Windows 10 design refresh outed in Project NEON concept screenshots

Project NEON is an evolution of the current Windows 10 design language, MDL2, and is intended to bridge the aesthetic gaps between traditional Windows and future paradigms, such as AR holograms.

MSPoweruser has obtained a couple of concept shots detailing how Project Neon will alter Groove Music and Mail & Calendar, both of which already use transparent elements which will be more prevalent among apps designed with Project NEON conventions in mind.

Project Neon (MSPoweruser.com)

Project NEON will make heavy use of animated transparent blurring effects that are already present in Microsoft Groove, the Start Menu, and the Action Center. As you can see above, apps designed with Project NEON conventions will feature transparent menus that are reminiscent, at least superficially, of the way HoloLens' holograms sit translucently on top of the real world.

MSPoweruser reports that this effect is being branded as "Acrylic" by Microsoft, and developers will be able to use the effect to blur elements within their apps, in addition to the app itself.

NEON also appears to give interactive elements a new coat of paint, dropping the solid square borders for a glowing outline that follows your cursor, similarly to the way HoloLens apps gently feedback the position of your finger when selecting menu items. See the video below for an example of this in action.

It's highly likely we'll see NEON make its full debut at Build 2017 which kicks off on May 10th.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

98 Comments
  • RS3 and RS4 will be exciting times
  • I was going to ask you if you could confirm that these were genuine internal concepts. Thanks. :)
  • Looks Great
  • I really like it. Hoping it makes its way to mobile and not only desktop.
  • Me too. Long live aero!
  • I had the same thought! Hope there is the option for a bit more color though. All these OS'es, Android especially, have too much gray. It doesn't need to look like a rainbow, but some nice use of accent colors across the background instead of walls of gray would be much nicer.
  • but it doesn't look practical. The waste of space is stupid. Especially in the mail app.
  • I am guessing you should be able to drag and resize the dividers of each section.
  • It's a concept.
  • Early days to say that...!
  • You see waste of space.  Someone else sees deliniation.  If it were closer, someone else would complain it's too close together.   
  • it's not about how close it is. It's just about the waste of space on the top. The spacing between the buttons make sense for touch screens. But the space above them not.
  • In the Groove app demo, it looks fine but in the Outlook demo I can understand what you mean.
  • the demo images could all be in touch mode ... but who knows its early. space will be an issue on non touch but we dont know all the details just yet.
  • I like how it looks, it looks clean ...the way it currently is looks a slight bit cluttered, as everything is to close together. The playlist section in thr current Groove app is a great example. This is one of those things that once this "cleaner" design is applied, it's going to be annoying to look back to the current version.
  • it looks clean and the colors and icons are all neutral to whatever theme or wallpaper you use. That's something Windows 8 sorely lacked.
  • It is an early design primarly focused on HoloLens. It isn't polished for the deskop yet. HoloLens requires those big titlebars.
  • Looks promising, isn't it?
  • Well well, if these are genuine a lot of work still need to be done, but well too early to judge.
  • "..a lot of work still need to be done..."? Like what?  Simplicity is key and I'm digging it.  I hate how everything is separated by lines now, whereas in Windows 8 & Windows Phone, the content didn't need lines to show this was not a part of that.
  • You joking? These look great!
  • Please explain your idea of what you would like to see added to the mockups shown. Thanks. :)
  • the glowing highlight reminds me a lot of wm6.5.1
  • Nice. This reminds me a lot of a mockup that a user on the The Verge 'Microsoft Tribe' forums once made. Glad MS followed his advice! :) Edit: looks like the actual designs he put out are no longer available, but the The Verge article on the mockup still shows a few examples:  http://www.theverge.com/2012/2/25/2824064/incredible-mockup-of-windows-d...   Edit2: here are some more pics from his work: http://www.redmondpie.com/this-mockup-brings-metro-to-the-legacy-desktop...
  • His designs remind me a lot of linux.
  • Does this gui work for microsoft now? His mokups look weirdly on point.
  • I like that you gall hum a GUI :). I was wondering the same. I was actually going to send him a message on the Verge, but it looks like he only made one post. Maybe he was secretly a MS employee testing the community response? /tinfoilhat
  • Aero anyone? Haha jk everything comes back around.
  • This is Aero 2.0 :-)
  • Yeah, and Metro 2.0, and MDL2 2.0 xD Anyway, it looks great ;)
  • What a waste of space
  • It is early concepts = ideas. It will not look like this.
  • if they are real... But it still looks strange. Just take a look at the top of the apps.
  • Yes, concepts.
  • I think the space might be useful for moving and expanding the apps with touch. When some apps go full screen on high-res display it can be difficult to manipulate them.
  • Good point. That's my biggest pet peeve with Edge--stacking the tabs on top makes it difficult to move the window around even with a mouse, let a lone touch. I miss IE's larger top bar.
  • I have a better idea to combat this problem for touch (not mouse though as taht feels weird), imagine there was a invisible border at the top of the Frame, when you "just touch down" it passes through to whatever is underneath (so apps behind can be activated) but when you start dragging after touching down anywhere above the app (like a double border) it will move, simple...? maybe too hard to make people understand i dunno. http://i.imgur.com/ih0zV68.png
  • and why is the space only on the top? And this is clearly in desktop mode. And what is about the users without a high res screen?
  • Because you move windows around by clicking and dragging the title bar at the top of the window? Also, you can still use a touch screen in desktop mode, I do it all the time with my Surface.
  • These apps waste too much space and desktop apps in desktop mode should not assume touch input, IMO. It's part of the reason the ux is caricatured right now. 
  • There are to much space for movement - never had problems with moving apps on SP3 with touch (not in tablet mode). But also not enough for ads, however they might change it xD
  • I think there will be a lot of smaller Windows devices in the 6 - 8 inch range coming out later this year ( I'm not talking about Surface Phone) with really thin bezels that will make good use of this design. If the format from the last few years repeats. Microsoft will launch an aspirational device high end / high price the OEMs will follow with there version of what Microsoft shows.  
  • It looks like a waste becuase the title bar is no more but its too early and im sure with insider feedback it can be revamped personally i love the design direction and would like to see what the explorer window will look like.
  • That UI looking sexy AF!
  • Really glad they are wasting time with stuff like this! Keep up the great work MS!! :(
  •  No worries.  I am sure Microsoft can pick it's nose and scratch it's butt while walking, chewing gum and talking on the phone all at the same time.  
  • What else are UI designers supposed to work on? Keep up the stupid posts!
  • How are they wasting time by looking to improve and evolve their most successful product? Like really, what else should the Windows team be doing instead?
  • Except Microsoft's OS's tend to work themselves out after a few key revisions. Never expect the earlier versions of their OS to look their best, except one would argue that Windows Phone Mango was the peak of aesthetic appeal on their mobile operating systems.
  • Introducing inconsistencies with the window control buttons is not really ideal (minimize, expand, close). Like others have said, hopefully this is a rough design and not the final guidelines.
  • Aero? Plz. This just reminds me of ZUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNE!
  • I just posted the same thing before noticing your comment. That was my first reaction as well.
  • I never thought I would say that... But that actually IS a space wasting design... These edges are too big in my opinion, it just seems like someone was too lazy to make it actually look somehow... I liked big headlines in Windows, a bit bigger everything, simplicity etc... But c'mon, THIS?! The most things, that do this butthurt to me, are three most Windows-ish iconc in the upper right corner -_- am I the only one who sees it??
  • Please normalize those window controls, but other than that, go strong.
  • that is the thing that disturbed me the most too.... Also i like the navbar that windows 10 have, I feel no need to change that already :)
  • Looks like MS is seriously following their Productivity Future Vision
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-tFdreZB94 Surface Pro, Surface Studio and now the UI, all as shown in video. Hope they will do the same with Surface Phone too..
  • Coming from a graphic design background I have to hope we get something close to this. Certainly eye candy.
  • Nice use of negative space. Touch friendly UI. Uses the system accent color in a good way so as not to be too overpowering. Feels like a modern refresh of Aero with a focus on touch UX. Overall, I'm OK with this.
  • why is it touch friendly when you have wasted space on the top but not on the bottom? More room between the buttons (minimize, close and maximize) would be much more touch friendly.
  • It's not perfect. But it's also not finalized and released. As I stated before; Overall, I'm OK with this. If I were in charge of the UI design, I would definitely do some things differently.
  • fonts are small.  It needs to be bigger.
  • I guess there is where you'll have to change your DPI settings. On my Lumia 650, I've dropped the DPI all the way down to the lowest setting, prefer the smaller fonts and other stuff. I think it looks better that way, wish this was the default setting.
  • Aero is back 😆 now apple and google will copy this. Again.
  • I'm more interested in the background wallpaper on both concepts
  • SEXY AF !!! ^_^
  • I'm not sure why, but my first reaction at seeing the screenshots was that it reminds me of the Zune player program which was used to sync with WP7
  • This is looking good, I hope Microsoft makes this change for Office 365 subscribers like me, I'd love to have Word, Excel, Powerpoint with this new UI concept. And best of all is I won't need to upgrade my Windows 10 laptop to use these new UI concepts since Windows 10 is the last Windows version so it will always receive free updates.
  • The empty space worries me. I'm not much for the blur. It sounds like a good idea at first, but when it was only in the taskbar it was only in one place. The blur being in every other app just seems like too much. On Groove, I think the tracking bar should be in the right pane only when the window is big enough. Me, personally, I don't want anything flashy just something practical.
  • beautiful  
  • About time... 2017 might be the year I might actually get into Windows App Development... Let us wait and see :D
  • maybe i will start too...but only if they design controls and other things thoroughly, similar of what apple does(swipe for back, swipe list items for showing item options eg. facebook messenger, etc.). right now, for example, if you want to make your hamburger to open with a swipe, on windows, you are all on your own, since microsoft provides 0 controls defined.
  • I like the Groove look quite a bit but Mail, in this early concept I know, looks like its taken a step backwards. Seems more like the text has just been thrown into a big expanse. Also makes me wonder how the transparencies and flashy animations will work with older hardware.
  • on the one hand i kinda like it a lot. especially i can see a focus on fonts which reminds me somehow about windows phone 7 and zune. on the other hand (i know its early concepts) i am really worried about the wasted space... there is so much space everywhere especially on the top! hope the'll get that fixed.
    And please Microsoft: Don't forget about the file explorer! I expect a fully neonized file explorer when the'll release neon into windows 10 ;)
  • Anyone else notice the taskbar? The smaller UWP icons? Colored UWP Groove Icon, and a white Edge taskbar icon?
  • you can use the smaller icons even now. But I don't think they will make every Icon white. They tried this with the explorer and Edge in the Insider program but they changed it to colourized icons later.
  • Hahahaha I didn't notice that it was a small taskbar
    That explains the date being expanded out
  • Btw, does anyone know what happened to the cool colored Groove, Mail, and Calendar app taskbar icons? Like Groove had a record in it, mail looked like a red-white envelope, and calendar was red and white. Why are they gone?
  • Wonder how this will reflect in the OS too. Hope they clear up all the inconsistences
  • Cool stuff. I like what I see.
  • Too much empty space at the top but I like the direction.
  • Not perfect I'd tweak a few things but I like the direction.
  • Lets be honest every concept for windows 10 looks far better than actual widows. :) It didn't happen that i would say original windows looked better in any way yet!!
  • That looks so awesome!
  • Reminds me of Zune.  http://www.istartedsomething.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/zunenomarket...
  • The Zune UI was so amazing
     
  • Seems like a lot of wasted space.
  • Somehow this looks to me like the blade interface of the new azure portal (specifically the mail app).
  • Omg 😍 It's beautiful. Omg 😍. It's a hit at zune.
  • I don't like this move. At all. Yes, the design is quite cool and looks beautiful, but really, don't they think of the Store? It's a mess already, lots apps still are on WP7/8 pivot/panorama style, and a lot of "modern" Windows 10 apps couldn't have even the simplest design guidelines applied for a living. Making this change will only make devs more lost and they will mess things even more, and in the end we'll have a very unreliable messy Store like google play is. Except, of course, that we'll have only 10% of the apps. They should focus on polishing up what's already there, it looks fine when well applies. Look at Groove, look at Edge. Now look at FBHub. Even some MS apps fail to follow the current design and they want to change it this soon? It's a bad bad move
  • Also, even their tools are not developed enough to give the developers what they need. They changed the nav pane design from solid background to that colored border on the left and didn't give an updated tool to do it. Implementation is a real pain in the ass because you have to mess with the whole definition of the object.
    Also, there's no straight out of the box implementation for the hamburger menu and the nav pane, not that it's
    difficult to do, but such a key design element should be the first thing to be placed on the screen.
  • Better late than never, bro.
  • Like the idea, in fact it's exactly what I've been missing from Windows 7 (Aero), but they definitely need to make much better use of the space like in Windows 7.
  • I love this concept. Windows tends to work itself out on the visual friendliness after a few key revisions, keep up the good work.
  • I hope this means a complete redesign of mobile apps. Most apps already are designed like ****. I mean barely any app works with just one hand anymore, because of the retarded decision of putting the hamburger menu at the top.
  • not enough depth to it. I miss the Zune's 2.5d interface.
  • Thank heavens they're prioritizing UI development.
  • New font as well?
  • Looks like Skype Preview is slowly gaining NEON looks in the latest update.