Microsoft improves Environment Variables editor in latest Windows 10 build

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 22, 2015
Updated • Jul 5, 2017
Windows, Windows 10

The Windows operating system uses two sets of Environment Variables: system variables and user variables.

The former is a set of critical system variables like the path of the Windows directory or the command line interpreter that is being used while the latter defines variables set by a particular user either by setting them directly or installing programs on the system that made the modifications for the user.

While it is usually not necessary to modify these variables often, you may have come into contact with them after installing Java or another program that made use of these environment variables.

The default Environment Variables editor of Windows lacked heavily in the usability department, mainly because it displayed values in a single line editable interface that was limited in length.

This meant that you had to scroll horizontally to read the whole path information and to edit them which increased the chance of errors significantly.

old windows environment variables editor

As you can see on the screenshot above, the data displayed in the variable value field exceeds the available width of the field.

That's why many users installed programs such as Rapid Environment Editor instead which not only improved the editing interface but did add features such as the highlighting of broken information to the process.

If you have installed the newest version of Windows 10, build 10547, which you can only install if you have joined Microsoft's Insiders program and have configured the system running Windows 10 to be on the Fast Ring in regards to updates, then you may have noticed a new interface for editing  Environment Variables.

windows 10 new environment variables editor

The main interface that lists the user and system variables is a bit wider, but the real change becomes visible after you hit the edit button to edit values of a variable.

Instead of listing them all in a single line, each is now listed in its own line making it a lot easier to edit, remove or add data to user or system variables in Windows 10.

The new editor lists other options of interest. First, it allows you to move entries up and down to change their order which the old editor lacked completely. This meant that you had to use copy, delete and paste previously to move variables around.

Second, you may use buttons to add, edit or delete information, and third, you may use the browse button to add a new folder this way directly.

The edit text button displayed in the interface opens the old Environment Variables editor so that users who prefer it can still make use of it.

Closing Words

The new Environment Variables editor improves the handling of user and system variables significantly. While it may not matter much or at all to casual users, it will make the editing more pleasant for users who come into contact with it regularly. (via Reddit)

Microsoft improves Environment Variables editor in latest Windows 10 build
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Microsoft improves Environment Variables editor in latest Windows 10 build
The latest Windows 10 build ships with an improved Environment Variables editor that displays values in a new editing window.
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  1. Jimmy said on October 20, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    I get the new and improved interface when editing existing system variables, but not when creating new variables. I hoped that once I instantiated the variable, I would be able to edit it in the new interface…but I seem to be locked in the ‘Edit text…’ mode on that specific variable. Anyone else encountered this?

    1. Ashley said on February 21, 2017 at 6:07 am

      My system env var for Path shows the old editor, but my user-specific one shows me the interface that ‘Edit Text’ gives, with no option to go back. Really wish it would give me the option to switch….

  2. Russ said on October 27, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    Same awful stupid admin interface for environment variable on my Windows 10. Article had me hopeful. Who knows why you got better EE and my update from Windows 8 did not.

  3. Ben said on September 24, 2015 at 2:57 am

    And all this after only 20 years with that shitty interface that any sane person would have changed 19 years ago (together with some other system dialogues).

    1. anon said on September 24, 2015 at 11:56 am

      NOTE: I do not side with Larry Osterman on this and his views don’t necessarily represent Microsoft as a whole.

  4. anon said on September 22, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Nice to see another native Win32 dialog using the current system font. But please give Microsoft feedback since the dialog (like all other parts of the UI) should conform to the Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines.

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