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article imageWindows 10 getting a much-needed UI overhaul with Project NEON

By James Walker     Nov 28, 2016 in Technology
Microsoft is planning a major visual overhaul of Windows 10 for launch in 2017, according to recent reports. The new design language will clean up Windows 10's current inconsistencies and introduce a more refined look based on animations and transitions.
The new design language is in development as "Project NEON," alternately known as Metro 2.0. Revealed by Windows Central last week, the project aims to "build upon" Windows 10's current look and feel while adding "flair" to increase the appeal and style of the operating system.
NEON will add motion and fluidity to Windows 10's desktop. Apps will be expected to use transitions and animations, creating a sophisticated and refined look currently associated with Microsoft's rivals. Individual UI elements will be able to "escape" the borders of their window for unique visual effects.
The new design language will also act as a "bridge" between Windows 10's desktop environment and its upcoming augmented and virtual reality one. It's meant to be a "UI that transports across devices," according to Windows Central. It will use textures, 3D models and lighting to map digital elements to the real world, although how this will act in practice isn't known.
Windows has integrated SkyDrive into its operating system.
Windows has integrated SkyDrive into its operating system.
Microosoft
Windows 10's interface is currently based on Microsoft's MDL2 design language. It developed from the typography-driven Metro environment of Windows Phone. Metro is widely credited with having started the current flat UI trend that's prevalent across the industry. It was based on simplicity and offered a refined and unique aesthetic.
Metro evolved onto the desktop with Windows 8 and subsequently Windows 8.1. With Windows 10, Microsoft developed MDL2, a very different palette that's got more in common with its industry rivals. Most notably, apps now have hamburger menus to access views, instead of the panorama or carousel of "classic" Metro apps.
MDL2 has major problems though. It has multiple inconsistencies in its implementation that can lead to UI elements in apps looking out of place. Unlike Metro, there are no clear guidelines to developers on how they should build their apps so there is no cohesive image for the entire OS.
Windows 10 UI inconsistencies across Microsoft s own News  Music and People apps
Windows 10 UI inconsistencies across Microsoft's own News, Music and People apps
Even Microsoft's own apps differ in their use of MDL2. Considering just the apps installed on a new PC, a range of different hamburger menu styles, colour schemes and UI controls can be found. Some teams, such as the group behind Microsoft's Groove Music, have developed their own aesthetic, creating a UI that's markedly more accomplished than the rest of the OS.
NEON will finally begin to clean up these inconsistencies. Developers will be given clear guidelines, akin to those issued for Metro, stating how to build their apps and which UI elements to use. There will be one consistent hamburger menu design, app bar and context menu layout, finally giving Windows 10 the cohesive feel it's been lacking since launch.
NEON won't totally replace MDL2 but it will have a significant impact on Windows 10's look and feel. It's an incremental evolution that expands on MDL2's core premise with new transitions and animations that will attract people to Windows.
Microsoft is often criticised for Windows 10's UI inconsistencies, particularly as Metro was so refined and controlled. NEON looks to merge MDL2's basic elements with the consistency and performance of Metro, creating a single design language that defines Windows 10. It's expected to launch with the "Redstone 3" Windows 10 update in late 2017.
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