Valve has announced a major update to its Steam application that brings a "fresh" new look, better notifications, a new in-game overlay and new Notes feature.
Announced on Twitter (see below), and with a blog post, this is one of the biggest updates to Steam we’ve seen for a long time – and due to the popularity of Valve’s Steam platform, these changes will likely impact almost all PC gamers.
Hello! We've just shipped a big update to the Steam Desktop client. New features include a completely redesigned in-game overlay, new notes functionality, pinnable in-game windows, improvements to notifications and more.Learn more about the update here: https://t.co/6OWnUQOBqs pic.twitter.com/A9OI8WMaqbJune 14, 2023
The most noticeable change is the major redesign of the Steam interface, which Valve describes as “targeted visual and usability improvements across Steam.” While the app remains recognizable, the new look feels more modern, with Settings and Screenshot Manager getting particular attention.
If you use Steam – and if you play many of the best PC games it’s likely that you do, then you’ll probably have noticed notifications popping up in the corner of your screen while playing. While these can sometimes be useful, more often than not they're useless alerts about someone adding you to their ‘Friends list’, potentially distracting you at a key moment in the game.
So the fact that Valve has improved notifications to be “more useful to you” is certainly welcome – as is Valve’s acknowledgement that Steam notifications haven’t been great. With the new update, the 'bell' icon at the top of the screen will only light up green when there’s “truly something new for you,” and the notification pop-out window will be limited to new notifications (older ones can be viewed by clicking the 'View all' option).
Steam now also provides new notification settings that let you fine-tune which notifications pop up, and where they'll appear. Hopefully this will put a stop to immersion-breaking pop-ups showing up while you're playing games.
New and improved in-game overlay
The in-game overlay, which appears when you press Shift+Tab while playing a game, has got a new look as well, with a new toolbar along the bottom that contains buttons for things such as chat, achievements, guides and a web browser, so they can all be quickly accessed. It’s similar to the Game Bar in Windows 11 (which you can open by pressing the Windows key +G on your keyboard.
You can also customize which elements appear in the in-game overlay, and these settings will carry over regardless of which game you play.
You can now pin windows from the overlay to appear on-screen while you’re playing. This could be really handy for putting up guides to help you through a tricky part of a game, or – as Valve suggests – you could use it to multitask, such as playing a video or podcast while you game.
The in-game overlay also comes with two brand-new features. The first is the Game Overview panel, which gives you a load of easily-glanceable information about the game you're playing, including achievements, progress, news and more.
Valve has also added a new Notes feature, which allows you to type out quick notes and thoughts, or paste images, while playing. This could prove really helpful for keeping track of puzzles within a game, or for creating a ‘to-do’ list to ensure you get the most out of the game.
These notes are synced, so you can see them on any PC you use Steam on – and that includes the Steam Deck, which is a nice touch.
Steam Deck improvements
While the main focus of this update is on improving the PC experience of Steam, Valve has also done some background work on improving the user experience on its handheld console, the Steam Deck.
Code is now more commonly shared between the Steam desktop client, Big Picture mode and the Steam Deck, and Valve promises that this will mean that any changes and updates made to the desktop client will now appear on the Steam Deck more quickly.
It should work the other way around as well, and Valve has noted that the controller configurator feature of the Steam Deck, which is one of the best tools included with the handheld, can now also be used by the desktop version of Steam (via the in-game overlay), making it easier to configure gamepads connected to your PC.
Background work introducing hardware acceleration to Mac and Linux versions of Steam has also been included, so gamers on those platforms should get an experience that’s more in-line with the Windows version, which again is welcome.
So far the changes appear to have been warmly received by Steam users, and the update should be rolling out right now. For more info, check out Valve’s video highlighting the changes below:
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Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.