Info unearthed by SteamDB's Pavel Djundik in March pointed to a significant Steam update in the works, one that would include a way for players to take their own "game notes" as well as changing the way notifications work. Valve has now officially announced those features, and several more, pushing them live in the current Steam client beta.
As Valve's Steam desktop update explains, the in-game overlay has been overhauled "completely". The thing that pops up when you press shift-tab to check what that achievement you just earned was about (or have a cheeky look at a guide), now has a toolbar with separate sections for "friends chat, achievements progress, guides, discussions, a browser, and more." You can pin any of those windows so they remain visible while you're playing too, just in case you need to keep referencing how to complete the Ranni quest in Elden Ring.
"Opacity level is adjustable," Valve explains, "and only the contents of the window will be pinned—excluding the title bar and other extraneous UI. This new functionality is available for Notes, Guides, Discussions, and the web browser (yes, you can watch movies while you play games if you really want to)." That's right, you can keep a YouTube walkthrough on-screen instead of having to tab back and forth. Truly, this is the dawn of a golden age.
Steam's screenshot system has been overhauled too, which is another change I'm here for. "The screenshot manager has been completely refreshed", Valve says, "it's responsive, you can choose from large or small thumbnails, view recent screenshots rather than by game, and you can manage online screenshots as well as local screenshots." The last point is a definite improvement over having to open a separate online library to see screenshots you'd previously uploaded.
As for the Notes app, as expected it's a way to write messages to yourself, handy for reminders when you quit playing halfway through a quest, or figure out what an unlabeled potion in a roguelike does, or want to write down a puzzle clue you see in graffiti on a wall somewhere. The Notes app "comes with rich text formatting, the ability to have multiple notes per game, and can even be used in offline mode. These notes are saved per game and are synced across to any other PCs you are logged into, and are also accessible outside the in-game overlay, on the game details page." As mentioned, you can also overlay your notes on-screen with reduced opacity, helpful for tracking the most obscure Tunic puzzles. No way to draw your own maps, however.
The update also includes "targeted visual and usability improvements across Steam" like "updated dialogs, menus, fonts, and colors" as part of a UI refresh. If you want to try the update out for yourself, go to the account section of Steam's settings, click on "change…" next to beta participation, then select "Steam beta update" and restart Steam. There's no word yet on when it'll be arriving in the public client.