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article imageExperimental Windows 10 feature adds a whole new way to work

By James Walker     Dec 1, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft's announced an experimental Windows 10 feature that adds a tabbed interface to every app. First rumoured earlier in the year, "Sets" offers a structured way to work with different desktop activities by grouping app instances together in tabs.
Tabs have been a common component of PC interfaces for over a decade, offering a way to quickly switch between multiple related activities. They're now considered an integral component of web browsers and other specific applications. However, they're not deployed in simple applications or on an OS-level, even though many users regularly open multiple instances of an app.
The idea of adding tabs to more Windows apps isn't new. Since Windows 10's launch, one of the most upvoted feature requests in the Feedback Hub has been to add tabs to File Explorer. Back in April, rumours emerged that Microsoft was finally working on the idea, albeit in a considerably more ambitious manner. This week, it publicly unveiled the design it's considering for a public release.
Sets of activities
The feature is named "Sets" instead of Tabs because it goes much further than the tab strip in your web browser or text editor. At its most basic level, you can create multiple instances of an app and they'll show up inside a single tabbed window.
Sets isn't really about this kind of basic grouping though. Rather than tackling the problem on a per-app level, it's a per-activity approach to window management.
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Window groups don't have to be from the same app, so you can create a tab strip that contains a Word document you're writing, the webpage you're referencing and your email client. In another tabbed window, you might have a media player and the Twitter app open.
In this example, your five open apps are spread between two different tabbed windows. Set provides a way for you to separate different activities and quickly switch tasks. Instead of just putting tabs into apps, Microsoft's trying to put tabs into the way you work. The feature will also tie in with Timeline, the upcoming Windows 10 chronological view of activities you've completed across your devices.
Tabs in the titlebar
Sets will be released to Windows Insiders in the coming weeks and will initially be limited to Universal Windows Apps from the Microsoft Store. Over time, Microsoft plans to expand its scope though, including to classic Win32 desktop applications. The capabilities and presentation of Sets are still far from final as the entire project's being approached as an experiment.
Assuming it reaches the public, Sets will be the biggest overhaul of the Windows titlebar since the days of Windows 3.0. While it could improve productivity and make the desktop more efficient, there are numerous reasons why Microsoft could scrap or radically alter the feature. Windows 8 demonstrated that changing a decades-old interface component can be a recipe for disaster.
Microsoft hasn't stated any timeline for a public release of Sets. It's likely to be considerably tweaked over the course of its beta period with Windows Insiders. The chronological activity view Timeline is now set to be launched with the next Windows 10 feature update after being delayed from the Fall Creators Update.
More about Windows, windows 10, windows sets, windows insider preview, Software