Think about how many times you’ve alt-tabbed between applications in your life. Probably a lot, right? For the last six months, Microsoft has been publicly testing a Windows feature that could vastly reduce the need to switch applications. The so-called Sets feature could add tabs to almost any Windows app, but now the feature has been pulled from the latest preview build. Reports indicate Sets is on hold and won’t ship this year as many had hoped.
Sets are missing in Windows Insider Preview build 17704. Microsoft’s Dona Sarkar explains that Sets isn’t ready for release, so developers will make some changes before re-launching. Specifically, Microsoft will work on visual design improvements suggested by testers as well as better integration with Office and Edge. The next release (probably build 1809) should still include the enhanced snipping tool, the diagnostic data viewer, and more.
So, why the delay? Despite Microsoft’s efforts over the years, application design in Windows is all over the map. Even Microsoft’s apps sometimes do weird things with the title bars that can break Sets. Making Office work correctly might be hard enough, but third-party apps are a completely different ballpark. For example, Photoshop doesn’t use any standard title bar elements.
It’s going to take a lot of work to make this feature reliable, but there will probably be an API later for third-party apps to add proper support. Still, Microsoft could solve a lot of problems if it just added Sets to Windows Explorer.
Microsoft has always been careful to temper expectations with it comes to Sets. When it announced the feature, it didn’t promise any particular release date, or even that Sets would get a release. This is now the second time Sets has been pulled from a preview build prior to a final system update (the Spring Creators Update was the first). Microsoft says that Sets will come back in a future preview build.