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Windows 10 'Sets' let users group apps and sites in one window with tabs

Microsoft is planning to extend the familiar tabbed browsing experience found in Edge to apps on Windows 10, giving users the ability to group together related apps and websites under one window.

Microsoft is temporarily calling this new feature "Sets," (so don't get too focused on its current Insider-only name) and it is the result of its internal "Tabbed Shell" project that we exclusively revealed earlier this year.

Sets is a tabbed-app experience in Windows

Sets is a unique take on the tabbed experience, as it allows users to group different apps and websites under one window. For example, a user can have Word, Bing, and Spotify tabbed under the same window, allowing for easy switching between each app or site. The idea is to enable users to easily and conveniently group web content with app content, and when paired with the new "Timeline," allow the user to resume these "Sets" across devices quickly.

Windows 10 'Timeline' is coming to Insiders in the next Fast ring build

Working on a research project, users can open Microsoft Word, then open tabs with Edge for quick access to Wikipedia, PowerPoint for making a slide presentation, and OneNote for collaboration. The whole project gets saved with the document. Reopening the document prompts the user with the previously closed apps (tabs) letting users re-open all the tabs or just some of them. That experience will even happen on your other PCs, as the information is saved to the cloud.

Even games like Minecraft will be able to run Sets. So, for example, a gamer could pause Minecraft, look up some recipes on YouTube, and have OneNote open to save notes on the game all while staying within the Minecraft app.

The value is clearly to address the web browser-centric view of computing, which is becoming increasingly popular as people "live" in their web browsers on PCs. While currently limited to only Windows 10 PCs, the Sets (and even Timeline) feature someday may come to iOS and Android devices, though that would be much further down the road.

Who gets Sets first? And when?

Insiders can expect to see Sets show up in Insider builds over the coming weeks, and it will first roll out as an A/B test.

At first, the Sets feature will be limited to just UWP-based apps, and will later expand to include Win32 programs, including apps like File Explorer and Microsoft Office in early 2018. For Microsoft Office, Windows Insiders will also need to be enrolled in the Office Insider program to participate.

The Sets feature can be turned off if it's something you aren't planning to use. At first, the ability to disable Sets will be global, but later Microsoft plans to add a more granular, app-by-app approach so you can leave Sets on for your Outlook email app, but disable it for Word, for example.

Sets and Timeline are two features that work well together, syncing Sets across devices for easy resuming whenever you switch between devices that are logged into your Microsoft account.

From Microsoft:

The concept behind this experience is to make sure that everything related to your task: relevant web pages, research documents, necessary files, and applications, is connected and available to you in one click. Office, Windows, and Edge become more integrated to create a seamless experience, so you can get back to what's important and be productive, recapturing that moment, saving time – we believe that's the true value of Sets. And with Timeline, it'll be even easier to go back and find the Set you were working on.

Microsoft tells us that it will conduct a "controlled study" on how Insiders use Sets, and over time it will roll out the feature for testing to more Insiders. The company will be keeping a close eye on feedback, as it is not committed to releasing this feature in time for Redstone 4 if feedback isn't good.

Sets will continue to evolve over time, with new features and capabilities. Today's announcement is just the beginning, and it, along with Timeline, Cloud Clipboard and more, should make Windows 10 Redstone 4 a more productive OS.

Zac Bowden
Zac Bowden

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.

91 Comments
  • Isn't this exactly like Virtual Desktops?
  • Its weird, why would i want to do any of that?
  • If you don't want to use then don't others will if they choose...its called options
  • But MSFT developes this useless shait instead of making actual good stuff, like usable onscreen keyboard or mail app that doesn't crash when you try to copy stuff within the email...
  • Mail app is fine, perhaps you need to check for app errors.
  • Chrome OS? Why? Really? Why? Please, please, please stop the madness. Sure, Chrome OS is taking a bite out of Microsoft's education market, but, does Microsoft have to respond by turning their operating system into a glorified web browser? Microsoft really doesn't get its customer base. It is the dominant desktop operating system. It will not remain the dominant desktop operating system if it abandons the desktop paradigm to chase Android and iOS customers, customers who are already locked into those two operating system. Windows desktop users are heavily invested in the desktop paradigm of working, not in the web browser approach. If Microsoft focuses too much on becoming a glorified mobile operating system it will send its desktop customers running into Apple's waiting arms. At this rate, the only desktop operating system left will be Apple's. Even though macOS is now a small part of Apple's portfolio, it's time to buy Apple stock. macOS's fortunes will keep rising if tabbed 'Sets' is the best Microsoft can come up with. Chrome OS? Really!?!
  • Oh, didn't know you were the representative of everyone. Listen, I don't know if I'll find this useful PERSONALLY but I'm willing to try it out. If it's not useful to me then I won't use it. Simple as that.
  • You already know that it's useless? I'd use it. Example: When I'm video editing I can have my video editor, audio editor, hard drive folder, etc., all in one area and I don't have to open them separately? Nice. So "useless" is subjective.
  • i prefer to have my audio editor in a separate window to be honest, I have two monitors, so the video editor can go in one and the audio in another if i worked that way, but to be honest I find that most of the time I do not have the audio editor opened at the same time as the video editor. As for the hard drive folder, most video editors are pretty good at organising files.  
  • What you consider "useless shait", other might find very useful. This feature, for instance, would fit perfectly with how I already use Windows. For me this would be a big improvement. An onscreen keyboard, however, is of zero use to me.
  • It's useless to you or now.  When it's copies on other platform, it's a wonderful features and denies MS started this, blaming them (MS) on unpopular platform.
  • I think this is designed with education and office jobs in mind, though people could obviously make use of it at home/leisure.  I don't know how revolutionary it will feel to me, but in the school setting especially this would be very nice.  One click and BAM--all your apps/pages that you need and have been using previously open all up together instead of having to click and load different things one after another.  One tabbed window open on the workspace may seem insignificant, but I bet after using it until you are acclimated will make clicking icons on the taskbar/start one by one feel clunky and slow and non-intuitive and soooooo 2016, man.  Personally, I can't wait to try it out. 
  • Seems pretty helpful to me. Depends how many things you end up fielding at once, which in my case can be a hectic tonne. Of course, the obviously best place for this feature would be on a phone, especially one with Continuum. Unfortunately MS have decided not to make the most of such things so I guess this feature will simply be sort of handy occasionally rather than a headline feature. So, it nicely fits in with Ol' Nads vision for the company then.
  • I don't agree this would be best on a phone. Yes it'll be useful on mobile but could be handy on a pc as well. What's the harm in making it useful in more than one use case.
  • Nope
  • I was actually thinking this was more limited than a more featured Virtual Desktop experience because of the lack of things like window snapping. A more featured Virtual Desktop experience seems to be for organizing your "workspace" where a tabbed windows experience seems to be more focused on organizing a "project". I haven't actually used this feature, my view is limited.  
  • I don't think it's meant to replace virtual desktops. It can add to it
  • ...without the Timeline capability.
  • IMO, Virtual Desktops lets you create a context on the desktop. This concept lets you create a context that can be shared on your devices. For example: you are a student working on a project at home on your desktop PC, but then you have to leave and go to university. You grab your notebook and run off to school. You go to the library, open your notebook and go back to work on your project. Your apps and documents are there for you read to use in the spot you stopped at. You don't have to find docs in the Cloud, you don't have to open apps and recreate your context. You just resume your work. How good is that?
  • @Rohit Awate. Nope, virtual desktops are completely different as you can different sets of apps open in each of the virtual desktop. For instance I can have one desktop just for research and it's full of open firefox windows, another I can have all my virtual machines suspended, in another I can have a game open.  
  • Tabs for Outlook? Having recently come back to Outlook from the horror that is Notes, tabbed email is the one thing I really miss. If this gives me that then gimmie gimmie gimmie!
  • This is not the tab feature users were looking for! But it is a good feature! Wonder if we can save the sets on the start screen and launch our sets at once! It will be great to open bunch of apps with one click and under one window;")
  • That is a great idea. Can you submit that to the feedback hub?
  • The power of Samsung 😅
  • I was also having trouble yesterday watching Netflix at the same time as browsing / researching. It would be cool to allow the windows to work in tandem so I don't have to have a weird full screen top to bottom window with only a few inches on the side.
  • You can use virtual desktops...
  • As long as this feature doesn't take side by side multitasking into account as part of the tabs feature,, I think its a fundamentally flawed feature from the start. My experience with research I actually compare documents or webtabs of an app or two different apps side by side to be productive, not merely switch between tabs constantly. The latter is counterproductive and annoying in the ling run.
  • I asume you can undock browser tab and move it to a different display or split the display in half, giving you multitasking, and then dock it back before closing the file, or even keeping the connection when you close it. If not, you are right and this is useless on anything larger than 19" and 1080...
  • So Edge is getting new features. Cool. Can it stop being garbage at reliability and stability as well?
  • This is not about Edge 🙄
  • But still, as long as we introducing new features that literally no one is asking for,can we add a feature that makes Edge not suck?
  • Features that literally no one is asking for? Hmmm since when do you speak for everyone?
  • I think he was probably expressing his experience of reading aggregate opinion on forums and the feedback system. I didn't get the impression he was claiming to be an elected representative of the community at all. Are you sure you're not reading more in to his post than intended?
  • for some reason, I lol'ed on your comment
  • Edge works great for me
  • @Azizelh "This is not about Edge" Tabbed 'Sets' is all about Edge. This is a direct response to Chrome OS. No, I'm wrong. This isn't a response to Chrome OS. This is copying Chrome OS. Google has successfully changed the paradigm of certain types of computing to make them heavily browser dependent (I've got 10 tabs with various email and news sites open). Microsoft is now trying to integrate its Windows-only applications into Google's paradigm of the browser and its tabs-can-do-everything paradigm. Microsoft wants to adopt the same approach except make it so that regular "desktop" apps can co-exist with web pages in the same paradigm. Microsoft has tried this before with Internet Explorer and failed and that was when the only other game in town was Apple's Mac OS and then Mac OS X. Things are different now because a large percentage of computing happens on two operating systems that didn't even exist yet when Microsoft last tried this trick in the early 2000's. Internet Explorer was to be the web-based gateway to proprietary Microsoft web technologies which only ran on Microsoft's OS. Mac users couldn't run any of those web pages. Even when Microsoft was 90% of web traffic this approach failed even though it excluded less 10% of users. It's a gimmick. Microsoft is throwing things against the wall and hoping something sticks. Chrome OS is a success because it runs Google Chrome, and because it runs on cheap hardware, not because it's tabbed. Until Edge becomes better than Chrome this tabbed 'Set's nonsense is just that, nonsense.
  • The big selling point to me here is paired with Timeline, which I previously was having a hard time imaging myself using. But I switch between projects a lot. Sometimes I try to put different projects in different virtual desktops on days with lots of switching back and forth, but often that ends up feeling like more hassle than its worth. Now I'm imagining working on something one day which involves Outlook, an Excel file located in a SharePoint library somewhere I'll probably forget, Visual Studio Code, a browser with 6 different tabs, etc., then the next day I can just hit a button even on a different computer to revive all of that and keep going? Pair it with another suggestion here and have a quick launch or Start button to open a set, synchronized across devices. Customer calls asking about something and I can just hit a button to see everything about their project again: Contract document, contact details from Dynamics, their site login page, whatever... That would be extremely useful. The actual tabs part of it is not amazing to me. I want tabs in Windows Explorer and Office apps but I don't really care about tabbing together different apps into one window. I usually am working with multiple screens so want to separate them and look at them at the same time anyway. But those other potential implications of having sets of apps are huge.
  • I agree about the issue with tabs. This can be solved by allowing a multi-tab view or tab snapping in the set. For example, I frequently use Matlab, which allows the user to open multiple scripts at the same time with tabs. There is also the option to split the editor into 2 or 4 to see multiple scripts within the editor at once. I think a similar solution would allow users to view tabs side by side within a set.
  • I do lots of different project as well.  I am wondering if I could do this: 1. I saved a "Set" on my project A using onenote with specific section group using notebook A 2. I saved another "Set" on my project B using onenote with a different section group with the same notebook A This will accelerate my productivity if this "Set" features work like I explain above.
  • So, Stardock makes an app (Groupy™) that utilizes the same underlying API and NOW MS decide to make it a shell experience. Awesome. When they're not upsetting their customers, they upset their developers.  I can't imagine Stardock is too happy about this.  Let me pop over to their affiliate site and check.  neowin dot net.  
  • This has been in the works for a while. Microsoft isn't going to shut down an ongoing project just because another company created a similar experience.
  • Tell that to HP. I think they might disagree. MS are very likely to do just that going on past history.
  • I guess you missed the part of the article where this was reported early in the year, long before Stardock's product was announced.
  • Did not miss it.  They announced the API.  Stardock just beat them to market with an implementation.
  • So because of that they should drop their plans and make everyone who wants it pay Stardock $10? Just like with Stardock's other utilities, it's up to them give their customers something they can't get elsewhere and/or make it better. Microsoft doesn't owe them a monopoly on their software.
  • I thought producing a duplicate of someone else's product was considered a bit iffy (unless you're Apple of course, which is a special case as we all know)?
  • So, what's your point exactly?   Use a third party tool if you prefer--that's the beauty of an open system like Windows. But I will always choose the integrated, built in solution because of its guaranteed compatibility and stability with future updates. Operating systems evolve to include features that once were external (see networking and browsers, for example). Stardock's entire business model has been based around offering enthusiast features that were too niche for Microsoft. But as Windows evolves, they evolve as well. They'll find other ways to add value: they always do.
  • No point, just asking the question (OK, a point about Apple, but that was an aside). Seriously, I thought that kind of thing was probably not on, but I may well be wrong. Interesting if it is OK as it opens up a number of... opportunities. Or is it the kind of thing that's OK for large rich companies with many lawyers but not OK for us peasants? Wouldn't surprise me.
  • No, they don't use any underlying API (at least not the API of Sets)
  • Why would Stardock be unhappy? Their idea was so great that MSFT implemented it themselves. The photos app has native photo and video editing features but there are plenty of apps in the store that were doing it first. Some even made the user pay for the app itself.   This is completely normal and happens all the time in different Operating Systems. Why is it that people only get upset when Microsoft does it? 🤔
  • No. Tabbed apps was announced in the Build, even we had rumours since then with CShell and AndromedaOS/OneCore.
  • This is dumb we have virtual desktops
  • And we still have. This is not the same, and have a different purpose.
  • Would be helpful if a desktop could be a tab rather than disappearing each time you switch though. Then I might use them.
  • What's the difference? It seems the same to me but in a different context. What are some possible scenarios that you could use this feature AND virtual desktops at the same time?
  • I hope they bring 'set tabs aside' to this feature.
  • Seems like MS stole/bought 'Stardock's Groupy' app concept.
  • I wonder what would happen when an App crashes (It always happen to UWP)... Would the entire "Set" will crash? I don't trust/rely on UWP anymore.
  • One tab crashes in Edge, you close that tab. Why would it be different here? Oh yes, I forgot, MS. You have a good point.
  • Nothing to see. Each UWP app has its own Runtime Broker since Windows 1709, then the entire set won't crash.
  • This is very useful!  As a technical editor who never edits a document (either in MS Word or Google Docs) without my browser being open to dictionary.com for quality checks, I heartily approve of this feature.  Bring it!
     
  • Please dear gawd, make this happen. Tabbed-almost-anything has been a god-send since, crap, which browser first introduced it??? (When you're as old as dirt in tech years AND in chrono years - and I am, both - which browser you were using and when gets a little hazy over the years lol. I was an alpha tester/user of Mosaic, from, hmm, May/June 92? ...before the programming team left for Cali' and created Navigator (Netscape) and the future ...heady stuff, and so very, very uber cool.) Anyways. If you [have to] keep as much crap open across multi-displays as I do, you'd not ask "why" (i.e., this is useful ...it just is). Kudos to Microsoft.
  • I see absolutely no added value to this.  You already have the Task Bar, and you can already group things on it.  This makes no sense and seems redundant.  
  • But surely the value is that we can finally dump that awful task bar/system tray/start menu mess for good?
  • You don't want Windows acting just like ChromeOS?
  • Nope. Then again, would be nice if it didn't insist on working like Windows 95 either. Call me radical...
  • Dude, when they say "tabs" they don't mean it literally. What they mean is "tab-oriented features" that are present in today's web browsers, things like "history", "favorite", "pin tabs", "set aside tabs", etc. So in that way I think it'll be so much more useful that the good old taskbar.
  • i am sure that will get confusing, best to keep it switched off.  
  • Absolutely. And if you find that confusing, there's quite a lot of other stuff you should consider turning off as well. I'm always giving that advice to my old pensioner father, it's the mainstay advice of many a digital carer.
  • Why is MS spending time on something that you can already do with virtual desktops?  In fact improve virtual desktops to allow naming, saving layout, persistants, relaunching same config on other PCs, etc.  But no, lets just add another half baked feature while ignoring the other half baked features we have already added. 
  • I'll have to wait and see if this is useful to me... Can imagine it has some use cases. Bring it on Microsoft!
  • Isn't this just the Windows taskbar moved from the bottom of the screen to the top of a window?
  • No, it's not, As you can have additional applications running in a same window but tabbed then move that over to a different virtual desktop. With the taskbar, you'd have to open each application individually and then move them over also individually.
  • Every week I make a bulletin and I normally use Microsoft Publisher, pull information from three different websites and get image files from a specific folder. It will be nice to have them all in one shell every time I open it. It is a cool idea.
  • So instead of clicking at the bottom of the screen we now click at the top of the screen. It might be a tiny bit useful...
    Microsoft really thinks people care about stuff like this. When do they realize that people don't give two ***** about their OS, but they need APPS APPS APPS. The Windows store is dying!! Windows is dying!!! No mobile, no future!!!
  • You seem to have a very deep understanding of Ol' Nads' plans there. He's almost finished off any trace of the consumer in MS World. Success after success, the master plan can't fail. Hey, you're not working for MS marketing are you by any chance?
  • Just speak for yourself
  • This would make life so much easier, when hopping between assignments and research. At times I could have over 20 tabs open in firefox... so if I could have dedicated windows for the item I am looking for and a few other windows when I find something interesting that I want to add or expand all contained with in a tabbed file explorer. Then I can just snap that file explorer to one side and work on my assignment, cycle through the windows for the info I need in the attached tabbed file explorer.
  • so this is the reason why edge not going to the store
  • the most on point comment here
  • Very cool. I can see this being useful.
  • Perfect.   As the world goes mobile, Microsoft is “improving” their ancient desktop OS.  With Rome burning to the ground, keep on playing that fiddle!
  • That's a pretty cool, I like it...Unfortunately, nobody we'll be able to use it, as everyone has moved on to Chrome, and Firefox. Edge's terrible instable memory leaks and horrible codec playback performance will pretty much just burn this feature into its grave, unless Microsoft decides to one day fix that browser.... 
  • This has nothing to do with Edge. Edge is part of it (and a very smart way to push it).
  • Call it Tabby.
  • I can see the underlying idea of shell update in alignment with CShell and Core OS and new computing/UX paradigms in the light of 2018 foldable device that will run responsive Windows. It will need different UX approach than the taskbar. If you combine this with OneDrive UWP we already have the File Explorer UWP that we always wanted as certainly the entire Windows OS is wrapped in one window container that is freshly built from ground up architecturaly and easy to maintain (and is modular and responsive in terms of design and functionality) -> so much easier to adapt to what they are planning to. Clever Satya, building the foundation bit by bit :) This also washes the border of native(win32/uwp)/pwa/web apps/web sites in a very smart and subtle way.
  • My suggestion for the "UWP File Explorer issue" is include the OneDrive UWP app in Windows like Pain3D and recreate step by step (quickly ASAP) the entire File Explorer functionality on it. Then just add the drive access and drop the ancient File Explorer instantly
  • What a great desktop organizational option.  Like or related tasks in one window - surprised it hasn't happened sooner.
  • I do find this feature intriguing as it would become very useful when working on projects. I recently worked on a project that required using mulitple apps and web interactions. As the project progressed we all found that we had to constanly open different programs to get updated material. It would be nice to have one document or file that could house all the information for that project so you dont have to open several programs to get an update. Also it would be nice to have built in intelligence that would allow cross referencing so that if a data point in an excel or word document changes, the other documents could change dynamically. If done right I think Microsoft could have something special here. The operative would is "if". There seems to be a lack of focus and direction from a consumers perspective from Microsoft and this feature could be a "what could have been" if not executed properly. All I have to say is "Good Luck"  
  • Interesting idea/concept...... but doesn't the taskbar basically do the same thing? Seems a bit redundant to me.
  • I think Microsoft wants to make multitasking faster