Windows Central Portal published the first article in the “Windows Unshipped” series of features and ideas in Windows 10 that never saw the light of day, although they were conceptualized, and sometimes even partially developed. The most famous example is the Sets function, which was supposed to add a tabbed interface to all applications, but it never made it to release. But of course she wasn’t the only one. Between 2015 and 2020, the company’s engineers came up with probably hundreds of different features, but they were never fully implemented.
It doesn’t make sense to go through all the unrealized ideas, so the Windows Unshipped articles will focus on features that Windows Central editor Zach Bowden has seen personally or heard about from his sources. The first article will talk about the interesting features of the Start menu in Windows 10, which should have made it more useful and convenient.
The Windows 10 Start Menu combined the Live Tiles concept introduced in Windows 8 with the classic Start user interface from the popular Windows 7. This decision was made in response to user backlash against the Windows 8 Start screen. Start in Windows 10 received positive reviews from users and critics, but there was one major problem.
Soon after the release of Windows 10, it became clear that many users do not customize the Start menu to their needs, as they consider it redundant. Most often, users simply pinned the desired applications to the taskbar or searched for them through the search.
Microsoft also had evidence that users found the process of customizing the Start menu to be too inconvenient and tedious, as they had to manually pin each new application, constantly moving between the list of all applications and the area with tiles. After that, users had to come up with a layout and size for each tile so that the menu would be user-friendly and look pretty.
That’s why Microsoft has come up with several concepts to make the Start menu easier to customize and less cluttered. Unfortunately, none of the ideas described below made it past the initial development stage.
Pin In Place
The Start menu has been improved with a focus on reducing the distance the mouse cursor needs to travel to pin new items. Specifically, Microsoft wanted to use the “Reveal” effect from Fluent Design to hide the “+” button in the tile and hamburger menu areas. It would only appear when you hover over it with the mouse cursor in some empty area.
When you click on the “+” button, the old user interface called “MixView” should have appeared, which is a few additional tiles in a branched form. Here, users could select any desired tile to pin to the home screen.
By the way, the name “MixView” might sound familiar to you. That was the name of the user interface that appeared when using the 3D Touch feature in Windows Phone on an unreleased Lumix McLaren smartphone. When you held your finger over a live tile on the Windows Phone Start screen, several small live tiles appeared that you could tap to navigate to specific sections of the app.
It was a great idea, but it never came to fruition as the device was discontinued. The UI was a logical evolution of the Live Tiles concept, and it’s no surprise that Microsoft was thinking about bringing it to Windows 10.
In Windows 10, this interface was planned to use machine learning and cloud recommendations to display both local apps, web pages, and apps from the Microsoft Store that the system thinks you would like to pin.
The + button method has also been tried on the Start hamburger menu, which would make it much easier to pin folders like Documents and Downloads. Right now, this still requires opening the Settings app.
Let’s move on to another concept idea, which also did not reach the release. It was designed to make the Start menu more useful by adding other Windows features to it. The idea came about when Microsoft decided to clean up the taskbar, which saw a lot of new buttons in 2017-2018.
One concept was to move the Windows Ink Workspace and My People features to the Start menu so that it becomes a single place to access Windows features, whether it’s in the Documents folder or the Timeline.
Thanks to reverse engineering from Albacore, we can even take a look at a working implementation of this change from older builds of Windows 10. In the screenshot above, you can see an early implementation of the My People integration in the Start menu. As you can see, at the top of the section, the contacts with whom you have recently communicated were displayed, and a little lower was a list of all contacts. It was possible to go to the usual Start interface through the hamburger menu.
It is reported that if the user needed faster access to a particular function, then it could be returned to the taskbar. Below you can see the concept of the Start menu with the “Places” feature.
There were other minor changes as well. For example, Microsoft wanted to make the hamburger menu more visible. Also briefly at the top of the “Start” was the “My Stuff” area, where the most frequently used folders from the “Explorer” were located.
It is still not known for certain why these concepts weren’t given the green light, since they could actually make it easier to customize the Start menu. Perhaps internal research showed that this would not significantly change user behavior, so there was no need to spend resources on implementing them. And perhaps that’s why Windows 11 has so few options for customizing Start.
In the following articles in the Windows Unshipped series, Zach Bowden will talk about the taskbar, the Action Center, the Control Center pop-up menu, and the integration of Cortana into the Action Center.