Is Microsoft Still Working on Sets?

Posted on April 21, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 25 Comments

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?

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.

Tagged with

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (25)

25 responses to “Is Microsoft Still Working on Sets?”

  1. brduffy

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

  2. Rob_Wade

    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.

  3. DaddyBrownJr

    Betteridge's Law of headlines is in full effect.

  4. cooltechankit

    Great information

  5. nbplopes

    I think this happens because one of the executives has a stake in Stardock.

  6. jackelyn6019

    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. Dairy Queen Fan Feedback

  7. glenn8878

    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.

  8. win7peasant

    "You could have multiple tabs in, say, File Explorer..."

    If I understand correctly, there are people who touch a Windows PC without Total Commander on it?

  9. chaoticbastian

    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

  10. longhorn

    Chris Hoffman sums it up:

    Users: "We want a tabbed file manager and command prompt."

    MS: "Okay, also we put them in every single app and built in a web browser"

    U: "Great, we didn't need all that but-"

    MS: "Oops, it's too buggy, we're removing it."

    U: "Hey, what happened to our tabbed file manager? Hello?

    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.

    • MikeGalos

      In reply to longhorn:

      Ah, the classic, "I wouldn't use it so nobody else needs it"

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to MikeGalos:

        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.

        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.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to longhorn:

      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.

      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?

  11. bart

    My best bet is that Sets is dead for Windows 10.

    But couldn't Windows Lite have a tabbed experience like in a browser instead of a desktop? Sets is alive!

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Bart:

      It'd be interesting to see Google's Chrome OS telemetry. How many Chrome OS users run everything possible in browser tabs? FWLIW, I run text editors (Text and Caret) and DOSBox in separate windows, and Chrome OS's media player defaults to running in separate windows.

  12. Darekmeridian

    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.

  13. longhorn

    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.

    • bharris

      In reply to longhorn: 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.

  14. MikeGalos

    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.

  15. ommoran

    Hopefully Sets isn't on a to-do list in Microsoft To Do...