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.

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