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Microsoft to bring smart tabs to Windows 10
December 11, 2017, 4:39 pm

According to Microsoft, one of the most popular feature requests for Windows 10 has been tabs in File Explorer. Microsoft, which has resisted adding tabs to File Explorer and apps in general for years, is clearly now thinking along those lines and plans to add tabs to apps in Windows 10.

Windows 10 testers will first start testing what Microsoft calls ‘Sets’ in the coming weeks, and the tab integration will be initially limited to Windows 10’s special Universal Windows Apps. Microsoft is planning to get as much feedback on the new feature as possible, before tweaking it and making it available to everyone. For now, the software giant is not committing to a specific timeline for tabs.

‘Sets’ is designed to group a particular task together. For instance, if you are working on a Word document and need to research data on the web or gather notes from an app, you could create ‘Sets’ (tabs) of these tasks in a single window. It is designed to keep that browser tab you are using to research work separate from the other one you are using to watch News or YouTube. The feature will allow you to have tabs in a single window that are relevant to the tasks you are engaged in on Windows.

Microsoft obviously has some ambitions for Sets that go further than just the Windows desktop.
Like its Timeline feature of Windows 10, which will be available to testers in the next build, Sets are designed to let you continue working on or from a mobile device. By grouping tasks into these Sets, Microsoft is aiming to let iPhone and Android users start Sets and then resume them on a PC or vice versa. It is a logical extension of Timeline, which groups together your apps in a similar way so you can resume them across mobile and PCs.

Microsoft is planning to extend these tabs to standard desktop apps like File Explorer or Notepad, and eventually to apps that have custom title-bars like Photoshop. An updated desktop version of Office is expected to support Sets early next year. Microsoft’s real challenge with Sets will be convincing developers to embrace them on the mobile side, so apps can resume easily. That is not an easy thing to solve, so at least for now expect the experience to be limited to Office and Edge mobile.

The experience of Sets also includes a universal search feature and a new blank tab is identical to the new tab interface in the Microsoft Edge browser. Microsoft is essentially extending Edge into the shell of all apps in Windows 10, a move that will generate a lot of discussion. Microsoft ended up in court with the US Department of Justice back in 2001 over bundling Internet Explorer directly into Windows. Either way, computing and competition has changed a lot since then, and without some type of web functionality this tabs interface would not work efficiently.

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