Microsoft is trying out some interesting new changes in testing for Windows 11, including bolstering a pair of core apps for the OS – with one of them getting supercharged by AI.

Those two apps are Notepad and Snipping Tool, with new versions rolling out to testers who are in the Dev and Canary channels.

The big one is Notepad which is getting an infusion of AI in the form of an ‘Explain with Copilot’ option. This allows you to select any written content in Notepad and via the right-click menu (or Ctrl + E shortcut), summon Copilot to explain more about the selected text, as you might guess.

As Microsoft notes: “You can ask Copilot in Windows to help explain log files, code segments, or any selected content directly from within Notepad.”

Windows 11 Notepad Copilot Panel

(Image credit: Microsoft)

This feature should be available to all testers in those earlier Windows Insider channels in version 11.2401.25.0 of Notepad, though Microsoft observes that some folks may not see it right away. (This is labeled as a ‘known issue’ so it’s seemingly a bug with the deployment).

What’s going on with Snipping Tool? Well, a previously leaked feature is now present in version 11.2401.32.0 in testing, namely the ability to annotate screenshots with shapes and arrows.

That’s pretty handy for composing screen grabs for the likes of instructional step-by-steps where you’ll be pointing out bits to the person following the guide.

Elsewhere in Windows 11 testing, the Beta channel has a new preview version, but there’s not all that much going on here. Build 22635.3140 does make a small but impactful change, though, for Copilot, moving the icon for the AI in the taskbar to the far right-hand side (into the system tray).

Microsoft observes that it makes more sense for the Copilot button to be on the right of the taskbar, given that the panel for the AI opens on the right, so it’ll be directly above the icon. It’s worth remembering that regarding the Copilot panel, Microsoft just made it larger, apparently as a result of feedback from users of the AI.

Analysis: Cowriter MIA?

Regarding that Beta channel tweak for the Copilot icon, that seems a fair enough adjustment to make. Although that said, rumor has it the next update for Windows 11 – which will be Moment 5 arriving later this month in theory – will allow for the ability to undock the AI so it isn’t anchored to the right side of the desktop. Still, that remains speculation for now, and even then there will be those folks who don’t undock Copilot, anyway.

As mentioned, the big testing move here is the new Notepad ability, and it’s no surprise to see more Windows 11 apps getting AI chops. The integration with Copilot here is on a pretty basic level, mind, compared to previous rumors about a fully-featured Cowriter assistant along the lines of the existing Cocreator in Paint. Still, it’s possible this is an initial move, and that a more in-depth Cowriter function could still turn up in the future at some point.

That said, Notepad is not supposed to be a complex app – the idea is it’s a lightweight and streamlined piece of software – so maybe further AI powers won’t be coming to the client.

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