Steam’s latest update improves the management of downloads

Valve released a new beta update for its Steam gaming client this week that improves the management of downloads significantly. While in beta currently, it usually takes a couple of weeks before beta features land in stable versions of Steam.

Game and content downloads have always been a thorn in the side of many Steam users. The interface was clunky, lacked information, and not a pleasure to work with at all.

Steam’s new downloads page addresses many of these criticisms. It features a redesigned downloads interface that has a nicer look with a new color palette and game art displayed right on the page; this way, you get a visual reminder of what is currently being downloaded by the client without having to look at the download queue.

The new game download progress bar displays the total progress in the new client version and not just the downloading content progress. Steam did not highlight the disk allocation process in the previous version, and that made downloads appear complete when they were not.

The context menu lists options to launch the game once its download has completed. Valve’s release notes suggest that there will also be a new option to suspend download throttling, if enabled, using the context menu. The option is only displayed if download throttling is enabled in the Steam settings.

Content that is partially downloaded is displayed with a shaded progress bar for better visual distinction; this happens when you pause a download, e.g. by moving another download to the top spot. Speaking of which, the new downloads manager supports drag & drop, meaning that you may easily rearrange the download queue using drag & drop operations.

Another feature that is highlighted by Valve is a new tooltip that is displayed when users hover over the i-icon next to the content’s title. It displays the types of content that is included in the update, e.g. game content, downloadable content, or workshop content.

The “view news” button has been changed into a “Patch Notes” link that opens an overlay with the latest patch notes for the game, but only for games for which the publisher/developer has submitted patch notes to Steam’s event system. Patch notes will only be displayed for updates.

The redesigned Steam downloads page is a step in the right direction, as it improves usability considerably. Users who never open the downloads manager won’t benefit from the change, but if you download several games or updates at once, you get more control over the downloads and more information about the individual updates.

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