Microsoft's 'icons of the future' extend across platforms and add depth

Windows 10 Newicons
Windows 10 Newicons (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft discusses its new icons in a blog post.
  • The icons meet the Fluent Design language guidelines and extend across Windows 10, Android, and iOS.
  • Some Windows Insiders already have some of the new icons on their systems.

Microsoft details its latest Windows icon, including their history, design process, and where they'll be in the future in a new blog post. Microsoft has spent years and a significant amount of effort revamping the look of its app icons. Microsoft previously detailed its Office icons, but now, the company went through the design process for all of its new icons.

Microsoft points out that the average person has four connected devices. That makes unifying the look and feel of an app across platforms more important than it was in the past. Part of Microsoft's icon revamp is to make sure the same icons ship across Windows, Android, and iOS. Taking it further than just having the icon for a single app appear the same across platforms, Microsoft used the same design language for its entire range of new icons.

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft's Fluent Design Language is a big part of Windows, including the new Windows 10X, but it's also part of Microsoft's app designs. Fluent Design includes adding depth and subtle visual cues to Microsoft's icon design. Microsoft's blog post states,

When icons in the taskbar and Start menu are different styles, it creates more cognitive load to scan and find applications. We needed to incorporate more visual cues into the icon design language using our modernized Fluent Design Language.

Microsoft's goal is to have all of its icons look and feel like they're cut from the same cloth. They use similar color patterns, feature rounded corners, and share the same feel. Microsoft says that these elements help make icons feel as if they "live in the real world," adding that they give people "something familiar and approachable to grab onto."

The new icons are already rolling out to some Windows Insiders. People in the Release Preview ring received the new Mail and Calendar icons this morning. People in the Fast ring will see several new icons today. We reported earlier today that the new Mail & Calendar, Groove Music, Film & TV, Calculator, Alarms, and Voice Recorder icons appeared for Fast ring insiders today.

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).

101 Comments
  • Everything blue now. No accent themed tiles. Thanks to fan boys like bowden
  • Accent color is blue so everything will be blue. Isn't that's how it is since inception?
  • My accent colour is grey. All the apps that haven't updated still follow grey.
  • Well before accent color is a thing, yeah Windows is mostly blue and defaults to blue. I guess they are removing accent color features now since it doesn't make sense when you have mostly blue icons with orange accent for example. This is okay if the icons are not mostly blue and bit more unique in its colors. Photos app icon for example is deliberately blue for some reason, even though its meant to be a photo which should signify to be colorful. Now it looks like you got taking photo of a night sky?
  • it has to be frustrating for the team that made a well-rounded, intuitive and nice to look interface with the tiles ( not meaning that everything was perfect), to see how everything is slowly rolling back to stationary icons... boring, generic. i don't know... sometimes i try to use the new microsoft launcher, but i keep getting back to Launcher10, is just nicer.
  • @pingua08 "a well-rounded, intuitive and nice to look interface with the tiles" Lol, classic comedy at its best.
  • Completely agree with you @pingua08. This is such a step backwards from a unique, innovative UI to the terrible, lazy grid of icons UI. And while the Office icons are nice, the rest of the icon pack looks dated already.
  • Yeah... i think my biggest concern is that the UI is ni longer offering something that really stands out from the competition. this only reminds me of the Windows Vista Interface. well i suppose that it is what the big companies and offices wants for their workers. not to get distracted and getting the work done.
  • It didn't stand out in a good way. The old interface was so terrible, it almost totally removed Microsoft from the consumer market.
  • It sucks, but I agree. As much as I liked Live Tiles, it was too different for most consumers and they overwhelmingly rejected it. If we want Windows to survive and thrive it needs to continue turning in the direction it is with Windows 10X.
  • So, most consumers rejected Live Tiles overwhelmingly? This is news to me. Really it is. I thought people rejected Windows 8.x because there was no Start Menu. I thought people rejected Windows Phone because there weren't enough apps or the right apps. But because of the Live Tiles? Wow sounds like you're making news up. Because no one had to succumb to Live Tiles if they decided to use the small icons there was no content to read. Just a static Icon. So why would they reject something in which they had an OPTION?!
  • Because the vast majority of users aren't going to change from the default. If Live Tiles were actually useful and people liked them, then whatever initial issue they had with Windows 8 or WP7 would be overshadowed by the great experience created by Live Tiles. Spoiler: people never grew to like Live Tiles. Every single platform with a UI based on Tiles was a failure. I think that goes as far back as Zune.
  • @Whodaboss, "So, most consumers rejected Live Tiles overwhelmingly? This is news to me" This from Zac Bowden, "I've seen internal documentation from Microsoft that suggests people aren't really opening the Start menu to look at or customize live tiles. Users prefer pinning everything to the taskbar"
  • @Bluey Ross As I stated you don't have to use or look at Live Tiles. So there's a choice. Choice. So if you choose to look at them or use them then those users are not that smart to begin with. So why would I listen to their opinion.
  • You have to listen to nobody. There's more you don't take decisions at Microsoft.
  • @podsnap&pingua08
    To me, the best thing about Windows I've ever used are the Live Tiles! And I've been using Windows (aka DOS) since the 80s! This is a regression not progress if Live Tiles are removed. They might as well bring back the old program manager look. Just put all static tiles in folders.
  • If you love Live Tiles, just wait until you use fully featured Live Tiles on Android. It will blow your mind. On Android, Live Tiles are fully interactive. You can scroll on then, they have buttons, they are chaseable, and can even be different shapes! Live Tiles on Android can do everything they do on Windows and a ton more.
  • Those in Android are widgets and not live tiles. BtwI hated Windows live tiles. Glad it's gone.
  • That is just semantics. "Live Tiles" is merely Microsoft's marketing term for their widgets.
  • @bleached Well let's be honest. Semantics is all the W8/Live Tiles fans have left.
  • I wouldn't even call live tiles widgets because they simply don't have the functionality of widgets, not even close.
  • Well it is sad to see, but practicality having this boring grid of icons is what most people are familiar with.
    BUT the problem is that there is no replacement of Live Tiles, so we totally lose this feature at least what we know of. No Widgets either even though MICROSOFT LAUNCHER SUPPORTS WIDGETS. This makes iPadOS better now with Widgets at least. Yes its a grid of icons, but it has Widgets on the homescreen.
  • I guess if they're stepping back from tiles to icons, they better make the icons look as good as they can.
  • Maybe Microsoft shouldn't have the accent color in the Start Menu. A dark grey for dark theme and light grey for light theme?
  • Yeah, they should do that considering the icons now will not blend well whatever theme color your choose except blue. Also though the new icons do looks nice and refreshing. But they are mostly blue for some reason. It's going to conflict on some desktop wallpaper colours that don't mix well with blue.
  • For me it fits quite well with dark grey.
  • I think dark gray is nice with Dark Theme. Light gray for light theme. Since I use dark theme, I will go with dark gray. Sadly there is no compromise, they seem to really just want it to be gone altogether. Its een like this for years already since Live Tiles hasn't evolved at all since Windows 10. There was a research about Interactive Live Tiles, but that was abandoned.
  • I'd rather have them remain monochrome white ( or black, depending on the theme ) like what most of the current default app ones look like... If they REALLY have to add the new ones at least give us an option to choose which style we want cause I for one can't stand them.
  • I'm going to be completely honest here, never once have I ever been excited about what an icon looks like. So long as it's different to everything else so I know what I'm clicking on, nothing else matters.
  • Very true. I have never seen so much emphasis on something as simple as icons. Icons seem to be The Big Story in MS land these days. I assume it is because MS is announcing "Look, we have unique icons again!" Instead of stupid, spinning, flashing, hey-look-at-me "live tiles" that all look alike.
  • Me too, maybe I'm unusual but I don't make purchasing decisions because I like the look of the icons, I'm more interested in what happens with the app after the icon is clicked, but I'm not really part of the Instagram generation where design over substance is more important. I'm not even sure I notice the icons, after a couple of weeks of use, I've learnt the position of the app on my home screen and click it without really looking.
  • If you use your computer for real work, you start to simply don't care much for the looks. The more you work the more these things become irrelevant These guys waste a lot of time in the OS and very little actually producing something with it. I was there once I know what I'm talking about. Couldn't care less about icons nowadays
  • These look nice in the taskbar, but they just don't fit as Live tiles. Hope they do something about it, like forcing a background color instead of using the accent color (like they do with the office apps).
  • 90% of Windows 10 users don't use Live Tiles, because 90% of the apps they use are Win32/64 apps. I have never pinned an tile to the Windows 10 Start Menu, ever, nor do I see them pinned on the PCs of people I know. They just use it as if it were a Windows 7 Start Menu. Computers run apps different than phones. Live Tiles have very little utility there, especially since most people don't have a permanent start menu/screen on their PCs. There is a reason why Microsoft tried to go to a full Start Screen in Windows 8. You people don't seem to have gotten it, yet you're still acting like Live Tiles are a thing - or even make sense - in a desktop OS. Apple Removed their widget screen in macOS for the same reason.
  • Design is never about what the customer wants. I know this because I'm an architect.
    Design is a solution to a problem the customer didn't even know they had. 90% (you) do not know what they want and trust me what you need is live tiles.
    Reason why you don't like them is simple.
    You don't know how to arrange them because Microsoft haven't designed them to AI adapt.
    Microsoft assumes you are intelligent enough to make tiles work and you're not. Windows 95 became a success because of two folders Microsoft created for you...namely My Documents and Desktop.
    90% (you) are not capable of arranging your work files into folders and to this day you save a whole lot of them on the desktop. My Documents and Desktop is still the foundation of Android and ios.
    This is as far as your intelligence will take you until such time AI is dynamic enough to adapt to the information you use.
    The adaptation will also need to be robust enough that it's not affected by disruptive system upgrades of things like icons which now once again rely on you (90%) to be intelligent and capable of rearranging you start menu.
    But you're not intelligent and cannot adapt.
  • Actually I save my work files to folders ON the desktop as it is the most immediate place so it is fastest to double click an icon on a desktop to bring up the files/program required than it is to use any other method to launch a file. n8ter is correct though, if the Start Menu was the main focus of the operating system then Live Tiles are a fantastic thing and well worth the effort, however it isn't, I don't want to click a button so that I can click a button that I could have just clicked on the screen prior. That's not intelligent, that's a waste of time.
  • You save your files on the desktop because it's the only place where you can reach them and the only place you know how. On the assembly line Ford discovered that a human is only intelligent enough to perform a single task all day long.
    The n8ters expect to switch on a computer and find the work program and document on the desktop.
    Or look at their phone and find the dialer and SMS apps. Well that's fine and pretty straight forward until you have to remember where to find a taxi through the uber app that's buried deep in your fourth android screen.
    You don't even remember if you ever downloaded the uber app, never mind where it's icon is.
    If that app interacted with you somehow you'd know you had a free ride before sifting through your 1000 spam emails.
  • "You save your files on the desktop because it's the only place where you can reach them and the only place you know how." Nope, I actually store files in OneDrive, I access them on my desktop. It's called a shortcut. I have shortcuts to my most used folders on my desktop (invoices and games being the two main ones) and my most used programs are pinned to my task bar (lighting software mainly, excel, messenger, etc). Anything else I actually use the search function of the task bar (unless it decides to have a hissy fit in which case THEN I use the start menu). I also don't have four Android screens. I have one. Again, it's called folders, they're really easy to create, anything I run daily is just on the page, anything else is compartmentalised in folders. I am a general consumer, you'd be surprised how many people are like me. See, you take the stance you do because you do design, and clearly you are in the business of marketing your design. So it seems to me it's not so much about what's best for the consumer but more about what's best for your bottom line, which is fine, it's how business works.
  • @Sin Ogaris "See, you take the stance you do because you do design, and clearly you are in the business of marketing your design. So it seems to me it's not so much about what's best for the consumer but more about what's best for your bottom line" Excellent response. He/she clearly has no idea how every day consumers think.
  • I work in design (web design to be exact), but I have to agree with you guys here. The average consumer wants what is easy, that's true. But there was nothing easy about Live Tiles. They were bulky, confusing to the average consumer, and really a waste of time. This is especially true when you compare it to the intuitive way to access your apps via Windows 10X. Swipe up, and tap the app you want. What's easier than that? This is similar to Android, by the way. iOS goes even further and puts all your apps on your home screens, removing the app drawer altogether. The only Live Tile I found myself using on a daily basis is the weather app tile. Check the temperature and weather for the next few days, then done.
  • For that reason they should keep the option for modern tiles/widgets to be added still for things like weather.
  • You can also pin your most used files to the pinned apps on your taskbar. A swipe up click (or maybe a right click?) on the app brings up a list of recent files and0-in you can quickly access them. You don't even have to worry about minimizing all your Windows so you can see your desktop icons.
  • This sounds like a good feature I might suss it out.
  • "Well that's fine and pretty straight forward until you have to remember where to find a taxi through the uber app that's buried deep in your fourth android screen." Dude wtf are you even talking about? Do you even use Uber or modern smartphones?
  • Clearly he has never used either.
  • No recycle bin?! You ANIMAL!!!!
  • What's a recycle bin?
  • Disregarding all the pompous, arrogant, diarhia of the mouth, Hiswona here is 90% correct. Too bad it's ruined by his douchbaggery. Live tiles are a great user experience and most people will simply never understand why.
  • There was only one app on my old Windows phone that I enjoyed the live tile of and that was Trivia Buff. Nothing else made any difference to me whether it was moving or not. Unless you could actually interact and manipulate the tiles from the main screen itself, it was redundant information. See now, if you had a news live tile that you could swipe on to change the article until you saw something that interested you, without having to load the app. Or a MMO game where you could swipe to select which character you want to load, then tap when you get to it and it automatically loads that character up, skipping the menu screens, THAT would be a good use of Live Tiles. But as they were they were just fancier versions of icons.
  • I think the problem with Live Tiles is Microsoft failed to evolve them into Widgets. Interactivity is not hat lacking with Live Tiles at the moment, but they can be a widget just like how the Microsoft Launcher on Android does. Sadly Microsoft doesn't seem to see any future of it and never bother to improve. While developer Microsoft Launcher made well made Widgets on its own and their apps on iOS/iPadOS take advantage of Widgets. This makes me to like PadOS now than Windows 10X simply because of that Widgets. I'm okay moving on from with Live Tiles, only if there is a better replacement for it which at the moment is not
  • I agree Microsoft didn't evolve live tiles.
    But don't believe they should be likened to widgets. You just have to look at a Netflix screen, Spotify or Tizen TV screen and you see what live tiles could be. Windows AI should drive the tiles because only Windows knows when you have a meeting across town and at what days you use a taxi.
    In a start menu like Netflix "movies we thought you might like", Windows AI would rearrange the first three rows of tiles with /calendar, to do and where to/
    Those apps will be front line.
    But they don't need to follow a fixed grid.
    I mean they've done it with Xbox or MSN website for many years now.
    Start menu should become MSN without web wrapping it.
  • Well that basically what I felt about Microsoft that they seem not interested on making widgets. They had a concept like this in Microsoft Research before Windows 10, and nothing came out of it. So since that then I guess Live Tiles is pretty much a dead-end. If Live Tiles were become like Widgets, then they will still have place even with just grid of icons since you can have them on separate pane just like in iPadOS. Actually, that makes me question, why didn't just have it on seperate screen/pane instead? So people will have familiar grid of icons while keeping the features for those who take advantage of it. That I think because they don't seem to believe in this concept anymore, despite what we see in their Future Vision concept videos. But yeah I agree that we do have similar examples on it on some apps and services like what you described. Mostly they are more apparent for TV use. MSN News on the New Tab in Edge is also more akin to it. I think they can really make Live Tiles evolve into information aggregator and not exactly replacement to App Launcher or redundant to Notification Center. They should evolve into showing relevant contents to the user through Machine Learning, something that Microsoft is incredibly focused at. Sadly this concept so far is not yet in the horizon for Windows 10 X as we have now. Maybe in the future? Hopefully... But I won't hold my breath into it.
  • Agreed... wouldn't hold your breath either. CEO told them to prioritize Windows Defender on android.
  • Windows Defender on Android?????? Wait wha...
  • @aXross Makes sense given Microsoft is nothing more than a junior partner now to Google in mobile and browsers.
  • Yes. It's happening.
  • Live Tiles were useful on Windows Phone, not on a desktop OS in a hidden menu.
  • Also this is a major detriment, if the Start Menu was the screen that greeted you when you turned on your computer, Live Tiles would be far more useful, but tucked away in a menu few people even bother to open any more (regardless of how much people raged during the Windows 8 days) means they have zero impact.
  • People had years to get used to that experience in Windows 8. They never did. It was hated right until the end. Microsoft even skipped Windows 9 to distance themselves from 8!
  • @bleached The wilful delusion among these people borders of being sad. It makes me feel bad how easily they are fooled.
    They now attempt to rewrite history and pretend the facts don't exist. I know better though. When their heads hit the pillow at night they know deep down W8 was an abomination that continues to set MS back to this day.
  • The only features I miss from Windows 8 is the search function (it craps all over Windows 10) and the OneDrive implementation (which also demolishes what Windows 10 offers).
  • People don't like change, simple. It's why people will constantly complain about their job but do nothing about it, change is scary.
  • Not unless if Live Tiles or if its evolved into Widgets and allows to pin it on your Desktop, which is always visible until a window is covering it. There was an opportunity, but didn't seem to explore it or at least we don't know if they did.
  • Please take your condescension elsewhere, especially when you clearly have no idea what you're talking about. Live tiles don't make sense in Windows 10 because the Start Menu is used as an app launcher. No one is going to open the Start Menu and wait for the tiles to flip around to get any insight, this isn't Win