Alleged Windows 10 Design Makeover Surfaces

Posted on January 5, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 54 Comments

Alleged Windows 10 Design Makeover SurfacesMSPowerUser has acquired some images and animations of what is purportedly a major change coming to the Windows 10 user experience.

Two things up front: I can’t confirm that these images or this site’s information is real, but I felt that this was important enough not to sit on. (Plus we’re at CES and time is tight.) And kudos to the guys from MSPowerUser.

OK, here’s the story.

According to the site, Microsoft has been working on a “UI upgrade” for Windows 10 called Project NEON that includes more modern design elements, including “Acrylic” components that further enhance the design language in Windows. You might think of this thing as the next generation of Metro. (And let’s pray some big European company doesn’t own the trademark to the terms NEON or Acrylic.)

The site claims that this UI upgrade is not a “major or complete overhaul” of the Windows 10 design language. But I have to be honest here: Their images refute that opinion. This indeed does look like a major change to me.

Project NEON apparently focuses on animation, simplicity, and consistency, and while I am unclear of the need for the first of those, the last two are sorely lacking in Windows today. It will allegedly even include some Aero Glass-like elements, which should please some. And in addition to the Acrylic elements, there are terms like Connected Animations and Conscious UI, which should scare anyone upended by the silly design focus of Metro.

As the site notes, these are all just early concepts—not “screenshots” or running code—but still interesting nonetheless. While the timing is unclear, I bet we don’t see most of this work until Redstone 3 in late 2017. But that’s just a guess, as I’ve not heard about any of this work before.

Again, nice work to the folks at MSPowerUser.


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Comments (54)

54 responses to “Alleged Windows 10 Design Makeover Surfaces”

  1. 289

    Paul, I really appreciate the way you credit the original sources of stories. Some sites out there don't even mention that they saw something on another site, let alone provide a link, an upfront mention and a final tip of the hat; nicely done. 

  2. 9201

    Yawn, yet another Style makeover to add into the mix. And Microsoft wonder why Developers have lost interest in developing applications for the platform.

    Just stop with all the churn, and maybe we will understand where Microsoft wants to go.

  3. 473

    I hope they are not going to do away with the option to have a coloured title bar. One of the dumbest things is not have a title bar that allows you to instantly tell when a window has the focus.  I work in Visual Studio 2015 a lot (which does not differentiate when it has focus and not, OK well it does make the VS logo and text go bright or paler when deselected but when working in anger you cannot notice which way it is around?) and the amount of times I have started typing something thinking I am in say Outlook's window on my left screen and in fact I am still focused on VS2015 and you end up typing all over your code! [email protected] annoying!

    From Windows 3.1 to Windows 7 we had a well known paradigm, the title bar is in a bright colour when it's selected and when it's not it has a greyed out look. Brilliant never type in the wrong Window.

    Windows 8 to 10 throw that away and functionality is now lost ... well done MS!

  4. 1221

    I'm confused as to why some are complaining about empty spaces or simplicity.  I am bothered when there is too much on the screen like in the Xbox app for Windows 10.  Holy mackerel, is that thing a messy eye-sore!  If features are what you're looking for, all that can be hidden away in a hamburger menu.  

    I can live without aero/transparency effects, but the Zune like UI.... bring it!

    • 5593

      In reply to JustinMSalvato:

      EXACTLY.  I am frequently frustrated at bloggers who have NO concept of judicious use of WHITE SPACE. This is precisely why I still enjoy WP8.1 on my 1020 versus the crowded, horrible look of W10M.  When I still used versions of Windows prior to 8, the first thing I killed was Aero.  It was ugly and unnecessary.  I haven't changed my mind about this in W8 or W10.  Most animations get in the way.  I want an instant display of information, not some superfluous display for 5 year olds.  Show me the information in a FAST, clean, consistent way that's easy to see regardless of the situation (ahem, WIREFRAME ICONS do NOT fit this description).


  5. 1043

    What's with the bald head on those apps? Their is nothing worse than wasted white-space. Just look at the initial launch of Goolge+ as an example of horrible UI design.

  6. 64

    I actually think animation has been sorely lacking from Windows 10. That's something I really liked from Windows Phone prior to 10, beautiful animations all over the place. I think it makes for a more "polished" feel. I'm looking forward to the end result of this, concepts look great so far :)

  7. 2371

    If they want to dumb things down for easy of use that is OK as long as they have allow for apps to have a power user type of mode when more options can be turned on to make the app more usable even if it adds clutter to the screen.  Must also include options to not have all of the wasted space if someone prefers more content,  Also less animations if they don't want to wait for them or use battery for them.  In other words, stop dumbing down the UI design for everyone so that apps are less useful.  Allow for people that have mouse and keyboard and want more capabilities available to them in an app.

    • 5593

      In reply to RM:

      Why is it that you equate a clean, efficient, easy to see UI as "dumbed down"?  I am a power user. I am also always looking for fastest way to get things done. If I'm spending any unnecessary time waiting on animation or trying to actually SEE the display through all the superfluous flotsam, then I count that as a fail.

    • 289

      In reply to RM:

      Yeah, it would be nice if they had settings for Dense, Medium, and Sparse.

  8. 442

    More minimalistic looks.  Not my cup of tea, but if it works...

  9. 5486

    Crikey MS, just give us a modernized 'full' Aero-Glass as an option, and not this flat, lifeless UI you seem intent on. It's not a big ask, you managed it on Windows 7.

  10. 958

    I don't know  "major complete overhaul" seems like a stretch even in quotes :) To me it just looks like they are refining what's already there.. Win10, especially in Dark mode, has a dead blocky feel to it. A little sprucing up couldn't hurt.. as long as they don't go crazy.


  11. 5394

    Does this improve the tablet/mobile experience? At first glance, it merely makes Windows 10 more pleasing to use on the desktop. That's not enough of an improvement.

    Has way too much white space. Not compact enough with more features and functions shown. Too minimalistic and simplistic.

  12. 5767

    Looks like inspired by Google's Material Design. Hopefully.

  13. 2481

    I like the windows 7 theme.  OMG MS quit taking up so much dam screen real estate!!!!

  14. 6210

    . I'm pretty sure Windows Central wrote about this Neon ui change last year and Paul poo pooed it on Windows Weekly, saying it wasn't a major change!

  15. 5664

    I'm not sure. Something about these seems... Fan-made. I can't put my finger on it, but one thing is that official Microsoft designs wouldn't collapse the Cortana search box, as they treat it as a major feature of the UI. It's been incredibly consistent in mock ups since the first time we saw the designs that would be Windows 10's final appearance.

  16. 326

    "As the site notes, these are all just early concepts—not “screenshots” or running code"


    Like that ever stop anyone from complaining :p

  17. 8853

    "Project NEON apparently focuses on animation, simplicity, and consistency, and while I am unclear of the need for the first of those ...." Just my two cents, but I believe animation to be an important UI element.

  18. 5593

    I feel that the Windows 8 approach was a LOT cleaner and less distracting. Animations and semi-opaque displays are annoying when you want to be able to easily see and interact with information.

  19. 4949

    Acrylic eh?  Looks like Win7 Aero design elements... but we can't have those because it would be a GPU resource hog and ruin battery life.  But we can have this somehow?

  20. 257

    Sorry, but the music app looks a lot like the redesign of Apple Music in iOS10. More white space and bold, black headings, even the font looks similar.

  21. 5184

    I guess I'm in the minority, but I find this sort of design to be really clean and pleasing to the eye.  It makes apps and the OS look less intimidating.  For example, I hate the lines that separate emails in the Mail app.  They're completely unnecessary and distracting.  The distraction to the eye makes the app look more complex.

    If I'm not working on tables of data, I like having more whitespace.  Professionally, I use whitespace quite liberally and minimize chrome as much as I can. 

    I like the Windows 10 UI, but I'd love to see some elements of Metro and maybe a little Aero sprinkled back in.  I hope this is true.

  22. 8853

    These shots, if genuine, are an early internal concept of the UI upgrade. Still, I like what I see. A lot. Windows 10, even after the Anniversary update, definitely has an almost-there feel to it. At least to me. I like where it was headed in terms of design. But it needs further refinement ... the likes of which I see in the screenshots above. The addition of subtle translucency in Groove recently made me really happy. It just looked nice and more like a finished product. If the current Groove app look is pointing in the direction that their style is headed, I can't wait. In terms of digital interface design, I attribute Metro, beginning with Windows Phone 7, with pushing almost the entire industry in the right direction. Even Apple flattened out there UI elements in iOS 7 and OS X Yosemite, and the result was a GUI worth looking at. I love Microsoft Design Language 2 and Material Design Language. They look very nice and offer great app design parameters. But Windows 10 can be better. I hope the screenshots are real. To me, they're a beautiful refinement. I have no complaints about what we're seeing here. Fingers crossed.

  23. 5553

    Nice...there is still a lot of Windows 

  24. 5234

    This looks too much like modern Linux desktops, like Budgie, or even Chrome OS.

  25. 5530

    I'm not sure what to feel about this, on one hand I think it looks clean and attractive, something which Windows 10 needs now, but it also kinda looks like MacOS, right down to the pointless translucent elements.

    Paul is also right to note about the use of terms such as "Connected Animations" and "Conscious UI", because it was buzzwords like those that gave us stuff like full-screen metro apps in Windows 8 and the start screen gutter in Windows Phone 7.

    I think most people would want something closer to Google's Material Design language, which has proven to be incredibly flexible in application across many screen types and on the web. Ah well.

    • 8057

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      I don't see MacOS. The translucency on the first screenshot is what Groove looks right now, including the translucency. The second screenshot looks very much like the first, but without the explicit window bar.

  26. 548

    I suppose it's reasonable enough to evolve the design language, even good that they do so...Just hope the concept art is not indicative of adding MORE empty space around things and MORE time-consuming slow animation.  So help me if I have to watch one more menu slowly slide and fade into existence...

    • 5767

      In reply to MarkH:

      Don't forget that the reason Apple animations are so good is they are always running on the speed-demon chips. Whereas in Windows-land you got Windows 10 PCs running on Celeron processors for god's sake. Apple controls the entire experience which leads to customer 'joy' about such things. Microsoft can't control every PC out there.

  27. 8057

    Yet another new design won't give us more consistency. Quite the contrary. 

    Also, transparent window contents? Ew. Aero Glass was smart enough to only apply to borders.

    • 5539

      In reply to drfisheye: I think it can be done reasonably. I imagine user options regarding the depth of transparancy. I recall it being available on a build or two in the start menu, and I thought that looked decent.


    • 8853

      In reply to drfisheye:

      Based on what we're seeing, this is not a new design, but a thoughtful and attractive refinement of the current design. The biggest design change to Windows 10 so far, yes. But it still looks very Windows 10-ish in a good way. It's makeup, not an extreme makeover.

  28. 180

    If they could focus on making older software render correctly at High DPI I'd be more interested...

    • 958

      In reply to Polycrastinator:

      I think Microsoft should be held to making sure the OS scales properly. Let some of the developers get off their butts and do a little updating as well, I am sick of seeing apps using 3rd party DevExpress controls from 2005. 

      • 268

        In reply to Darekmeridian:

        I agree. So, Microsoft - please make sure the OS scales properly. It doesn't. For example, boot up Windows 10 on a Surface Pro 4, Lenovo X1 tablet, etc. while not docked to an external monitor. Then, connect an external monitor. Holy crap! File dialogs (in things like Internet Explorer, Notepad, etc.) that are enormous, title bar areas that are huge (IE, etc.) with client areas that are scaled properly. It is like they almost knew how to do this but not quite. I always end up rebooting while docked and then it is OK both docked and undocked. Until the next BSOD on sleep (yes, I am in the Fast Ring)...

        • 7360

          In reply to JerryH:

          I bought a 4K monitor to circumvent this issue because it annoyed me so much. Now I run internal and external monitor at 200% scaling and everything is fine (except for Windows Media Player which inexplicably doesn't support scaling at all). Hint from my struggle: you can log out and log back in instead of rebooting after you dock, which may save you a few seconds.

    • 1108

      In reply to Polycrastinator:

      Yea, The biggest issue I have is trying to remote desktop to our servers on my new surface book. dc takes up 1/4 of the screen.. Imagine trying to unlock someone's account through AD..

  29. 5234

    "let’s pray some big European company doesn’t own the trademark to the terms NEON or Acrylic"

    ARM multimedia instructions are called NEON.

    • 6993

      In reply to Waethorn:

      I'm pretty sure you can't trademark names of chemical elements.

      I think even "acrylic", or even "acrylic glass" aren't trademarkable, because they're pretty generic. That's why you have trademarks like "Plexiglas" or "Perspex".

      • 1377

        In reply to crfonseca:

        Companies doing business selling basic or fabricated chemicals may not be able to trademark element names, but financial services companies could. Similarly, software companies could trademark Acrylic. All that's needed are that trademarks NOT be related to function (so Windows is a bit questionable since it's a standard term for frames around applications in GUIs) AND NOT misleading (Nebraska Beachfront Properties).

  30. 217

    Dare I say it kinda looks like OS X?

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