’s one thing I really don’t like is when a specific feature needs to be docked to a part of the screens and forces all the other apps to be pushed into the remaining space, rather than overlaying on top of it. Good examples of this include live captions in Windows 11 (though you can thankfully set them to float) and most recently Copilot, which takes a sizable chunk of horizontal space on your monitor. I use a 49-inch 32:9 screen and I still hate how much space Copilot wants for itself, so if you have a typical laptop, the current implementation is probably infuriating.


How to use Microsoft Copilot

Microsoft Copilot is quite similar to ChatGPT, but it has a few key differences. Here’s how to use it!

Thankfully, this update makes it so that Copilot is an overlay that opens over your existing content, so when you switch back to the apps you were using, they will be the size they always were. And you don’t have to deal with the awkward transition animation of closing or opening Copilot again.

Your phone’s photos go to your PC

It’s never been easier to share them

Screenshot of a Windows 11 notification displaying a photo taken on an Android phone

Have you ever wished you could have the pictures you take go straight to your PC? You’ll be able to do that with this update, which adds a new option for linking your mobile device to your PC without using the Phone Link app. This new linking method comes with a feature that sends a notification to your PC when you take a picture on your phone, so you can immediately edit and share it on your computer.

In the future, it’s also expected that this link between your phone and PC will let your use your phone as a webcam in Windows 11, so you can get potentially much better image quality than using the built-in camera on your laptop. That’s not coming just yet, though.

Better accessibility

Speak to your computer in more languages

While the updates above are the most exciting to me personally, there’s quite a bit more to make this a tempting update. For starters, there’s support for new languages in voice access, including French, German, and Spanish. Controlling your PC with your voice is not only very cool, but it’s outright necessary for certain users, so the ability to do so in more languages and countries can only be a good thing. Hopefully, this expansion will continue with future updates.


How to set up voice access on Windows 11

Voice access makes it easier to use your Windows 11 PC using just your voice. Here’s how to set up this feature.

Another big update for voice access is the ability to create custom voice shortcuts, so you can use a specific command to ask your computer to do a specific task of your choosing, such as opening a file. Plus, Narrator and voice access will become compatible with each other, so you can use both at the same time.

Windows 365 integration

Cloud PCs get even more relevant

For users in enterprise environments, Windows 365 integration is also getting that much better. One big advancement is something called Dedicated Mode, where a company’s physical computer can be set up to automatically boot into a cloud PC, so you can bypass the local hardware almost entirely. Companies can also customize the login page for their cloud PCs to have their own company’s branding.

There are new ways to disconnect a cloud PC from a local PC, too. On the local PC, you can do it through the Task View screen, and the cloud PC will give you that option in the Start menu. Additionally, Task View will also show an indicator when you switch between a cloud PC and the local PC so you always know what you’re working on.

Small, but impactful

Those are just the highlights of the upcoming Windows 11 Moment 5 update, and again, there may not be a lot, but what is there is a very nice addition. I’m particularly fond of the changes that give users more choice, but improved accessibility is always a good thing, too. If you’re still not excited for this update, though, then rest assured something much bigger is coming with the Windows 11 2024 Update later this year.