Windows 10's Set feature is Dead, it appears

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 22, 2019
Windows, Windows 10

Remember the Sets feature that Microsoft revealed back in 2018 and even included in some Insider Builds back then? That feature seems to be dead and buried even though you find conflicting reports right now on the Internet.

Microsoft designed Sets as a way for Windows 10 users to merge multiple application windows into a single window container for easy access. Similarly  to tabbed browsing that you know from desktop browsers, Sets extended the functionality to any application.

You could use it to display File Explorer, Office, and the Microsoft Store in a single window, and switch between the different applications with a click on tabs.

windows 10 sets

Microsoft pulled the feature because it was not ready back then for integration in the then-upcoming next feature update for Windows 10. The company said that Sets would make a comeback eventually, but things went quite shortly thereafter. Sets was not included in the April 2018 Update nor Windows 10 version 1809.

A tweet by a Microsoft employee, Microsoft Senior Program Manager Rich Turner, on April 20, 2019, was picked up by blogs and news outlets as it was the first (semi) official quote on Sets since all went dark in 2018.

The Shell-provided tab experience is no more, but adding tabs is high on our to do list.

The sentence may appear disambiguate at first, but it is actually quite self-explanatory. Sets as we know it is not worked on anymore by Microsoft; this means that we won't see the universal tabbed feature for Windows applications that Microsoft revealed and tested for a short period.

The second part of the sentence, the "adding tabs is high on our to do list" makes sense when you look at Turner's role at Microsoft. Turner is working on Windows Console and bringing Linux to Windows, and that is the area where tabs will make a reappearance. Instead of launching tabs system-wide, tabs will still come to the Windows Console.

Mary Jo Foley offers background information on Microsoft's decision. Sources close to Microsoft told her that the decision to create a Chromium-based version of Microsoft Edge was the final nail in Sets' coffin.

The Edge team would have needed more time to integrate Sets into the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser, which would postpone the release. Sets also was not "well received or understood", and all that led to the decision to not pursue it further according to Foley's sources.

Windows users have plenty of third-party programs that they may use to add tabs to the Windows Shell including ike Stardock Groupy, TidyTabs, QTabBar, Tab Explorer, or Clover.

Closing words

I have to admit that I did not find Sets particularly useful when I tried it in the Insider Build it was included in. Unlike in browsers, where tabbed browsing helps manage open sites better, I could not see much gain over using the taskbar for that.

Sure, you could switch between apps that you added to a tab stack quickly or control the window of all apps at once, but I never really discovered a way to use Sets effectively to justify the existence of the feature.

Now You: Would you like to have seen Sets included in Windows?

Windows 10's Set feature is Dead, it appears
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Windows 10's Set feature is Dead, it appears
It seems that the Windows 10 Sets feature, a feature to merge multiple applications in a single window using tabs, is dead and no longer in development.
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  1. Anonymous said on April 24, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    It was kinda stupid. We have taskbar for that!

  2. grego said on April 24, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Sets? Nope, never even knew about that until now. I have no use for “Sets”.

  3. Ray said on April 24, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    There is an interesting article on onMSFT which explains this well. Essentially Microsoft had a simple request. Put tabs in file explorer and other Windows apps. The guys and gals at Microsoft thought that they might push Edge adoption too if they made it so that Edge was at the base of everything.

    They overengineered the whole thing. Instead of 2+2 =4 it became, 1+0.05+0.40+0.55+1=3. By that I mean, they figured a way to do it but it still meant that only UWP would have tabs and win32 apps will get it later. Overcomplicated things!

    With the move to chromium Edge, Sets became too difficult to put into Windows in a decent timeframe. This is sad as tabs have been among the 5 top requests from users

  4. dmacleo said on April 23, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    I would have liked it especially for multiple explorer windows open when copy/paste between them, faster than using taskbar especially when source files going to multiple locations.
    looked at groupy just not critical enough to pay for that.
    never looked to see if open source alt to groupy, anyone know of any?

  5. solarified said on April 23, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Never heard of Sets. Groupy is best imo. Throw any number of apps into one window, each app having its own tab (even browsers for that matter). I find it easier sometimes than opening/closing/min/max apps down on the bottom taskbar.
    Someone mentioned Win virtual desktops. Tried to use it, gave up. Old free Dexpot works 10x better and easier imo, customizable. I use it all the time, with different background pics on each one, sort of like having 4 (or more if you want) desktops.

    1. fw said on April 23, 2019 at 10:00 pm

      to be dead honest, i only use virtual desktop to mimic alt-tab to task manager when i can’t alt-tab out of a frozen full screen game. (ie.. place task manager on 2nd desktop… but alas, it’s not persistent across reboots.. gets a bit old dragging task manager over every time i boot up…)

  6. Nik said on April 23, 2019 at 7:38 am

    Microsoft has no idea what they are doing. Give it another 5 years still Windows 10 will be a mess.

    1. Yuliya said on April 23, 2019 at 10:41 am

      I am amased at how more disjointed Windows 10 becomes with every iteration. For how bad 1507 was, any subsequent releases only made it worse, with the limit being 1607. Anything past that is complete rubbish. Server/LTSC 2019 (1809) is absolute shite compared to the 2016 (1607) releases.

  7. Anonymous said on April 23, 2019 at 5:15 am

    There’s a tab mechanism in Windows since long time ago, it’s called Taskbar. I see no reason why we need this feature.

    1. fw said on April 23, 2019 at 6:56 am

      if i remember what stardock said correctly that’s not how sets work. (well.. or maybe it’s their version of it)

      you could sling a particular browser window together with a program into a set and a different browser window with a different program or some such.

      … or is that multiple desktop via “task view”? except taskview is not really persistent across reboots…

  8. lux said on April 23, 2019 at 3:48 am

    It’s amazing that a multi-billion dollar company can make such hack-job products.

  9. Anonymous said on April 23, 2019 at 3:47 am

    The world’s largest software company is incapable of making a decision of implementing a basic feature in 30 years a comp sci student can program in his basement in a week. Freeware has been doing it for years. But MS? No, they screwed even this up. You had one job Microsoft!

  10. 420 said on April 23, 2019 at 3:27 am

    I think users would rather have a turn updates on or off button, thank you.

  11. Anonee said on April 23, 2019 at 1:47 am

    Yeah, I would love to have gotten the Sets feature.
    I understand not everyone would find it useful, such as yourself, but I’d rather have the option to use it rather than MS just killing it off entirely. If you’ve used macOS or Linux then you know how this is useful, after all, there’s a reason there are multiple 3rd-party programs that already provide this functionality.

    1. John Fenderson said on April 24, 2019 at 8:51 pm

      @Anonee: “If you’ve used macOS or Linux then you know how this is useful”

      I don’t follow. Outside of work, I use Linux exclusively, and I don’t know how this is useful. That said, I don’t care if the feature exists as long as I don’t have to use it and it doesn’t get in my way.

  12. TZ said on April 22, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    Microsoft doesn’t pay attention. Insiders requested for tabs in File Explorer. They instead tried to shove Edge in the center of things to drive its usage. Sets implementation looked terrible because it used Edge ugly UI. They wouldn’t have provided any practical options like bookmarks, change default new page, placement location. Developers at Microsoft lack common sense. Third-party implementations will always be more powerful. I’m happy it’s gone.

  13. yllo said on April 22, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    ……..probably the one thing that windows has been behind on compared to all mac and unix variety desktop managers and file managers, tabs.

  14. John Fenderson said on April 22, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    “Would you like to have seen Sets included in Windows?”

    It’s not something that I would have used regularly. I tend to dislike tabbed interfaces in general. I don’t even really use tabs in web browsers. I prefer multiple windows, as they’re more flexible.

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