5 ways Microsoft could improve its Sets feature in Windows 10

Microsoft's new Sets feature for Windows 10 was announced well over a year ago, yet we still don't know when exactly Microsoft is planning to ship it. Sets is a significant change in how the user interacts and manages windows on the desktop, so it's essential that Microsoft takes time to perfect the implementation of so that users aren't immediately turned off by the idea. As such, Microsoft hasn't committed to a release window for Sets, arguing that it's better if they ship it whenever they feel it's good and ready. And rightly so.

But, what exactly does Microsoft need to do to make sure Sets is as good as it can possibly be?

Unify Edge and Sets tabs

The first big issue with Sets that was apparent in the Insider Previews we've had so far is that Sets itself is separate from the tabs system available in Edge. While they look the same, they behave very differently. Now, this is likely because the Sets feature we've had a chance to play with was still pretty early in development, but I've asked a few people working on this feature what the plan is here, and no-one has been able to give me a confident answer.

Will Sets replace tabs in Edge? If not, there's an immediate disconnect in experience when launching a new tab from Edge and launching a new tab from Sets. This behavior needs to be the same everywhere. That also means Microsoft needs to figure out what it's going to do with "Set tabs aside" in Edge versus the "Tabs you've had opened" in Sets. They use the same icon, but functionally they're different. Microsoft needs to choose which system to go with.

A better new tab page

The new tab page for Sets was very rough in the preview builds released to Insiders. It was this weird combination of local apps and web pages. This experience needs to be better integrated with the system, highlighting not only apps and web pages but recent documents and photos too. It should act as a Start screen for the user rather than just a quick launcher to other apps on your system.

Perhaps integrating Timeline with the new tab page would help with this, as it would surface to the user different tasks that the user had been doing on their devices before. If you want to keep the user within Sets, and within Edge, then you don't want them hunting around the system for photos or documents that were open earlier.

Configurable new tab behavior

One thing I've seen testers ask about with Sets is the behavior of the new tab button itself. While many people are happy with it opening up into a new tab, some people would prefer the new tab button merely open a new instance of the same app they're running. Perhaps Microsoft should offer the option to the user to change how the behavior works to please both camps.

This would arguably remove the whole point of Sets; allowing the user to group together different apps and web pages under one window to better organize projects and stuff, but if someone doesn't like that behavior, they'll simply turn Sets off. So, it's better to give the user the option.

Pinnable Sets

On the subject of grouped projects, it would be awesome if users could pin Sets as a clickable live tile or taskbar shortcut, just like launching any normal app, but with multiple web pages and programs within it. For example, you could have a window with web pages, Word, PowerPoint, and Spotify grouped with Sets, and you could pin that specific grouping to the taskbar or Start menu as a single icon.

From there, you can name it, and even choose an icon for it, and when clicked on would open a window with all those programs already grouped together. That would be pretty neat and would help out with the whole "productivity" aspect Microsoft is going for with Sets.

Stabilize the feature

Blue Screen of Death Windows 10

Blue Screen of Death Windows 10 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Finally, and this is the most important thing; Sets needs to be stable. It needs not to be buggy or laggy, and it needs to be a joy to use. If the user is getting frustrated with tabs not snapping correctly, or tabs being lost or moved around without their command, then that is a bad experience. In the preview builds, Sets had definitely improved in regards to stability, but there's also more room for improvement.

This is probably the biggest reason behind why Sets is not shipping yet: Microsoft wants to ensure the feature is stable enough for release. This is a good thing, even if it means we have to wait longer for it to show up.

Let's hear your thoughts!

What do you think Microsoft should do to improve Windows Sets? Let us know in the comments!

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • Would love to see Cortana surface suggested apps or tools in new tab start screen based on user timeline history and currently active tabs in the active set.
  • I would like the option for sets to be for a desktop, rather than one tabbed window. I usually have multiple windows next to each other to be able to see data from each at the same time. If sets could remember all the windows and positions for a "task" that would be the best. Otherwise there is little chance I will use the feature.
  • Completely agree. Have been commenting like this earlier on and have given that feedback in the Feedback Hub app too.
  • I agree that desktop-level sets might be more useful than window-level sets. It raises the new problems however. Windows sizes and positions will depend on the desktop size and DPI. There is little chance you will be able move the whole set from one machine to another without breaking the layout.
  • aka virtual desktops
  • Virtual desktops are awesome, I was really happy when Microsoft added it, had been using it in Linux for years. But you can't save it. Once you close a virtual desktop it's gone. Sets should be this.
  • I still don't understand the purpose of sets when the taskbar still exists. If you got rid of the taskbar and treated each 'set' as a desktop...I could kind of follow the purpose. I wouldn't use it; but I could at least understand it. But grouping apps the same way the current taskbar groups apps...while still having the taskbar seems like change for the sake of change. Almost like trying to remove the start button or adding silly tiles to the start menu. Drop the taskbar. Add a button or something that opens the notification center. Put the current tasktray in the notification center. Put the start button in the sets bar...maybe even the start page as a window in sets. Give some kind of tiling options within sets. Side by side, top and bottom, 3 panes, 4 square windows, etc. I wouldn't want it on my desktop or laptop, but I'd want to try it on a phablet sized device that's totally not just a phone.
  • It's about bringing all of your work together.
  • The problem is that Microsoft lost its focus after Windows 8.1. This sets stuff would be good with the fullscreen start screen. No new "new page" would needed, there would be the start screen. You could group your stuff on start screen folders, as you can do now but nobody cares with live tiles area in Windows 10. There is no point in Windows 10 no coherence. They should improve Windows 8.2 instead of bring Windows 7 vack with live tiles
  • Should only be tabs of the same app, too confusing otherwise for normal people.
  • To me it makes more sense if i could open another Windows explorer window in the tab next rather than opening edge
  • I feel like I'm almost using sets in Teams. I have different channels setup with tabs for onenote, planner, and relevant webapps and it works great. Which there was some better session handling though.
  • I don't want sets. I just want tabs in file explorer and cmd as well as other apps. I don't want apps to be together. I use virtual desktops to group apps together.
  • I dont like sets, luckaly you can turn it off.
  • They still can't make a tab to be separated from Edge and snapped with one motion... This is basic functionality available in IE for ages. There is countless feedback about it. So the second sets are available I am disabling them, cause I do not believe MSFT can pull it off in a way that will be good.
  • Mouse 🐭 gestures
  • I am really hoping the last point is why it's been held off. Polish polish polish.