Microsoft is officially bringing tabs to everything with a new feature called “Sets” in the next version of Windows 10 that was announced at the company’s annual Build conference. Sets — which has been previously featured in early Windows 10 Insider preview builds — aims to use tabs to bridge the gap between apps and websites, letting you group projects together in a single window by specific tasks.
Sets isn’t just adding tabbed windows to each individual app, like Apple added on many of its apps with macOS Sierra. It’s a universal tab system that spans all the apps on your computer as well as the internet. While you could have a single window with all your Edge websites as a tab, and another with all your Word documents, the real power of Sets is how it will let you mix and match programs and websites together in a single window. For example, you could have one window with a travel itinerary open in Word with all your tabs for hotels and flights alongside it, while another could hold a presentation with a mix of documents and photos that you’re using for background research.
At the heart of Sets is Microsoft’s oft-ignored Edge browser. Open a new tab from an app or an existing Edge webpage, and you’ll be presented with a “New Tab Page,” just like in a regular web browser. But in addition to offering your favorite or most frequently visited websites, Sets will let you open applications or files as tabs as well. Sets also integrates Microsoft’s Timelines tool that it introduced last year, making it easy to select an app or website that you’re currently (or had previously) been working on from another device as a new tab.
Additionally, you’ll be able to restore groups of tabs that you had been previously using. Open a Word document again, and you’ll be prompted to restore the additional browser tabs you had open, for example. More importantly, you’ll be able to sync and restore your Sets — the entire grouping of apps and webpages — from across your various Windows 10, iOS, and Android devices through integration with Timelines, making it an important part of Microsoft’s cross-platform efforts going forward.
Microsoft is also using Sets to help integrate individual tabs from websites into Window’s popular alt-tab interface, making it possible to find recent webpages by tabbing through windows even if they’re not the open tab.
As with Timelines, the big question with Sets is whether or not Microsoft can get developers and users onboard to adopt it. Showing off Sets’ compatibility with Microsoft’s own software suite and apps is one thing, but getting the apps that users use every day to work with Sets — and convincing them to use Edge over other, more popular browsers like Google Chrome — is likely a more uphill battle.
Microsoft isn’t promising a release date for Sets yet. Joe Belfiore only said that Sets would be available once it is “great,” although it will continue to be offered to Windows Insiders in preview builds as the company continues to work on it.