As versions of Windows go, Windows 10 is generally well-thought of. It comes with a stable browser (even if nobody uses it), and robust virus and malware protection. After the tepid reaction to Windows 7 and the utter failure of Windows Vista, Windows 10 has been almost universally seen as a big step up from the versions that have come before it. Microsoft isn’t a company that rests on its laurels, though, and it’s always looking to make adjustments when and where it can. Your system carries out small updates to Windows 10 all the time via downloads and patches, and most of the time, you won’t even be aware that it’s happening. That won’t be the case in 2021. There’s a massive update coming for the current version of Windows, and the changes are going to be very visible.

For several years, Microsoft (along with the rest of the IT industry) have been working towards a bigger focus on touchscreen interaction, with the mouse growing ever closer to becoming a thing of the past. That’s led to style makeovers like the one we’ve recently seen from Facebook, where all the most important content is focused in the middle of three columns as if it were a modern Playtech slots. At the risk of making a bold statement, we don’t believe that online slots websites get enough credit for the influence they’ve had over web and app design in the past ten years. Very few types of website function as efficiently as the better online slots websites do, and that’s not a coincidence. They focus on simplicity, cut out excess coding, and optimize themselves for visitors using touchscreen devices. That appears to be the intention of this new Windows project.

As is always the case with Microsoft, the precise details of what we ought to expect from the update are being kept under lock and key. We do have some information from sources close to the project, though. The update has been developed under the codename “Sun Valley” and is said to revolutionize the entire desktop interface. Every major element of the current interface is set to either be replaced or altered, and so from a cosmetic point of view, your whole experience of Windows will change. While some who have quibbles with how the interface currently operates will welcome this news, it’s bound to cause concern to those who rely on familiarity to find their way around. Significant updates of the kind that this one appears to be are generally reserved for new editions of the OS. Making such a large-scale change to an existing OS halfway through its lifespan is highly irregular.

If you’d like to get an idea of what this new interface might look and behave like, you might be best advised to familiarize yourself with Windows 10X – the version of the software that’s currently used on dual-screen and foldable devices. When Windows 10X was first released, Microsoft suggested that it might be the way that all Windows software operates one day, and it appears that this might now become the case. Your Action Center and your Start Menu will change completely from what you’re used to and theoretically become more efficient and easier to access. If previous Windows updates are anything to go by, there should also be a way to mimic the appearance and functionality of the previous version if you so desire, so those who are against the idea of change probably won’t have too much reason to worry.

Another target for the redesigns and improvements is thought to be File Explorer, which has remained mostly unchanged since the days of Windows XP. Insiders speak of a more ‘fluent’ design for the feature, which might be relocated to the taskbar. Layouts will be optimized for those using their fingers to navigate, and ‘Dark Mode’ will finally become available within every aspect of the OS rather than just the more recently-developed parts. This has long been a minor failing of the current version, where sudden changes between light and dark mode can be jarring if you’re not expecting them.

While we’ve been able to confirm that the project is well underway, we haven’t yet been able to get any clarity over when this major upgrade is likely to be released. Some sources have indicated that work is almost complete, and we should expect to see it at the beginning of 2021, whereas others say that the work is ongoing, and a date in the middle of the year is more likely. Until Microsoft makes an announcement – which, bearing in mind that they’re yet to officially confirm that “Sun Valley” is happening at all, seems unlikely in the immediate future – nothing is for certain.

When the update does finally become available, it’s to be hoped that it goes more smoothly than the recent October update for the current version of Windows 10. While not everybody who’s downloaded it thus far has reported issues, there have been hundreds of instances of File Explorer ceasing to function correctly after the update has been installed. The problem’s symptoms include taskbar repeatedly appearing and then disappearing before a crash of file explorer – which then results in a crash of the entire system. In some cases, desktops have been frozen for a minute or more before the problem eventually resolves itself. A handful of users reported even worse problems, including explorer freezing around five minutes after launch and not coming online at all. In addition to the File Explorer problem, the update appeared to render some older printers inoperable. An update or fix for the problem wasn’t available at the time of writing, but as the issues were reported on October 27th, we expect that they’ll have been fixed by the time you read this.

Next time you’re digging your way through the various sub-menus of Windows or using File Explorer to find something that you’ve lost track of, take a good, long look at the layout. It might be the last time you ever see it. Nothing is ever permanent in the world of Windows or operating software in general. These potential changes mean that we’re closer to the era of touchscreen domination than we ever have been in the past. The last days of using a mouse to interact with an interface might be much closer than we all assume.


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