Since Panos Panay took over the reins of Windows 10, the same mantra has been transferred from Microsoft: “We want people to stop using Windows because they need it, we want them to love it and to be able to use it. ‘they want to use it. With this goal in mind, the Sun Valley project was born in the first half of 2020, which will materialize in the next big version of Windows.
Sun Valley is an attempt to bring Windows closer to consumers after many years focused primarily on the commercial realm. This is a comprehensive effort to make Windows a beautiful operating system that is user-friendly (while keeping the convenience of the desktop user in mind) and ideal for developers and creators.
Much of the innovation that will come to this “new Windows” will come from Windows 10X, the modern, lightweight operating system that Microsoft was planning to launch this year and which ultimately stalled indefinitely. It doesn’t seem at all obvious that Windows 10X will ever see the light of day but we can confirm that a large part of it will “live” in the Windows that will emerge after this update.
Better experience on tablets and convertibles
This “new generation of Windows” is intended to be more user-friendly than ever, but without losing sight of the fact that it is a desktop operating system. Microsoft does not want to make mistakes of the past as with Windows 8, but neither does it want to leave the tactile part of the operating system as neglected as with Windows 10. This new version of the operating system will be an intermediate step. .
One of the main novelties of Sun Valley is its new touch keyboard experience. Microsoft has been working on redesigning this element with an interface based on Fluent Design, with translucent backgrounds and rounded edges.
Although the keyboard as such doesn’t include many more new features, other than animations with greater fluidity and faster response, it will be integrated into the emoticon panel and clipboard. The goal is to have a modern experience that allows us to express ourselves with more possibilities.
Also, as we have been able to know, the new Windows will include touch gestures for opening and closing apps, going back to startup and more. These are probably the same gestures as Windows 10X.
On the other hand, Microsoft will rethink the file explorer and other “old” parts of the Windows 10 interface to adapt them to the times and make them more “user-friendly” to the touch.
Renewal of pre-installed applications thanks to Sun Valley
Preinstalled applications, such as Alarms & Clock, Photos, Music… will undergo complete interface renovations and design upgrades. For this, Microsoft will use an evolution of Fluent Design thanks to WinUI 2.6. As a result, Windows and its applications will follow the same design line. In addition, the vast majority can be uninstalled.
The latest example is the Alarms and Clock application, which has completely revamped its interface and we now have it available for download. The software has new controls that improve the keyboard and mouse experience. There are also new buttons in which the rounded edges stand out.
In addition, the current Microsoft Store will be replaced by a new Store that is faster, smoother, more modern and open than ever. Microsoft will allow developers to download uncompressed Win32 applications in .exe and .msi formats. In addition, developers who wish can use their own CDNs. Microsoft takes the final step towards the total opening of its application store and collects the main requests from developers.
The Settings app will likely be the one that gets a more aggressive overhaul with the store. Its current style identifies too much with the early days of Windows 10, and Windows design has evolved in recent times. We expect a much more beautiful and responsive application.
New icons that follow the lines of Fluent Design
Microsoft is fully committed to harmonizing the design of Windows 10 and iconography is one of the greatest needs. Windows 10 features icons from Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and the early years of Windows 10. Complete chaos. The people of Redmond are determined to end this.
One of those apps that will get a major overhaul will be File Explorer, and icons are one of them. As can be seen in the image, the current classic icons have been replaced with more modern and colorful icons based on the design lines of Fluent Design. In addition, new icons have been introduced in the Control Panel and old icons in other parts of the operating system have been redesigned.
As if that weren’t enough, there are rumors that Microsoft could also have redesigned icons of great importance such as File Explorer, Search and even Windows. In the latter case, some point out that it could stop being monochrome to adapt to a more Fluent style and even take the shape of Microsoft’s own logo.
Improved animations and smoother flow in Windows 10
One of the biggest complaints from Windows 10 users has to do with the animations. The current animations are mostly inherited from Windows 8 and are somewhat clunky. In addition, devices with integrated graphics suffer during reproduction, which spoils the user experience.
Microsoft has started testing the first upcoming animation with Sun Valley. It is a kind of zoom that increases the feeling of depth by bringing the windows closer to the user when they are opened. In addition, it reduces the feeling of loading time when opening certain apps.
However, we have no information on what animations will eventually be included in the next Windows, although all sources indicate that they will be much smoother and smoother than current ones.
Revamped Start menu, taskbar and activity center
Zac Bowden reported via Twitter that Microsoft is working on a radically different Start menu than it is today. It will be a Start menu that will end the live tiles introduced with Windows 8. It will look very similar to the Windows 10X Start menu with some design tweaks to make them suitable for WinUI 2.6. It will have an “All apps” button in the upper right corner. This concept of the new Start menu is somewhat close to what we’ll receive, albeit without that top search bar and with other somewhat different details.
Concept of the new Windows 10 Start menu (unofficial)
The taskbar will also change completely. Microsoft will bring the Windows 10X taskbar, designed with modern code and capable of delivering better performance, better animations and effects, and more possibilities. We can probably choose between three sizes (like in Windows 10X) and the icons will be located in the center, where the new Start menu will also open. Presumably, we can realign the taskbar icons to the left if we want to.
Regarding the activity center, this will change completely and we will have practically the same one that can be found in Windows 10X. In this new panel we will have quick actions, music control and a separate area for notifications.
Windows search will also change and we will no longer have a search bar by default. Instead, we’ll have a new magnifying glass icon. The search interface will be more modern and will adapt to the design of the rest of the operating system.
What’s new: it’s time for widgets
In addition to cosmetic changes, Sun Valley is looking to add new features that aim to improve our productivity and keep us in the same workflow. An example of this is the inclusion of iPadOS style widgets, which will be hidden on the left of our desktop and we can “call” them by a swipe gesture from the left (if we have a touch device) or via a in the taskbar.
The first widget we heard about is known as News and Interests and it’s already hit current versions of Windows 10, so you won’t have to wait to get it. In the case of Windows 10, since it doesn’t have this widget panel, News and Interests is integrated into the taskbar itself.
We can highlight other cool features like a battery usage graph that will show which apps are consuming the most divided by hours. Moreover, it will offer a number of options to prevent it from happening with the same frequency.
Another feature that will be included in the Settings section is battery health information, which will allow us to take better care of our devices. This is already included by Apple in its iPhone and it is a feature much appreciated by users.
Aesthetic consistency will arrive in Windows at the end of 2021
All windows will abandon straight corners and adopt rounded edges. Microsoft will improve the use of the dark theme and expand it to more sections of the operating system, including some that have not been changed for many years. With this, you will get a consistent design in all its components, new and old.
Sun Valley will arrive at the completion of development for the Cobalt branch of Windows 10. Manufacturers will begin receiving this release in the second half of 2021, when it will begin testing in form on the Insider Dev Channel. With which, we will begin to receive the update at the end of the year.
If the rumors are true, and it looks like they are, Microsoft will have a big event in June to showcase this “new Windows”. Moreover, it is said that the changes are of such depth that Microsoft could bet on a rebranding, presenting it as Windows 11 or something similar.