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Microsoft is working on a new search UI for Windows 10

In the latest version of Windows 10, searching for files, documents, the web, and apps is handled via the Cortana UI, which to many is confusing or unnecessary. More often than not, people who are searching for things on their device don't want or need to interact with Microsoft's virtual assistant, and now it appears the company is working on a new search UI to rectify this.

In the latest Redstone 4 Insider Preview builds, a new, hidden search UI can be enabled via a simple registry edit that brings a new "immersive" search experience to the desktop. With the registry edit enabled, the user can click on the Cortana icon (when the search box is hidden) that will bring up a search UI that floats in the middle of the user's display, similar to how it works on the latest version of macOS Sierra.

This UI also pops up by hitting the Start button and immediately typing, as many users are accustomed to. Right now, the new search UI's implementation within the OS is a little rough, and in some usage scenarios doesn't make sense. This is likely because we're only seeing one part of a bigger picture. Recent rumors suggest Microsoft is planning to move Cortana into the System Tray, which would give this new search UI a much better reason for existing.

Users running build 17040 can try out this new search UI via the following registry edit (via Inside Windows Group Chat):

  1. Right-click on the Windows Start button.

  1. Select Run.
  2. In the Run dialog box, type "regedit."

  1. Select OK.
  2. Navigate toHKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Search\Flighting\
  3. Right-click the "Flighting" folder and select New > Key

  1. Name the key "Override."
  2. In the Override folder, right-click and select New > DWORD (32-bit)

  1. Name the newly created DWORD "ImmersiveSearch" and press enter to confirm.
  2. Double-click the DWORD and change its "value data" to 1.

  1. Restart your PC.

Now the registry edit has been applied, make sure you minimize the Cortana search bar on the taskbar before clicking the icon.

Microsoft has not officially announced that it is working on a new search UI for Windows 10 just yet, meaning this feature could be canceled or removed from Windows preview builds at any time. It's also likely to be pretty buggy, considering its unfinished state.

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.

43 Comments
  • I wonder... I wonder what elements of Andromeda are in that latest build of W10, if any... Is it possible to isolate any potential files of Andromeda, or elements of Cshell? Is this something that only MS has access to? How does that work?
  • enabled. Doesn't look that shabby for starters :) I can get used to this one...
  • I don't know about moving Cortana to the System Tray. Seems like it would be cumbersome for touchscreen users.
  • Cortana is already cumbersome if you don't speak english really... I really wished they'd teach her how to understand and speak dutch so I'd finally could start using Cortana...
  • Agree...if a goal is to make Cortana more pervasive, I'm not sure why I would make it harder to get too.  Are people really confused by having Cortana search for everything?  Seems to me it would be more of a nuisance of having to go to two or more apps instead of having everything all in one.  I just hope that MS makes this configurable (if they go this path at all)  rather than fixed; i.e. if I want Cortana and search to work as it does right now I can have that option but, if I want to separate the two and put Cortana in the task bar I can have that option.
  • It's possible that it'll be integrated with the Action Centre. Which I think makes sense. Cortana already send notifications to the Action Centre. So might as well bring Cortana and it's conversation UI to that place.
  • It looks cool. In the MSPoweruser article, they didn't make it clear that the search is separated from Cortana.
    Cortana is better where she is rather than the system tray, I reckon.
  • you can just search for regedit with Cortana. And remember that you can just copy HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Search\Flighti and paste it since the Creators Update.
  • That looks a lot like the Spotlight feature on the Mac.
  • A new search UI? Let me guess like the one that was in Windows 8.1?
  • no
  • Makes sense, search was too "hidden"
  • Or make cortana/windows search part of the action center. Would then be not too different from windows 8, there's a whole pane for search, its a familiar gesture to access for tablet pc devices, and it would only intrude the desktop, start menu view when needed.  It wouldn'talso make the desktop environment less cluttered with the increasingly complexity the desktop environment is getting too. A bit of convergence and hub forming would help alot to organize the native desktop tablet mode view. I think the system tray is too subtle a place for something as frequently used as search. Action center is a great place to put search. Search is also snappy and fast in windows 8, it only lacks some universal search, which windows search does kind of have now. So win-win in my view 
  • Quick note, the latest version of macOS is High Sierra.
  • Other than the user interface and placement on the screen, I don't understand how this search function different or better than the current search through the Cortana link next to Start.
  • Agreed, with the Cortana search bar active, this feature is unnecessary
  • Agreed. Other than half the world not having Cortana.
  • MS is gonna let Cortana go the way of so many other products, and sevices.. Not give it the proper dedication, passion, marketing, and attention, as we're so used to seeing... Then claim It's failing, and drop the feature...
    ...........
    I would absolutely love for them to prove me wrong.
  • Be thankfull for cortana... I'm in the netherlands, no cortana available at the moment. Unless I change localization to US on my devices!
  • You can keep localization yet still use Cortana in English.
  • Considering the last several builds have destroyed cards(if you look in the feedback hub, it's by design, they are claiming they are moving cards into the notification center like collections, which is insanely annoying), they are pulling the same old stunt of crippling a product forcing people to stop using it so they can show the numbers of how little people use it by the time they put the features back in.  I want to go through and fire every damned manager at MS over the last few years who insist on ripping out features on perfectly functional products so their team has something to do by recreating them(poorly)
  • how start new search? i cant find window showing in pic 1
  • I hope they keep it how it is. The changes are unnecessary and frustrating.
  • I think they should use this for countries that don't currently have access to Cortana rather than making this change for everyone regardless of location.
  • I admit that I am having a hard time understanding a need for this...since the default appearance for Cortana is a giant f'n search box in the taskbar. Unless this is a solution for non-Cortana countries.
  • That search bar is annoying and the first thing I remove on a new install of W10. It is a huge waste if space when you can just hit the Windows key and start typing.
  • ^^^ THIS
  • I wish Cortana was always on the screen. Instead of the little window. Like she could populate my desktop with articles and stuff.
  • Last few insider builds don't show cards at all btw...by design according to the feedback hub.  They are apparently moving some of those concepts to the notification pane, which will just clutter it up like collections does.
  • In other words, this is the beginning of the end for Cortana as a brand. 1) Mobile has been abandoned, so there's no Cortana on mobile. Siri and Google are both mobile based with a massive number of users.
    2) Alexa isn't mobile based, but Amazon has a massive retail presence to tie into that Microsoft will never have. And Microsoft has already admitted defeat here by piggybacking off of Alexa. Few people will use this hacked feature.
    3) Cortana on iPhone and Google are only for Microsoft diehards. No one else knows about nor cares about Cortana.
    4) Cortana on Xbox seems to get worse with each update. It worked better when it first rolled out with the very first Kinect.
    5) No one uses Cortana on PC. The enterprise doesn't. People don't talk to their computers. People don't make calendar appointments with Cortana in the enterprise, they go straight to Outlook or their other email/calendar client. Some consumers use it, but of all the people I know I can count on one hand the number of people that have ever mentioned Cortana, much less used it regularly.
    6) Given that Microsoft has quit the consumer space, there is no need for Cortana. It serves no purpose as a brand other than, again, for diehard consumer Microsoft fans, of which there are relatively few remaining. That's not to say the Cortana "engine" isn't useful. It does lots of cool things like track packages and such. Although it is becoming more intrusive than even I like and with each new build I seem to turn off more and more Cortana "features". But Cortana as a brand just needs to be killed off because it has no place in the new Microsoft which is 98% focused on the enterprise. And when I say no one uses Cortana, certainly I don't mean absolutely no one. What I mean is that relatively few use it, and given that technologies like these seem to need 10s of millions of users to be viable, Cortana just doesn't have the presence that is needed to make it worthwhile as a brand. Just kill it already and be done with it.
  • I wish Ms would kill it, be one of the better things they will do with Windows 10.
  • Sadly, you're right.  And this just goes to further prove that killing mobile has so many ripple effects that they should've seen coming before the decision was made.  I was hopeful when Nadella came on board but it's so obvious now that he's made a royal mess of it all.
  • 3) you forgot to add „who live in the US“ lol
  • I am on 17040 and added the registry value, restarted my pc and changed the Cortana Search bar to be just the Cortana logo, but I can't get this spotlight feature like in the picture. Am I missing something?
  • Way to much of an apple copy...
  • Damn thats ugly. I see no point in this. It would be annoying bringing up this window in the center of what you are doing. The search on the taskbar/start menu is fine.
  • I think it is great. No need to focus on the task bar but you can just keep looking where you were looking anyway. The more I use spotlight search on Mac, the more I like it. It really is quite great actually. 
  • I'd rather keep the current UI, I've better integrated in windows. It looks like a step backward to W8's fullscreen search (but enriched)
  • Great if you could remove the Internet option or change from Bing to Google that would be great
  • So I'd have to minimize all my windows to do a search?  How is that better than having search integrated in the task bar?
  • I haven’t tested this yet, but on macOS spotlight search pops up above everything else. I really hope they make it similar to this. Spotlight search is quite awesome actually. 
  • Doing a regedit is suggesting a bit much.
  • https://1drv.ms/i/s!AuUw84o3Xy6RiJlPctWXHvlOTR6uFA As you can see, I have no 'Flighting' folder in my registry in the location specified. Using Windows 10 Pro Insider Preview 17040.rs_prerelease.171110-1506. Do I have to create the 'Flighting' folder too?