Windows 10 Sets will let you group apps in tabs

Windows 10's interface is defined, obviously, by the eponymous "windows." It's useful sometimes to have more than one layer of compartmentalization for tasks and ideas, though. For example, you might have a web browser and a PDF reader, each with many separate tabs. Along those lines, Microsoft just announced an upcoming (and completely optional) interface paradigm for Windows 10 called Sets.

Sets are, in Microsoft's own words, a way to "organize and resume multi-faceted tasks." The idea is that for any given task, Windows will create a "Set" for you that lives in a special desktop view. The Set is a group that puts all the apps you use for that task in a single tabbed window. When you need to take a break and come back to it, you can simply close the whole set, then bring it up later to resume where you were. Sets will initially be limited to Store apps, though.

Sets are intended to be used in combination with the Timeline feature also on its way in a future update. Timeline was supposed to debut with the Fall Creators Update, but it was delayed as Microsoft deemed it not ready for prime time. The feature creates a history of your actions on the computer so that you can revisit them later—like your browser history, but for apps and documents. Sets will integrate with your Timeline so that you can revisit earlier tasks more easily.

As a further development of its Continuum feature, Microsoft says that it plans to allow users to tie Sets to their Microsoft accounts such that they will be able to take their entire workspace with them from device to device. The company also says that Sets will eventually support even heavy-weight applications like Adobe Photoshop.

If all of this sounds like a disaster for your use-case (personally, it reminds me of Compaq TabWorks), don't worry. PC World says that Microsoft is adamant that all of the new features will be completely optional. Those looking forward to using a Sets-feature right now might be interested in Stardock's Groupy.

Windows Insiders riding the bleeding edge of updates should be getting a download pretty soon that will enable Sets and Timeline. The rest of us users will have to wait until sometime next year.

Comments closed
    • caconym
    • 2 years ago

    This would actually be really useful to me. I have to juggle projects a lot, and it’d be great to have the apps related to project “A” in one Set, project “B” in another, and email/IM/browser in a third. The task bar gets mighty confusing when I’ve got, say, 4 instances of XnView open (2 for project “A”, 2 for project “B”) plus multiple instances of Photoshop and 3DS Max, similarly assigned.

    Virtual desktops mostly work, but it seems like Sets could have some advantages.

    I do wonder if a Set window will be able to span monitors. I have different monitors for different purposes (1080p with stylus, 4k for 3D apps, cheap TN for Outlook), so ideally a set would be able to span all of them, so I could still keep my software arranged spatially.

    edit: actually, that’d probably break the whole tab-paradigm, now that I’ve thought more about it. Dang. Hmmm …

      • mudcore
      • 2 years ago

      I like the idea of “task sets” or “applications sets.” And then those can be either say represented in a shared window or on a dedicated virtual desktop. That way you can have multiple applications pulled up on screen at the same time and ideally with a click or keyboard command group them all back together in a window or have a window dump its contents out into a separate virtual desktop.

      That would make the concept and application of it a lot more powerful than simply what Stardock is already going with Groupy i.e. tabbed windows.

    • gmskking
    • 2 years ago

    Still on Windows 7 with no plans to update to this buggy OS.

      • Wirko
      • 2 years ago

      I may, but only after the user interface stabilizes.

    • blastdoor
    • 2 years ago

    Seems to me that virtual desktops are a better solution.

      • Beahmont
      • 2 years ago

      Eh. Getting multiple Windows Explorer windows all in one frame but with tabs sounds really nice to me.

      Also, doesn’t Windows 10 already have virtual desktops?

        • DancinJack
        • 2 years ago

        It does.

          • Beahmont
          • 2 years ago

          Yeah I was pretty sure it did. Thanks for confirming!

        • blastdoor
        • 2 years ago

        Agreed, but I don’t think that’s the point.

        This appears to be focused on grouping heterogeneous app windows in a task-centric way.

        It seems to me that a virtual desktop does a similar thing, but I think better, because you can see multiple windows at the same time.

        But then again I’m a big-monitor desktop user who never touches a laptop. I can see how if you use a 13” screen all the time, Sets might be more appropriate.

      • Thresher
      • 2 years ago

      This would actually work better for me. I’ve never been a fan of multiple desktops. I tend to get lost with them. With a visual indicator across the top, I don’t think it would be as much of an issue for me.

        • blastdoor
        • 2 years ago

        I like Mission Control. I haven’t made a serious effort to use virtual desktops in Windows 10 (mostly because I almost never touch a Win 10 machine), but the few times I made a half-hearted attempt, it did seem a bit confusing. But I can’t really judge win10, given my limited efforts.

    • freebird
    • 2 years ago

    And this will definitely make everyone more productive by leaps and bounds…

    looks like everyone will need a ThreadRipper on their desktop to rip through all the junk M$ is adding to Windows 10.

    Edit: I guess people that down vote either don’t like sarcasm or ThreadRipper…

      • DancinJack
      • 2 years ago

      wah wah.

      you could, gasp, not use it! I know, I know, I’m being silly.

      • chuckula
      • 2 years ago

      I don’t see why you are being downvoted so much. I thought we wanted people to buy Threadrippers!

        • freebird
        • 2 years ago

        Seriously though has anyone else running Windows 10 looked at all the additional processes and services that run in the background on Windows 10 these days??? I know MS decided to break out process threads from the old “Server Host” Process, but I think I counted 75 running under Server Host just the other day… couldn’t they at least ASK to turn some of that stuff on?

        Whatever happened to reducing the attack vectors and services running by default in an OS?

          • Redocbew
          • 2 years ago

          Well yeah, Windows has always been notorious on “forking for the hell of it”, but the number of threads or processes isn’t a great indicator of bloat in the system. For example there’s currently 1030 threads from 279 processes running on my Linux box. What matters is what each of those threads is doing. Currently this machine(which uses an i3 6100) is hovering somewhere between 25-60% CPU usage, but if I shut down Virtualbox that’d drop by quite a bit, and it’s responsible for only 35 of those threads.

          I don’t understand a lot of what Microsoft is doing with Windows these days, but that’s ok since I don’t have to spend a lot of time using it.

    • chuckula
    • 2 years ago

    It reminds me of some tabbed windowing experiments that KDE did back during the 4.0 series that have now been abandoned. You could basically tab windows of arbitrary applications together similar to what you see in a web browser but each tab could be a completely different application.

    Link to a video of it in action: [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCL_6YNgc8w[/url<] Compiz had a somewhat similar function.

      • willmore
      • 2 years ago

      Or the idea of workspaces that have been in UNIX window managers since the early 90s. I have used this every day since then.

      Nice way to catch up, Microsoft.

    • smilingcrow
    • 2 years ago

    “Sets will initially be limited to Store apps, though.”

    Even Bill Gates will roll his eyes at this as he reads it on his Android phone.

      • DancinJack
      • 2 years ago

      Indeed. They need to find a UI and UX consistent way to expand it to other apps. I literally use zero Windows Store apps as it stands right now.

        • Beahmont
        • 2 years ago

        ArsTechnica has a more detailed article where Microsoft talks about doing just that, but they want to do front and back end testing with things that they know are harder to break because they are heavily sandboxed in Windows. Hence only the UWP apps first, because they can’t tie into anything deeply.

          • Redocbew
          • 2 years ago

          As chuckula mentioned earlier, being able to include different applications in the same window using tabs isn’t something that’s entirely new. It’s the integration between those applications which is the problem. That’s doesn’t really have anything to do with the window manager at all, and it’s not something that Microsoft can do all on their own regardless of what cruft may or may not be in the way.

            • Beahmont
            • 2 years ago

            That’s not true at all. Microsoft can totally do it all on their own. The entire GUI is Microsoft’s to play with. It can make anything look like anything it wants and can hide anything it wants in the back end away from the user. Microsoft has the keys to the Kernel. It absolutely has the ability to create a low level wrapper that can do integration and mergers.

            The only question is how well it does such things. And given that Microsoft has extremely low level access that no one else has, I’d say that they have at least a decent chance of making this work even for old Win32 applications.

            • Redocbew
            • 2 years ago

            I think you might have missed the distinction I was trying to make there. There’s a lot more time spent in the demo video talking about sharing data between applications than there is just that you can group applications using tabs. If there’s no communication between them, then putting different applications within the same container window using tabs or whatever other widget you might want is entirely doable. That is something that is contained within the window manager its self.

            However, once you start sharing documents, or otherwise passing data between applications then this turns into a different thing entirely. There are plenty of situations where Windows its self isn’t going to have a clue what to make of the data produced by the applications running in it. From the looks of it Microsoft wants the sharing to be the main event here, and the tabs are just a way for all this to make sense to the user. If that’s true, then I wouldn’t hold my breath for this kind of integration to be a thing with any application in general. It’s not something that Microsoft can just make happen in some future update.

            • smilingcrow
            • 2 years ago

            MS has had the methodologies for sharing data and functionality between applications for decades but I’m not sure what the current state of play is as things get depreciated and I haven’t kept up.
            But all this needs to be coded into both applications that are communicating of course.
            I do recall a more recent approach that started with Windows 8 but didn’t look into it in detail.

            • Redocbew
            • 2 years ago

            I haven’t kept up either, but mostly I’m just being the legacy code police. Nobody is going to go back and rewrite their previously awesome but now old and crusty app just for giggles.

          • rnalsation
          • 2 years ago

          UWP apps hard to break.

          Dem jokes.

        • MOSFET
        • 2 years ago

        This could be useful, but
        [quote<]I literally use zero Windows Store apps as it stands right now.[/quote<] Bingo.

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      From a programming/API and development standpoint it makes complete sense. Store apps are far more predictable when it comes to UI features than any old Win32 app that may or may not have used any number of historical hacks. Those will need to be handled carefully as time goes on.

      • End User
      • 2 years ago

      There goes that idea.

    • lilbuddhaman
    • 2 years ago

    step 1. break everything with terrible ideas led by brainless marketing folk
    step 2-9. Try to Reinvent the wheel but only make things worse
    step 10. Respond to public feedback with buzz words
    Step 11-99. Slowly fix everything to return to previous levels of good design / productivity

      • Wirko
      • 2 years ago

      The saddest part here is that Step 3. is still Profit!.

    • tay
    • 2 years ago

    Setsy!!

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