Skip to main content

Microsoft is working on a new design language for Windows 10 codenamed Project NEON

Microsoft has made several adjustments to its design language over the last few years, starting with Windows 8 and evolving into what we now know as "Microsoft Design Language 2" or MDL2 in Windows 10. With MDL2 being the current design language used throughout Windows 10, Microsoft has plans to begin using a much more streamlined design language with Redstone 3, codenamed Project NEON.

A Metro 2.0?

Cassim Ketfi at Numerama.com confirms our information and has heard Project NEON called "basically Metro 2". That designation refers to the first Metro design language (née Modern) that harkens to Windows Media Center up through Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8.

Microsoft's Metro was a strict codified theory about modern design language

Microsoft's Metro was a strict codified theory about modern design language

Metro was the defining look of the Windows Phone OS with strict principles and guidelines. It also kicked off the design movement of flat, chrome-less design focused on simplicity that even iOS and Android now mimic.

Per our sources, Project NEON has been in the works for over a year internally at Microsoft. It builds upon the design language introduced with Windows 10, with its simple and clean interfaces, but adds some much-needed flair to the UI that the current design language just lacks.

Details are still scarce, but we hear some of the new designs in the plans include adding more animations and transitions, with the overall goal of making the UI very fluid and "beautiful" compared to the current, almost static UI that is MDL2. One source familiar with Microsoft's plans described NEON as "Very fluid, lots of motion and nice transitions."

Other things we've heard include app-elements being able to "escape" the borders of a window making for a much more unique experience.

Update: Some more information about NEON reveals that it serves as a bridge between holographic and augmented reality (AR) and the desktop environment. It's a "UI that transports across devices" with a UX that maps to the physical world. It uses textures, 3D models, lighting and more.

We're still digging for more info regarding what other new improvements are in the works, but from what we've gathered so far, Microsoft is interested in making the UI in Windows 10 far richer, which is excellent news.

For those who like MDL2, don't worry, Project NEON intends to build upon the current design language rather than replace it entirely. This new design language will be a natural evolution to the UI rather than a complete redesign like the transition from Windows 8 to Windows 10. Developers building apps with MDL2 in mind won't have their apps look out of place when Project NEON arrives, but will, of course, have the option to add new design language elements if they wish.

Microsoft also wants to clean up the so-called inconsistencies that MDL2 possesses. As it currently stands, developers can build apps that feature their own context menus, app bars, hamburger menu designs and more, causing for some odd inconsistencies throughout the operating system. Project NEON aims to clean all this up by providing developers with clear and consistent guidelines when designing their apps.

Timeline

Internal plans appear to suggest that the bulk of this new design language will start showing up with Redstone 3 in the early Fall of 2017, but Insiders will likely start seeing these new changes a lot sooner, as Insiders are supposed to start receiving RS3 builds in April-May. There is also a reasonable chance we may see some NEON bits begin to appear in Redstone 2 in early 2017.

Microsoft will continue working on Project NEON throughout Redstone 3's development cycle and leading into Redstone 4 in 2018, where 3rd-party developers will also be able to take advantage of the new design language.

Microsoft has a lot in the pipeline for Windows 10 over the next 18 months, with Redstone 3 seemingly turning out to be a pretty big update for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and Xbox One.

Stay tuned at Windows Central for more scoops regarding upcoming releases of Windows 10!

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.

239 Comments
  • you gotta be kidding
  • I'll put you down for not wanting smoother transitions, animations and adding some polish to Windows 10.
  • As long as they do not cause delays, I am ok. But if they do, I will head into the feedback hub.
  • "apps being able to "escape" the border of a window" Is that like chatheads on android?
  • TBH, it's a bit unclear. We'll learn more in the coming months.
  • Why the thumbs down on this comment? Seriously, explain please?
  • The comments on up/down votes humor me greatly.
    glad I don't see them on my 950 app. Who cares about them that much to look for them and even complain?
    it's your opinion, not everyone will love it, no big deal man.
  • Heck you talking about?
    I see them fine on mine.
    Simply reading in a comment section, inherently the purpose of the section, is quite different than searching for something to complain about.. Unless you struggle with reading comprehension, with comprehension being something am very adept in.
    Where in my comment or the corresponding comment did anyone leave an opinionated statement?
    You've got to be deemed as a clown on this site. Your comment is so mistakenly out of place, I seriously question it's relevance.
  • Cool story bro, 950 win10. shows reply. If I have replied it shows edit or delete.
    Mauxiis ignore my comment since it sends you on a tirade.
    You and mister burns are a couple mimes
  • Clown
  • You are using the WP 8 app I assume?
  • No. You've assumed incorrectly
  • Not you, 707wpfan who can't see votes. This was the older app's comments that displayed like this.
  • Yes, you are correct. I'm confident 707wpfan is a clown
  • @707wpfan, it's no different than leaving a comment/replying to it. One could leave a comment saying, "So you want them to NOT evolve and keep a design language that could get stale and left behind? Should they not be evolving and ahead of the curve? Is technology so stagnant that a new design language is unnecessary? Did you even consider why this is important and needed? I think you just wanted something negative or ignorant to say!" Conversely, one could have 'signified' sentiments as such by just pressing the down vote icon. Why up vote? Well, if they supported his statement, agreed, supported, was going to say the same thing, etc., then... The press the up vote button... I mean... The ability to express your reaction exists EVERYWHERE: "like" (Facebook), "love" (Twitter), "+1" (Google), applause (real life), booing (real life), etc. Why is this continually a question of Windows Central?! Like... Get over it!!! Just ignore it if it zaps all life out of you. *exhale* Now, can we focus on the article(s)?
  • Is this response to me or 707wpfan?
  • Affirmative.
  • Yea lol the first comment was pretty vague idk what was so bad they had to downvote for lol
  • Lol and then start downvoting me because I didn't understand the downvoting of a very relevant question that the person asked. Clowns here in this site love to honk their noses.
  • yea some Winkids are pretty sensitive about Win10 so anything that questions it they downvote. They'll probably downvote this too.
  • i would also think about thinks like the widgets in vista or win7 maybe... probably the quicknotes app built in win10 is already based on sth like it...? Anyway I am looking forward to it since it means much greater flexibility for developers. but still I wonder how it could look like on mobile... (yes I am still thinking about win10 mobile :D )
  • Yes, this border "escaping" is the only thing here that gives me pause. I'm all for the rest of it, but weirdly shaped Windows have always bothered the hell out of me. I remember a lot of motherboard utilities used to have goofy, non square borders.
  • I dont think the "escaping means we have irregular shaped windows, based on the article as interpret is the UI element as it animates may escape beyond its parent window container giving a sense of depth and layers. Especially the statement "it serves as a bridge between holographic AR and VR and desktop environment, which sounds like an inspiration from HoloLens UI in a single perspective 2.5D of a desktop. The elements flying away from its window container concept would be even trace from Metro UX of Windows Phone OS. Remember the days when you open the app and instead of seeing a single rectangle of that app just zooms in, on WP every UI element such as list animates like a turnstile? That philosophy of animations looks like those UI elements are not "contained inside of an app", the elements just flies in and out seamlessly as if ots floating on your display. So I dont really think we will have irregular shaped windows based om that statement. Irregular shaped windows are not that practical for the most cases or at all. Not to mention that sounds already too drastic and revolutionary.
  • Oh god MSI comes onto mind
  • You guys never used any skins for Winamp? :P
  • Ha! I didn't even use winamp, It's skin feature was always really cool to me but I was content with the rainbow slider in WMP (2lazy2install)
  • Ah, yeah I got ya. :) I was brought down into the skin-addiction before ever considering WMP. :/
  • Maybe. Groove music maker had elements popping out of windows too.
  • I always had this idea that after flat design it will be flat design + lightning effects. This neon name could actually be that. I imagine glowing effects, motion effects, like a light bulb moving across lines, other lightning and shadow effects. But still very flat.
  • that sounds pretty cool.
  • Basically it will be something akin to HoloLens UI but without 3D perspective. Though frankly I personally dont want to go back with too fancy lighting reflections like from AERO. Those were nice but we've been using AERO for very long time and it started to get stale. Its way too fancy for fancy sake and tends to cause visual distraction which contradicts on what Metro philosophy was or why we went to flat-design (WP Metro were in the extreme flat though). The reflections are fin e on HoloLens since it meant to blend better on real-world environment. On 2D displays like we use are in their own environment and their "flatness" make sense which feels 'aunthentic' for what it is that UI feels like its baked to the glass of our displays, rather than pretending to be real objects. Shadows though are fine since its a visual necessity for desktop environment where stacked windows are its nature. The absence of shadows on desktop that use flat-design isn't always ideal.
  • Any hope for interactive tiles. Pls just let me know. Interactive tiles are the reason why started following MS on WC man;")
  • This is what I also want to know if how much progress they got on this. Interactive Live Tile are much needed evolution for Live Tiles since its introduction. It will literally make Live Tiles super useful than just being glancable information dashboard only.
  • There was a video from MS with it fully working on 8.1. Not sure what it takes so long :D
  • I know the video but it was a concept from Microsoft Research years ago during Windows 8.1 era.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEkIbUWzkLU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGMEXtPRT_I https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUfMszCJSwI There was an update about that last year. It only confirms they are "still in development" which is rather concerning since it's almost 2017 and there is no hints about it so far on its progress or if was being killed again. :/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WWVZw8H_LQ Maybe they are having an issue how it will work on smaller display like on smartphones. But, there is a way for that to interact and just like how the Microsoft Research demoed, it doesn't have to make all Live Tiles interactive at all times. It can be manually triggered by the user with gesture (can be a new hardware requirement) or something already exist and just replace the current Tap-and-Hold on Start screen. which I think would be the best approach.
  • It sure will show up soon, I think this will be their most valued weapon when they wanna sell their future surface phone
  • After many days Microsoft has made "both" consumers and Enterprise guys happy about about something....i mean ...who doesn't like new UI
  • Everyone who's stuck in the w7 era. I rather liked w8-8.1 myself.
  • Me too.  8 was way better than 7
  • I liked Windows 7 because of the aero effect. But upgrading to windows 8, the new design was stunning
  • I actually liked 8 myself. Even using a mouse and not touchpad or screen.
  • My memories are still sweet when I think about how Vista looked. It was finally a nice, clean UI after the cartoonish one of XP. Only if it performed better :D Win 7 was a bit too transparent for me, but it grew on me, mostly because I loved the ability to pin apps to the taskbar. After this, I avoided Windows 8, because of the tile UI. But after I got tired of android and bought my Lumia 535, I felt in love with live tiles, and see Windows 8 as a step forward rather than backwards now. And Windows 10... It's beautiful since the day it came out, at least I think so. So every new Windows was a step forward in my eyes, and I'm looking forward to what neon brings to the table. So long story short, those guys should stop living in the past :D
  • I remember I fell in love with Windows with Vista, it was gorgeous, fun, shining all the time for you, I loved it's type of glass, and the Windows Media Center.. I don't get still why they got rid of such great ideas in Seven.
  • Pre Windows 8 I usually skinned my Windows to look like OSX, but, when Windows 8 came... I've never installed an icon pack.. And Since I upgraded to Windows 10, I've not even changed my wallpaper from a hero Wallpaper. The OS feels perfect. And for mobile, I was one of those that nagged about the hamburger menu stuff, but, I am really loving it now.
  • Slimchap, Exactly the same as I did. xp/vista/7 all got OSX skins. windows 8 arrived....It was perfect!
  • During late Windows 7 days, I was already using some flat-design skins especially since the introduction of Zune Software. Many DeviantArt community were inspired from Metro, especoally paired with Rainmeter. Its like having Windows 8 before it was announced. :D
  • Yeah I remember that rainmeter skin it was lit
  • I did skins up until W7
  • Oh! What skins?
  • I tried an OSX skin on XP, but I didn't like it, so I searched for another. And after Vista came out, because my PC was too old to run it, I used XP with a Vista skin until I finally installed it :D But never installed skins on any other Windows.
  • Haha! I also did that back then on XP! I don't remember what software tweaks I used but I manage to make the menubar separate from their parent window and have it on top just like on OS X. Some of my friends even thought I was using a Mac. :P During the early introduction to Vista, I was also customizing my XP to look and feel like Vista, even with blur effect. That last until I built a new PC then install Vista on it. Fortunately, I didn't experience the issues like what most people thought or experience about Vista. It does feels bit slow to startup but actual performance when actually using the PC was way better than my old XP machine since of course better specs, but not monstrous. I did get BSOD but that was about 3 in total, 2 of which because of my older printer. Heck, I experience more crashes on Windows 7.
  • 8 was so fluid and well polished its a shame the average user was too stupid to figure out where the start button was hidden.
  • Yeah, we would still be using the MS DOS green screen with original commenters who think "they gotta be kidding."
  • And you gather that how? Lol
  • getting hyped already.
  • Are they rewriting Skype for a third or thourth time too ?
  • I don't see how rewriting a program has anything to do with improving upon a design language.
  • Because app design follows the design language.
  • but we're not talking about the app design, at least to me the comment implies rewriting the program as Zac Bowden responded.
  • Did you see the skype UI on Win7, then Win8, then Win10??? In Microsoft Language=UI
  • What's rewriting got to do with anything? They aren't rewriting the design language, they're further developing it. It's called development for a reason
  • Does this hold water? http://www.trendbase.org/2016/11/25/microsoft-surface-phone-2017-release...
  • Off-topic and no. Please stick to the article here, thank you.
  • Is this for W10 Mobile too?
  • It's Windows 10, it's all the same now. Some day you will all grasp this concept ;)
  • I personally get it, but Microsoft really doesn't help us grasping it with some things working differently between Desktop and Mobile, like lack of support for transparent live tiles in Desktop Start Menu/Screen and Sections/Headers and context menus in the Mobile one. Hopefully we'll see more feature consistency between the two of them by the end of next year.
  • That's the whole point of having a consistent style guide, these sort of things will come together. However there will have to be differences due to different hardware but they should be less different. They should have done this a lot earlier but I think they were caught off guard by the hate for Windows 8
  • Almost everything is consistent, save the start screen.
  • Lol
  • i will still argue it's not since a lot of apps are not available on mobile hence mobile is not the same as windows 10
  • Well, honestly MS sometimes does differentiate the two themselves, so you can't really blame them too much.
  • People like to preach about how it's "all the same now", but the fact that there are apps and features on Windows 10 PC that aren't on Windows 10 Mobile, and vice-versa, suggests otherwise.
  • I wouldn't be so quick to chastise your readers - who are leaving in droves as it is.
  • They are leaving in droves? Last time I looked WC was growing each month.
  • Look again.
  • Just did, still growing.
  • They are not leaving in droves. If you are speaking of the 1% of phone users, it is not quite damaging our bottom line lol. Posting off topic comments is a violation of ToS. I politely reminded the person that the comment was off topic and answered their question and yet you feel free to chastise me adding in some false information as well. Can't say I'm impressed.
  • But why add to it? You know you have a history of comments in poor taste. I recall, after you were called out by another tech site, you settled down a bit after that, but here we are again.
  • Hey daniel, just forgive that fellow! U and ur team are doing a gr8 job, dont get distracted by the negativity. Haters gonna hate, progress must continue. All the best!!
  • Yeah, it's all the same now... for instance Windows 10 for PC has had app reset for a long time... Windows 10 Mobile will get it this spring... but yeah... it's all the same now... ​perhaps someday we will all grasp that two things can be very different and out of sync and yet be the same... but hey thanks for the condescenion.  
  • Metro was beautiful and fluid. Sure, it was not perfect, but instead of improving upon it MS dumbed it down into MDL2. Let's hope MS come to their senses and make project Neon into the true successor of Metro that we should have got.
  • The design in Windows 10 is far, far better than what Windows 8 had to offer, with its square buttons and whatnot.
  • You are crazy. W10 is an inconsistent, ugly, mess.
  • It's inconsistent, yes, but ugly and messy? No, I don't think so. The UI elements are sharp and clean, with thin borders and proper colors. Windows 8 had such thick-lined elements and the colors were limited to a select few hues. Believe me, Windows 10's design is better. Have you tried going back to 8 after using 10? It's torture.
  • Agree in terms of Windows 8.X in several cases, though the issue was more of the disconnect of design and feel between Desktop and the Metro/Modern environment that it clearly shows how the teams don't communicate with single cohesive design language. The desktop of Windows 8 is basically was a lazy flattened Windows 7 UI, it didn't exactly make it cohesive to Metro Design Language at all. Metro was best represented by Windows Phone and Zune. Zune Software should've been a representation of how Metro translated to larger screen such as for tablets and desktop, especially on windowed environment. Windows 10 design issue is really on the lack of cohesion and vague vision of what its must be. It's a "designed by committe" approach rather than from a talented designer that applied design and aesthetic technicalities. This what destroys Microsoft "Design Language" because of lack of cohesion and lack of attention-to-details. Though at least Windows 10 is at least solved the two-face disjoint of desktop and new design. They just really need to agree in a single cohesive philosophy and better design aesthetic, which Metro was at least able to achieve. Metro wasn't perfect, but it was at least cohesive and thought-out down to attention-to-detail even only trained eye can sense. Hopefully this Project Neon (I hope this will be an official name) will have the best of both worlds from MDL more familiar design (which is not too alienating as Metro was) but with Metro philosophy and cohesion.
  • The issue was Microsoft and other app makers barely followed Metro guidelines when it came to Windows 8. I had an Xbox 360, a Windows Phone 7 and a Windows Phone 8 device, and I was absolutely befuddled as to how Window 8 came to be based off of Windows Phone and Xbox 360 and yet barely looked like it and barely functioned like it. On Windows 10 I'm still confused as to why XP and Vista interfaces permeate through the OS.
  • Metro and Windows Phone were designed by a different team then the one working on Windows 8 which is why they varied. As to why old interfaces persists is because of customers.
  • If you can call out of reach hamburgers and inconsistent menus design then you'd be right.
  • Get over it
  • The hamburger is bad on every platform due to the location being on the top left corner. Also the pivot screen approach is better on mobile. The difference in using Bing on W8 is so much faster than on W10 because you just swipe verses pressing the Windows button to bring the screen down, then pressing the desired category.
  • Even Apple is cracking down on the hamburger menu its like ms was caught with their pants down
  • Hamburger menu is bad design, period. It just shunts a horizontal menu to vertical and seems like it was created and used by developers that disdain touch, since it apes WIMP.
  • I kind of winder if they will at least remove it from the start menu soon. The hamburger literally serves no purpose in start other than showing the names of icons. There must be a better way
  • Sure, the desktop environment has improved on Win10, but "Tablet Mode" is still a long way from matching Win8.1. Lack of gestures, buttons too small to easily touch, non removable taskbar on the start screen with redundant buttons. It's almost as if they just built Win10 for desktop and at the last moment thought: "Oh, this is supposed run on touch devices too? Better add a Tablet-Mode then, which really is just a Start-menu blown up to cover the whole screen." Please just give us back the swipe-to-go-back action and give us the option to turn off the task bar entirely!
  • Lmao no, get some taste
  • I remember articles saying Microsoft purposely made MDL2 familiar with design elements from Android and iOS to make switching easier for the consumer. Sure it's a little messy now but they obviously know that from our feedback and their own usage of the OS. Changes are coming. Good ones.
  • MDL2 has more to do with "Metro" than the parts Ios/Android copied. The thing they couldn't get people to appreciate was the lack of a hamburger menu.
  • I also remember this statement something like this. It sure not a bad goal and that wasn't really the problem there, the issue was they went follow too much from Android nor iOS even their bad sides, not just good sides. Also the issue is because they didn't make it well consistent and not as well thought as Metro and Aero was. It feels like a rush job just to make Windows 10 looks different ad sake of addressing previous issues while unintentionally making new issues that wasn't present or avoided before. Gladly with this news, good changes is finally coming. Hopefully that this will be a well thought one and not just trying to show us that they are doing something. Also Neon sounds cool, it now reminds me of Tron.
  • Apple didn't do this with macOS though, and people still switched.  All they changed was keyboard commands.  Samsung didn't do this with Galaxy devices, and people still switched from iOS.  All they changed was the look of the device. So the idea that it was necessary to change the interface just doesn't hold water, especially since it didn't do anything to attract developers. The things developers have been constantly requesting Microsoft to change they have steadfastly refused to do, and it has always had to do with OS function and ability, and nothing to do with design. App developers can make their apps look however they want, as this article details.
  • Who cares about users? It's all about the journalists, the bloggers, the influencers. Most of them use a system for two hours to write something like a review. And in two hours you usually don't catch up with a big change. So they pleased the journalists to influence the weak. And it worked.
  • I do agree that Metro looked better, but that's only because I used it for 4 years before heading to Windows 10. Within no time, I'll be loving the Windows 10 Design.
  • I read an article yesterday somewhere saying that live cubes are in the works. That would be interesting to see.
  • Url or it didn't happen
  • He's talking about this concept: https://www.behance.net/gallery/45642165/Windows-10-Mobile-Parallel reddit link: https://www.reddit.com/r/windowsphone/comments/5eq9ox/windows_10_mobile_...
  • Lol "or it didn't happen"
  • Lol !!!
  • I