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April 15, 2017

Microsoft might be building tab support for all apps into Windows 10 Redstone 3

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Working with multiple app windows could get a lot easier in the next version of Windows 10.

Microsoft recently released Windows 10 Creators Update, the latest major update to the operating system that’s intended to lead the Windows PC market into the future. The company isn’t stopping there, either, with plans and Windows Insider builds already rolling out for Redstone 3, the next major update due later in 2017.

As information leaks about the new build or is revealed in the latest preview builds, it’s obvious that Microsoft is now working to make Windows 10 look and work better in its basic user interface. One bit of functionality that the company appears to be adding to the OS, at long last, is the ability to run apps in multiple tabs, as Windows Central reports.

The web browser has demonstrated the value of tabs, which make it easy to open multiple web pages at once and switch between them with ease. Now, Microsoft wants to finally bring the same functionality to any app that can run on Windows 10 — not just the new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps, but also old-style desktop apps using Win32.

Microsoft is implementing tabbing via a new Tabbed Shell function that’s baked into the OS. It’s going to work with any app out of the box, without requiring developers to specifically support, but Microsoft is also offering an application programming interface (API) that will let developers optimize their apps for the tabbing experience.

Windows Central created some mock-ups with their best guess on how a Windows desktop app like Word 2016 would work, with and without developer optimization using the Tabbed Shell API. In their first example, they show Word 2016 running without optimization and simply revealing a second set of window controls for a tabbed document:

Windows Central

Then, if Microsoft were to use Tabbed Shell to optimize Word 2016 for the experience, then the experience is much cleaner and more efficient:

Windows Central

At this point, the Tabbed Shell is experimental and will likely undergo numerous changes before it’s officially rolled out. That could happen in Redstone 3, which is already anticipated to include some serious user interface improvements including the new “Project Neon” look and feel. Or the Tabbed Shell interface could possibly get pushed to the next major update after that, which is rumored to be Redstone 4, coming in 2018.

Microsoft’s most important annual developer’s event, Build 2017, is coming in May, and so we could possibly see more about the new tabbing functionality. As Windows Central notes, the experiment could also be canceled somewhere along the way, and so as with all such concepts, you shouldn’t get too attached to this one. If the Tabbed Shell does make its way into Windows 10, however, all of our apps will be as easy to use with multiple windows as our favorite web browser.

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