Windows 10 Redstone 2017: Office integration, Working Sets and more

Now that Windows 10 'Redstone 1' Anniversary Update development is well out of the way, Microsoft can start focusing on what it wants included within the next set of updates planned for Windows 10, and first up is Redstone 2. We've been hearing for a while now that Microsoft wants to focus on productivity improvements with Windows 10 in 2017, so it's time to shed some light on what that means. 

Now before we go any further, I want to stress that these plans are in very early conceptual stages, so obviously things can (and likely will) change between now and whenever Microsoft feels ready to push these new features. It's not clear if these features are pegged for Redstone 2, Redstone 3 or some other release planned later down the line, as it's just too early to tell. According to my contacts, Microsoft is still drawing out these ideas, seeing what might or might not stick. Also, the images you see in this post are conceptual images from internal documents, meaning UI's are not final and things will likely change.

Office Hub 

Microsoft is looking at ways to better integrate Office 365 into Windows, with internal documents and concepts suggesting the company is looking at introducing a new Office Hub that gives users easy access to all your Office documents, emails, calendar events and apps, and keeps you updated with what others are doing within your shared documents via OneDrive and SharePoint via an Office 365 Stream. 

Current internal concepts are still experimenting with where an Office Hub could potentially live. One area is within Cortana, being accessible via the Cortana hamburger menu. Another potential area is within the Action Center, as the Action Center is designed to keep you up to date with on-goings from specific apps.

A more interesting placement for the Office Hub would be it's own hub area on the taskbar, that opens up into a Cortana-like UI. This method would keep it in sync with both Cortana and Start Menu, providing a familiar interface for the user to understand. An Office icon would be placed right next to Cortana, similar to the Task View button, which when clicked would open the Hub much like how the Cortana UI does, even making the Cortana search bar turn to an "Office-orange" color that lets the user know they are in the Office Hub.

Along with the Office Hub, Microsoft is also looking at improving search by bringing more services into the Cortana and File Explorer search experiences. For example, the user would be able to use search terms like "emails from this week", and have Cortana pull in emails from Outlook, Exchange and more from the last week.

Office integration doesn't end there, however. Microsoft is also looking at ways of making Office contextual, as well as making it easier for users to work within Office without being distracted with a feature called "Working Sets".

Working Sets

With "Working Sets", Microsoft is looking at contextually bringing Office to the forefront of Windows by introducing new collaboration tools and Office integrations with Cortana, Action Center and even Edge. Starting with the collaboration tools, a new feature called "Working Sets" will help organize files and find documents, people, reference material and more under one 'set', giving the user easy access to all items related to an individual task or project. 

These 'sets' can then be pinned to the Start Menu and task bar, giving users easy access to entire projects. Right-clicking a set pinned to the taskbar will give you a jump list that lists all the files and documents that is part of that project, which would make jumping to a certain document almost instantaneous when needed.  

Pinning a set to Start would give you Live Tile updates on documents which have been updated since you were away, and launching this tile would bring you back to whatever you were working on previously. 

Furthermore, with enhanced Cortana integration, she'll know exactly what you need when you need it, and float up on screen when you're working in a set with related files for you to use. Cortana will also gain new commands such as "Hold my calls", which would turn off all notifications, including email, messages and of course phone calls for 1 hour, minimizing distractions when working within Office. 

Working Sets can also hook into Action Center too that show recent activity on documents that are being shared with other users, allowing you to jump in at any time and make your own changes or comment on changes that have already been made by others.

A little bit of OneClip

Microsoft is clearly interested in bringing Office 365 and Windows 10 closer together at some point in the future, which is great news for those who are actively using Office and Windows 10 daily at work or at home. In fact, Microsoft knows that a lot of users do use Office at work and at home, and have been working on ways to make sharing data between devices even easier with OneClip.

OneClip isn't dead, and we've got more to share on this front soon. Again, all features talked about in this post are still in very early conceptualizing and planning stages, so things can easily change. In the meantime however, let us know below what you think of the potential of an Office Hub being integrated directly into 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.

84 Comments
  • These are the kinds of features I could do without, conceptually speaking. Adding a hub to the taskbar or pushing more into Cortana adds bloat to the core of Windows. Hopefully they make it a simple app which can be uninstalled and uses the features and APIs already in place to fulfill these ideas. Keep things optional and out of the OS.
  • I hope it comes in the way of a UWP app. I love the idea of having a central hub for all my Office documents and OneNotes with live tiles, but I can understand not everybody wants this if they don't use it.
  • No, it really doesn't. All of these things are separate from OneCore. More important they add to the value of Windows overall... even if it's not useful to you as a consumer, it's valuable to working employees who have long craved for ways to better organize their projects.
  • Except OneCore isn't the only thing installed on my personal computer, Windows 10 is. If this add another background service, an extra 15MB of memory use to Cortana even when off, or more menus to shuffle through I will be against it. It should be a store app that does the same thing and gives notifications through the action center.
  • As long as it can be turned off, for instance if you don't have a 365 subscription and don't want one then I would much rather prefer deep integration rather than an app. I would prefer a separate hub rather than just lumped into Cortana but I'd also want Cortana to be able to surface all of that same information and be able to perform all the same functions, that way having the dedicated hub is more like just filtering Cortana to office only without needing to use the hamburger menu.
  • It could (and should) be integrated in the office suite rather than windows itself. That way, if you don't have office installed (or 365 subscription), the hub wouldn't be there. Unless microsoft plans to fully integrate office with windows.
  • I actually want this integration. its extremely helpful to me. If you don't want it, you can just disable it.
  • For companies and business, this seems extremely helpful in increasing productivity for users. Obv they should allow consumers who don't need this kind of thing, the ability to turn it off.
  • I don't see how this adds bloat. And I'm 100% sure that this is totally optional. Since not everybody uses Office apps. Just like you can hide Cortana you will be able to disable this.
  • That is why they do refactoring of OneCore... You set to complain about every update and it's only on RS2...
  • The natural evolution of Office-OS level integration with Windows.
  • I need working sets in my life
  • Same this would be fantastic
  • Working sets as holograms?
  • Is clippy back from the graveyeard? is he being renamed OneClip?
  • Yeah, seriously I thought Hubs were supposed to be dead...
  • Now i want an xbox hub. I'd be great if you could have like productivity hubs that you could customize yourself
  • Yes! This is a great idea! Feedback it, and I'll upvote!
  • Hubs? That sounds like a great idea! Lets bring that innovation to Windows phones! ;)
  • I like the idea
  • The return of the hub. I like it.
  • We've gone full circle.
  • Come on MSFT.Don't s*** me with all your product integrations on my PC. If i want then it has to come with your crappy c2r installers not with OS.And for any one trying to jump on me I have an existing office 365 subscription which I mostly use huge formatting.other than that google docs is superior fir basic functionality.(free,offline usage)
  • Windows is about productivity. This new is huge for people who do work on their PC for companies and teams. It's a big deal.
  • Just like you can get rid of Cortana in the taskbar by right clicking, I'm sure you will be able to get rid of this. So if you don't like it you have 2 options. 1.) Don't use it. 2. Get a new OS. Man life is easy.
  • Yea i can completely disable it from registry settings just like Cortana which cant be disabled after anniversary update. Switching OS may be an answer to some extent, but its useless when 22000$ software's work only on windows machines.
  • Next time start with the part where google docs is superior so I can stop reading bs.
  • ^this
  • Stop being a delusional fanboy.didn't you read I stated google docs is better for basic functionality(free,offline,collaborate,text formatting,insert images etc) not full blown document formatting.
  • The list of advantages stops after free... The fact you mention offline usage just strengthens the bs call because office 365 comes with offline installs of word, Excel, PowerPoint, outlook and what not else. Collaborative work? How about working with 5 people in the same document at the same time? How's that for productivity? And that's not just a gimmick but stuff people actually use a lot. Oh and good morning btw.
  • Google docs works offline,plus it also has collaborative features for free.
  • How do the office apps not work offline? You say it's an advantage from google docs while office has the same. Anyway,I like office better than Google docs and in the end you must use the tools you feel most comfortable with.
  • I compared the free versions of office and google docs here are free ones and for desktop pc and notebooks which have 10+inch screen size ,not 8 inch tablets.
  • Just FYI, office is also free online.
  • Yea,not mocking ms office but google docs is free and can be used offline with chrome extensions which isn't possible with office
  • Google Docs is inferior in virtually every way compared with Microsoft Office. The only exceptions -- some more functions in the free edition (but a lot of Office also available for free online) and some of the collaborative functions work better in Google Docs. But that's like saying a $10 is better than $1,000 because it's easier to fit in your pocket. Or to be more topical, it's like comparing Notepad to Word. Both can hold text, but one actually gives you tools to get work done. There is no comparison in terms of functionality -- Office is hands down far, far superior.
  • savage
  • good for you. If you don't want it, you don't have to use it and you can just disable it.
  • This kind of thing is an employee dream come true. Great ways to get faster access to the stuff we need to get or work done without having to jump into multiple apps to find them! I look forward to the return of hubs if they come in ways like this!
  • Good plan to go all in with Cortana which is available in just few markets. Retrenchment killed UWP but more is needed to finalize Mastermind master plan.
  • You were stuck under your rock when Cortana wasn't region based anymore... Using Cortana in Belgium with proper region settings.
  • Nice concept!
  • YES To this all the way! Hopefully this will give us the option to make OneNote 2016 integrated with windows over the weaker OneNote app.
  • I love the concept. The idea of "working sets" sounds very cool and potentially very useful - especially if it is a multi-media project! But I would also agree that this should be implemented as a "super app" something to which the user has to grant special and granular permissions to be able to draw all such inputs from the various parts Windows and Office.
  • Indeed, this is a cool idea to have. I'd like actionable live tiles* that provide similar functionality. It would be cool if there was native support in Windows 10 for building these super-charged "jump list" hubs in any UWP app. Hopefully this materializes. Eagerly awaiting BUILD 2017. * Definitions of "actionable live tiles" may vary. :)
  • When I think about what would make me more productive, a big part of that is a Mail app with, you know, features. Like search that works quickly and reliably and has an advanced view. And categories. And add ins. And syncs flagged status across devices. I know Mail is supposed to be more light weight than outlook, but I want something that's useful while maintaining the benefits of UWP.
  • Search works pretty quickly and reliably for me. What do you mean by "advanced view"? When you say categories, do you mean like tags? Otherwise folders provide the same functionality as categories. I personally never used tags (even in gmail), but I understand how it can be useful. Not sure what you mean by "ins.", could you elaborate? When I flag an email on one device, it does sync across my other devices too. Unless you mean something else by syncing flagged status?   In my opinion, the mail app works great as a light weight and basic email app. Though, I guess everyone has their own definition of what are the "basic features" an app should have. As you said, outlook is for people who need more advanced features, but it would definitely be nice to have a UWP outlook app for more advanced users. I use the desktop outlook application on my main computer as I do enjoy the more advanced features, but I'm good with the mail app for being on the go. On a side note, I do hope the online calendar and calendar app get search functionality though!
  • Advanced search is something that most email clients provide when the basic search isn't specific enough. It allows you to search certain fields, certain dates, attachment status, etc. Categories refers to Outlook categories. Not really the same as folders, which are separate copies of a message. In outlook for desktop with an exchange account, I can assign multiple categories to the same message and it will be color coded (and searchable) accordingly. For flag status, I think (not sure) it will only sync across devices properly if it's an outlook.com account, not Gmail. Also, flagging is a good start, but it really needs reminders along with it.
    Add-ins are Outlook.com tools which are a different topic.
  • oh, duh! re the advanced search. Not sure why I didn't make that connection there. I can see that being useful even in a more basic mail app. Ah yes I'm looking in my desktop outlook now and see the categories function, clearly something I don't use hah. But yeah same idea as tagging.  Ah, I'm not sure about the flagging across non-outlook.com accounts either. I tried it on a separate work gmail account I have, but it doesn't appear to be syncing immediately and hitting the sync button manually didn't seem to sync the flag. I'll wait a bit to see if it syncs on its own. Yeah I agree, it would be nice to have reminders/deadline dates for the flags too. Ohh add-ins, I was looking at the word add separately from "ins". I feel like add-ins are definitely more for "advanced users" though.   Again to reiterate, I do hope they will make a UWP mail app for advanced users.
  • A number of people have looked at the new Outlook.com experience (which to be clear I don't have yet) and have said it looks exactly like what the Mail app should have been from the beginning. That's certainly my feeling.
  • I don't have the new outlook.com experience either. I guess I will see for myself when I get it to see how I feel.
  • It looks like Microsoft is finally thinking about a desktop Office app launcher. I should hurry up on supporting Office 2013/2016 in mine.
  • This looks cool. But I'm seeing something bigger in my head. Add a UWP feature that would not only allow apps to implement live tiles, actionable notifications, etc. but also a little "hub UI" like Cortana has and is shown here. Users could then simply pin the app to the taskbar and voila! I think this would be especially useful with apps like Kopy and Skype. It could maybe be activated when the user hovers over the icon? With the option to turn that off, of course; preferably on app level, but also on the OS level like live tiles and notifications. Just my two cents... Off to do a mockup for Feedback :P.
  • Yeah
  • For interest's sake, here's my first mockup of what I'm thinking of. http://i.imgur.com/4oBHqA9.png
  • Why can't Cortana look this good? Hello dark theme on mobile please!!!
  • Working sets seem to be a modern versions of Microsoft Binder which was removed back in XP days. its return is welcomed