Microsoft shows off new Windows 10 Start menu — and it sure is pretty

New Start Menu Concept
New Start Menu Concept (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc says that "Live Tiles are not going away."
  • Microsoft showed off a concept of a Start Menu without Live Tiles in a recent webcast.
  • The concept has Live Tiles turned off, meaning that they could be turned on as well.

Microsoft staff members discussed Live Tiles and the Start Menu in a recent episode of the Windows Insider Webcast. During the webcast, they showed off a concept of what the Start Menu could look like if Live Tiles were turned off. The concept uses Microsoft's new icons and features transparency that helps the icons pop. While the concept has Live Tiles turned off, Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc states that "Live Tiles are not going away, we have not announced anything of the sort."

This design isn't intended to be a final product. The people on the stream discuss it as a direction they're exploring. They state that the concept's new design helps "visually differentiate the Start menu from something that's chaotic color to something that's more uniform." The design replaces the large colored squares and rectangles of the current Start Menu with transparent blocks with Microsoft's refreshed icons in the middle of each block.

The design also shows how Microsoft's new icons look in a Recent apps list outside of squares. Instead of having logos within squares, each icon stands alone next to its respective program's name. This helps each icon stand out and makes it easier to scan through visually.

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LeBlanc explicitly stated during the webcast that "Those that enjoy their Live Tiles will continue to be able to do so." If Microsoft went in the direction of this design, it seems like it would focus more on making icons pop when Live Tiles are turned off. It's worth noting that you can turn Live Tiles off in the current Start Menu.

Recent reports state that Microsoft could move away from Live Tiles in the future, but LeBlanc's clarification seems to rebut this. Despite LeBlanc's statement, it's likely that as Windows design evolves, and as Microsoft tests the waters with Windows 10X, the Live Tile UI may eventually go away.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

57 Comments
  • "Despite rumors and reports, Microsoft says Live Tiles aren't going anywhere" Now I don't need to read the rest of the article 😁
  • Other reports have stated that insiders say they just haven't made a decision on live tiles yet, so they're still not necessarily safe. They're just not yet for sure gone.
  • Yeah it seems it is still bound to get removed. Hopefully replacement will come instead and not just removing it.
  • Live tiles aren't going anywhere right now. Its about blending the new icons better with how they look on Start today. That's what we're discussing now." - Brandon LeBlanc He said this on the webcast on insiders mixer channel.
  • Is that like ******* saying they'll make phones if partners won't...?
  • It sure looks very nice, but why do they first create the "chaotic color" themselves giving all new icons a blue tile and talk about fixing that now?
  • Things improve and evolve, people learn and grow. Obviously they 'thought' it was a good idea at the time. This is the nature of all forms of development. I welcome this steady iterations and improvements, making refinements to ideas as you learn. It is the way to go imho.
  • Well, the thing is that "at the time" is barely a few weeks ago in this case and a good portion of the new icons haven't even rolled out to Insiders yet.
  • I think it's less chaotic given that the background of the tile matches the theme but isn't in-your-face. I think it makes sense to have a colored icon centered on a tile that has a subdued color. Overall I like this.
  • Yeah, at least by removing the Tiles having the accent color and their own color with only dark and light theme color, this makes the Live Tiles overall looks uniform and no more color clashing with icons or with other Live Tiles. This is a best approach with the redesigned icons. Since it does not work well with accent colours anymore. Can't really go wrong with neutral color tiles.
  • "Those that enjoy their Live Tiles will continue to be able to do so."
    Best news! That's the most reasonable and almost obvious statement I've heard so far about the live tiles. Just give the users options, both live tiles and static icons can coexist, this should not be an issue.
  • Hey Microsoft. Allow for Live Tiles to be more like interactive widgets and they could be even more useful. Also, let people place them on the Desktop!
  • I think widgets would be great. I'd love to have an all-in-one or tablet with interactive widgets.
  • Yeah, personally I'm okay moving on from Live Tiles as we know it, but replace it with Widgets/Cards similar to Microsoft Launcher aesthetics. Rather than removing Live Tiles with no replacement. Dual-devices would benefit having another screen to show Widgets/Cards
  • Until they allow us to fully customise the icons themselves, nothing will be solved.
    This change still doesn't put an end to the horrible colourfulness mess of icons in the start menu. The previous iconography was far superior. Live Tiles (or tiles in general) had the colour the user picked, icons would be all white or all black.
    Now it looks like a circus and it's only going to get worse.
    Specially when coupled with the pseudo-Dark Mode which is more a Grey Mode than a proper, Dark Mode using black as any minimally decent Dark Mode does.
  • DJCBS! You're still here?! I thought you would leave after the whole Nokia and Windows Phone phase.
  • I'm glad Live Tiles are not going away because I want to be able to hit Start and see my next appointment, My Day in To-Do, my latest emails, and the weather. The idea that this basic functionality should be out the window is ridiculous - either keep it or give us an alternative. Keeping it but toning down the animations is fine with me. Also, I hope someone is working on Live Tile-style information for PWA's pinned to the Start menu. As for W10X - if there are no Live Tiles at all, they need some sort of replacement - widgets or something - that can give users info at a glance. If Android and iOS can do it, a Windows mobile OS really, really should.
  • > If Android and iOS can do it How do I get widgets or live tiles working on IOS?
  • Simply swipe to the left from the home screen, menu to edit the widget selection is at the bottom. Been like that for several years now. ipadOS has even more options.
  • iPadOS has been good lately with further improvements with its multitasking (except for desktop mode) and having Widgets always visible on the left at the main homescreen page. Microsoft hopefully just evolve Live Tiles into Widgets and have it pinned to desktop for Windows 10 X. At least for users who likes dashboard home screen can have it than just leaving it with wallpaper.
  • After how many decades, the Start menu still isn't optimized? I ignore the Live Tiles in favor of the alphabetized list, which still isn't optimal; it groups things under each letter as if I don't know the alphabet and can't visually scan and scroll an alphabetized list. #FacePalm.
  • One of my biggest issues in Windows phone. That single column app drawer was very inefficient. As if people can't make out the difference with 12 icons on screen, they can deal with 5 icons with full titles.
  • I somewhat agree. Despite having a search feature, it was a bit of a hassle to go through it and find the app you want, if you had not pinned it to your home screen. It was because of that, I pinned everything. Being able to create folders was helpful. I will also admit, as much as l liked Live Tiles, having too many on your home screen could make it just as daunting as the app list. There was certainly things that could have been improved. Sadly, we will never truly know what Windows Phone could have evolved into. Microsoft's latest efforts in redesign and mobile is only a glimps of what might have been.
  • I still prefer the Jump list and wish other platforms would adopt it. Made looking through contacts sooo much easier.
  • That is all I use on Windows 10. I didn't realize they were called jump lists. Android kinda has something similar. If you long press on an icon, it will give you options in opening the app. For example, Google Maps gives you a list of your pinned locations and you select one to navigate there immediately.
  • Except that if you click one of the letters you get a speed dial style display where you can quickly jump to another letter rather than having to scroll down, down, down, whoops to far, up, up! Instead if you know you want Visual Studio (and aren't already simply Win key + <type Visual> + enter) then you click letter, click V and bam right there on the apps starting with V.
  • Good point. Also regarding Live Tiles, the concept was always providing you information in real time for the apps you used the most. The implication is there shouldn't be a plethora of them. When I was using my Lumia 950XL my eyes were conditioned to glance at about 12 apps within a few seconds to determine was important. That's the benefit of Life Tiles, and widgets can't give you that.
  • Yeah, and I love this feature that sadly seems many misunderstood it. At least it has uses than just a dumb letter in Microsoft Launcher that does nothing when tapped, though it's got letter scrollbar on the right so the functionality is redundant anyways. But yeah, I find the letter category to make visual separation for me to easier scan the list of apps, or grid in Start Screen. Removing it will make it visually flat and just a sea of icons with no any sort of visual separation.
  • Part of the reason for grouping under letters of the alphabet is for those of us who have an apps list that may be hundreds of apps long. I can quickly click the "A" to get a block showing all letters, then click "T" to take me quickly to any apps filed under "T". I actually like the functionality. P.S. I accidentally clicked the "Report this post" button as the page was loading. I did not intend to, and any admins/moderators can ignore that.
  • BTW who was it that started this rumor that Live Tiles were going away? MS seems adamant they're not.
  • Your are suddenly going to believe then now? Things can change quickly and it is obvious Live Tiles aren't their focus. Maybe it is not fall 2020 or Spring 2021, but I would surprised if they are still included in the Fall 2021 update.
  • I'm inclined to believe that the Windows Insider team knows more about the future of Live Tiles than you do.
  • Good luck with that. Actions speak louder than words, especially when dealing with Microsoft.
  • I think it's more that Live Tiles aren't coming to Windows 10 X.
  • That one thing for sure, or at least what we know of. Windows 10 may keep this for a while, but still bound to get removed or simply replaced with something (I hope). But looks like they haven't got solid plans what to do for it yet or at least not sharing it for now.
  • We need more customization options built in for the tiles. What is the point in any thing other than the small sized title for an app that doesn't have a live tile or one that doesn't really have anything of worth to show on a live tile? None! I'd much rather they came out with bigger icons.
  • Maybe one day they'll allow the grid between tiles to be adjusted or completely removed for a seamless tile blanket like mobile did. But they are busy reading google's manual
  • Why doesn't the non-live version just look like the new Win 10x start menu, why design something different
  • Because this is the direction of vusal design they are going. At least for now the Live Tile remains functional, only the color is different
  • So I'm comparing my set up with the new and it feels a lot the same. I'm confused with the statement that it was "chaotic color" with solid squares behind icons to now transparent. When in fact the transparency introduces more of a chaotic image because you can now see different shapes and colors through it, probably making it more difficult to see the icons if whats showing through is similar to the color of the icons. I think I would rather like the option to choose the color or transparency level of the background for each group I create. Perhaps you can.
  • This is gorgeous, wow. I need this ASAP
  • Nah, this is a change for the worse, not better. The colors were great because each app, if they implemented tile support, had its own color, meaning that you could quickly find an app by its color. With this, every app simply blends into every other app, especially with the icons being all tiny and roughly the same. Moreover, the "chaotic colors" gave the start menu some personality; this just feels lifeless and dead. Once this hits my Surface Go, I'll likely remove all tiles from my start menu since they'll be useless, which will render then Surface itself useless since it'll have no usable way to run as a tablet. Microsoft's design game is getting worse and worse.
  • I said it before and I'll say it again: Microsoft is doing Live Tiles on Windows 10 wrong. Live Tiles worked where it started -- on Windows Phone -- because it's what you see on the home screen, which they called "Start" on Windows Phone. There, you see the information on Live Tiles at a glance, already there when you need it. But because the home screen on Windows Phone was called "Start", Microsoft is hung up on the name and they end up thinking that the best place for Live Tiles on Windows 10 is also in the place it calls "Start", which is the Start Menu. However, the home screen for Windows 10 isn't the Start Menu but the Desktop screen. People don't boot up their PCs with the Start Screen open (perhaps except for the few who use Windows 10 tablets, but even then, many of those still boot to Desktop), and therefore Live Tiles are useless on the Start Menu. The proper place for Live Tiles is to adapt it for the Desktop where users can see the Live Tiles information when there are no windows open or when windows are minimized. Live Tiles should not be incorporated into the icons of the Start Menu, but into the icons of the Desktop.
  • Microsoft tried exactly that with Windows 8. That was why the start menu had to be full screen.
  • True, but they went too far. The bug mistake they make is they treat Desktop as a compeltely separate enviornment instead of Start screen being just a part of the same shell. If they just kept the Taskbar visible, no desktop tile since the new Start screen is a Desktop/Start. Consider Start button being more of Show Desktop than a menu. Then the background wallpaper is still customisable whatever image that the user wants. Make Metro apps at that time to run in a window. Then with these, the issue with Windows 8 UX will be less severe. There will be complaints but since you kept more of the familiarity, more people if not all will adapt. After all, most users still open apps from the Desktop and not from Start or even Taskbar.
  • I like this a lot, and even without Live Tiles it pleases me a lot to see that they still have Tiles in itself, gives much more identity to Start than the Win10X generic grid of icons. Recent Apps is a nice touch, though it would have been extra nice if they squeezed in 'recent files' as well. That kind of stuff was something in Win10X that definitely looked useful to have.
  • This is great news. Although again nothing that they couldn't do already with the introduction of a slider to control the alpha channel of tiles when it comes down to colors in the Personalization page of Settings. As if suddenly Windows was becoming iOS, so that the default design needed to be forced down on everyone's throat with some magical doctrine. Only the doctrine has proven to be ever-changing.
  • I read "live tiles is not going anywhere" on the subject for three times, and fourth time, I manged to read it as it is. 😂
  • "and it sure is pretty" -- Huh? It's the same thing but with the light theme. lol
  • YEAH!! Live Tiles aren't going away!!
  • It looks......much like it looks now. Not sure what the fuss is about?
  • Why is making the start screen look like my old iPhone 3 such a big deal?
  • It's okay, needs more sweet presentation, and Fluent Design is cool.
    The tiles ans the colours can use for other things in several devices.
    And in complement.
    There are possibility to open 2 programs-apps in rectangle tiles.
    I believe in amovible concept, informational, and tactile.
    Maybe it's not good away to give icons for sites (or money), only logo with name.
  • Good news perhaps. Live Tiles might continue to Live! Great! But I surely don't want all my tiles to look the same; with the same color. If the tiles are Live I want them to be different in color as they are now. I love having an assorted color palette. It differentiates the tiles. Might as well bring back black and white tv only too. :)
  • This is how it should have been from the inception of live tiles.
    like this designer on behence envisioned couple of years ago
    https://www.behance.net/gallery/32664259/Windows-10-Mobile-Thinking-abou...
  • Can't wait, badly needs modernising. 9/10 of the Windows 10 Start Menu just looks a mess because few bother to customise and even live tiles look woefully dated.
  • They just need to improve the capabilities and look of the tiles. Basically make sure you can do everything you can do with a shortcut with a tile. Then you have a shortcut that is touch friendly. Of course small sizes should be available for non-touch devices, such as make the default size smaller for non-touch. Maybe call it the Shortcut size. Then simply use the tile area of the start menu to replace putting icons on the desktop. This is a much better way to manage shortcuts without disturbing your open programs.