Is Microsoft Still Working on Sets?

It was the tweet heard ‘round the (Microsoft) world: Sets are “no more.” Except for one thing. They’re still “on the to-do list.”

So what triggered this confusion?

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Microsoft senior program manager Rich Turner, responding to a question on Twitter about Sets, wrote that “the Shell-provided tab experience is no more,” triggering numerous write-ups, like this one on How-To Geek, proclaiming that Sets was dead. But Mr. Turner also noted that “adding tabs is high on [Microsoft’s] to-do list.” So the story is a bit more nuanced than “Sets is dead.”

For those unfamiliar, Sets was a feature that Microsoft promised in Windows 10 that would add a tabbed interface to application windows. You could have multiple tabs in, say, File Explorer, or Microsoft Word, or whatever. As originally implemented, Sets was based on the tabs code from Microsoft Edge. A web browser that is now, to use Turner’s words, “no more.” So, it makes sense that this original Sets implementation is likewise dead, since classic Edge is likewise dead.

But here’s what I think is happening.

Turner’s note about a tabbed UI still being on Microsoft’s “to-do list” is the more important part of that tweet: Microsoft’s plans have not changed. It still intends to bring tabbed application windows to Windows 10. It will just need to reimplement this functionality since the code base it was previously based on is being retired and/or going into maintenance mode.

If you read through the responses to Turner’s tweet, you’ll see a lot of the expected speculation around how/why this change happened. But I’m surprised the topic of the classic Edge code base never comes up. Since that is clearly the cause of the new delay.

Regardless, Sets being on Microsoft’s to-do list suggests that this feature is still coming. So, nothing has really changed from a strategy standpoint. What’s changed is the technical means by which Microsoft will get there.

Of course, the real problem here is one of communication: As How-To Geek’s Chris Hoffman points out, having to parse Microsoft’s strategy via a tweet from a single employee, no matter how well-meaning, is frustrating. It’s also a great example of this company’s inability to communicate effectively. Come on Microsoft, something official is in order here. You have a series of blogs to choose fro

Until we hear otherwise, I’m sticking to the truth that emerges from this conversation on Twitter: Microsoft still intends to implement Sets in Windows 10. It’s just a matter of time.

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Conversation 25 comments

  • brduffy

    21 April, 2019 - 10:16 am

    <p>I would settle for just a tabbed experience in Windows Explorer. I can live without tabs on every application.</p>

    • Vladimir Carli

      Premium Member
      21 April, 2019 - 2:19 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#422255">In reply to brduffy:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>I purchased directory opus and never looked back. It’s a great piece of software</p>

      • Darekmeridian

        22 April, 2019 - 12:34 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#422318">In reply to Vladimir:</a></em></blockquote><p>So did I, have been using it for years now (since dopus 9).</p><p><br></p>

  • MikeGalos

    21 April, 2019 - 10:32 am

    <p>The key to Sets was not having multiple tabs in existing applications, application creators can do that already if they think it's a feature their users want. The key to Sets was having arbitrary NEW container windows that could each have multiple tabs containing windows from multiple applications grouped by the user. For example, a project window containing tabs for the project's shared documents including, say, 3 Excel spreadsheets, 5 Word documents and a PowerPoint presentation.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      21 April, 2019 - 12:07 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#422256">In reply to MikeGalos:</a></em></blockquote><p>Yes. This is true.</p>

    • Darekmeridian

      21 April, 2019 - 12:40 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#422256">In reply to MikeGalos:</a></em></blockquote><p>But that is what Groupy already does, Including saving of Groups/Sets so they can just load automagically and if you wanted all new instances of say Word to add to the current group that you are working in going forward it would do so. Also it would save a named group to a Start Menu item so that a single click would bring back the entire group. </p>

  • longhorn

    21 April, 2019 - 10:44 am

    <p>To be honest I don't think Groupy is that popular that such a feature should be built into the OS. Why not bring tabs to Windows Explorer instead? It's the last file manager on Earth without tabs.</p><p><br></p>

    • bharris

      21 April, 2019 - 12:26 pm

      <p><a href="#422269"><em>In reply to longhorn:</em></a><em> I'm with you. I have nothing against adding the feature. As I said before, I put it right there with multiple desktops. It is probably going to used regularly by a very small percentage of users. If you're in that 3% (or whatever), it's great. But I just don't see it as important to most Windows users.</em></p>

  • Darekmeridian

    21 April, 2019 - 12:31 pm

    <p>They should do a semi-Chroimum and buy Groupy from Stardock and intergrate it into the OS. It may not be the exact "Sets" they had in mind but it would save a lot of time and put them farther along than they were in the Insider Builds.</p><p><br></p><p> </p><p><br></p>

  • bart

    Premium Member
    21 April, 2019 - 2:32 pm

    <p>My best bet is that Sets is dead for Windows 10.</p><p><br></p><p>But couldn't Windows Lite have a tabbed experience like in a browser instead of a desktop? Sets is alive!</p>

  • longhorn

    21 April, 2019 - 4:20 pm

    <p>Chris Hoffman sums it up:</p><p><br></p><p>Users: "We want a tabbed file manager and command prompt."</p><p>MS: "Okay, also we put them in every single app and built in a web browser"</p><p>U: "Great, we didn't need all that but-"</p><p>MS: "Oops, it's too buggy, we're removing it."</p><p>U: "Hey, what happened to our tabbed file manager? Hello?</p><p><br></p><p>I'm also unsure Sets would support drag and drop of files between tabs. It seems gimmicky, but maybe I don't understand the use-case. Sets could be useful on a device like Andromeda which I assume only runs Store apps on a small screen. This is actually the layout that some netbooks had and also the MeeGo netbook OS (Intel+Nokia) that barely shipped.</p><p><br></p>

    • hrlngrv

      Premium Member
      21 April, 2019 - 5:19 pm

      <p><a href="; target="_blank"><em>In reply to longhorn:</em></a></p><p>Tangent: if only Gnome Midnight Commander were available for Windows. Dual pane and independent tabs in either pane. Next best is Beyond Compare with multiple tabs each with dual panes. I realize I'm odd, and that most people prefer to use the bundled file manager, but single pane even with tabs just doesn't float my boat.</p><p>As for tabbed command prompts, again there are 3rd party tabbed consoles, e.g., Console2. I thought MSFT was working on a new console/character mode container. What happened to it?</p>

    • MikeGalos

      21 April, 2019 - 6:33 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#422334">In reply to longhorn:</a></em></blockquote><p>Ah, the classic, "I wouldn't use it so nobody else needs it"</p><p><br></p>

      • hrlngrv

        Premium Member
        21 April, 2019 - 8:00 pm

        <p><a href="; target="_blank"><em>In reply to MikeGalos:</em></a></p><p>Not an accurate assessment of what longhorn wrote. File Explorer and console may need tabs, and Sets briefly provided a tab mechanism which they could use. Sets also allowed most other applications to run in tabs, which could be useful, but the end of original Edge means the end of Sets (for now), so no tabs for File Explorer or console any time soon.</p><p>There are several 3rd party tabbed file managers, so it seems that's not a difficult computer science problem. There are also several tabbed consoles for Linux and a few 3rd party ones for Windows, so another not difficult computer science problem. No need to MSFT to address either? Well, maybe not since there are 3rd party alternatives.</p>

  • chaoticbastian

    21 April, 2019 - 9:41 pm

    <p>Forget tabs I want to the entire OS modular meaning almost everything from file explorer to start menu are apps and could be downloaded from the the app store. That could also be great for a future responsive shell</p>

  • win7peasant

    21 April, 2019 - 9:45 pm

    <p>"You could have multiple tabs in, say, File Explorer…"</p><p><br></p><p>If I understand correctly, there are people who touch a Windows PC without Total Commander on it?</p>

  • glenn8878

    21 April, 2019 - 10:13 pm

    <p>This is where you wait until it happens before getting angry about a feature not coming. Apparently, people care enough about it to wonder what's going on. I'm not sure what the fuss is. File Explorer needs to be updated to modern times. It is much too outdated. Tabs won't be enough.</p>

  • jackelyn6019

    22 April, 2019 - 4:57 am

    <p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">To be honest I don't think Groupy is that popular that such a feature should be built into the OS. Why not bring tabs to Windows Explorer instead? It's the last file manager on Earth without tabs. </span><a href="; target="_blank" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Dairy Queen Fan Feedback</a></p>

    • HKMacalligan

      Premium Member
      22 April, 2019 - 10:31 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#422423"><em>In reply to jackelyn6019:</em></a><em> Bots seem to be getting through :'(</em></blockquote><p><br></p>

  • nbplopes

    22 April, 2019 - 5:20 am

    <p>I think this happens because one of the executives has a stake in Stardock.</p>

  • cooltechankit

    22 April, 2019 - 6:51 am

    <p>Great information</p>

  • DaddyBrownJr

    22 April, 2019 - 8:30 am

    <p>Betteridge's Law of headlines is in full effect.</p>

  • Rob_Wade

    22 April, 2019 - 1:23 pm

    <p>Except, how many people actually remembered that Sets was going to be a thing? I think most relegated this to vaporware and really had no personal investment in supporting it's establishment. In other words, who really cares if Sets happens? Not many, is my guess.</p>

  • ommoran

    Premium Member
    22 April, 2019 - 4:15 pm

    <p>Hopefully Sets isn't on a to-do list in Microsoft To Do… </p>

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