Since launching in 2015, Windows 10 has maintained a relatively consistent look and feel. Microsoft releases new 'feature' updates twice a year, but most of these changes are hidden away in settings. You'll probably need to look up what's new every six months, and they're unlikely to change the way you use your PC.
However, that could all change in the next 12 months. As Windows Central reports, Microsoft is planning a major overhaul of the Windows 10 user interface for 2021. It's likely to shift the design to be similar to Windows 10X, Microsoft's stripped-back, web-first OS also slated for release next year.
Some of the big change we're expecting involve areas of the UI that have been in need of updating for a while. The File Explorer has remained largely unchanged for the past five years, while tablet mode still needs to provide a more intuitive experience on 2-in-1 devices. Some Start Menu changes were introduced in the October 2020 update, but a more radical redesign has been on the cards for a while. As Windows Latest reports, improvements to the taskbar, action center and various other menus throughout the operating system are also expected.
Codenamed 'Sun Valley', the update is expected to arrive around this time next year, potentially as the October feature update. However, it might be Windows 10's only major update of 2021. ZDNet says that "the arrival of Windows 10X is going to shift the Windows landscape in 2021".
However, before you get too excited, there are two key caveats to be aware of. Firstly, the internal documentation that reveals Microsoft's plans includes no detail on what the changes involve. The changes are likely to be in keeping with the 'Fluent Design' framework it introduced in 2017, but little more is known. The prospect of these changes is promising, but it remains to be seen how far Microsoft will take this.
Also, and perhaps more significantly, this is simply what Microsoft is hoping to bring to Windows 10 in 2021. It's rare for all the features mooted at this early stage of development to make their way into the final version.
Nonetheless, it feels like a positive step forward. Panos Panay, Microsoft's Chief Product Officer who's leading the project, said he wants to "move people from needing (Windows) to loving and wanting (Windows)". Making Windows 10 feel more slick and modern is a significant step on the road to achieving this.
The changes aren't expected to arrive until the second half of next year, but a feature update in the first half of the year is still on the cards. Here's what we know so far about Windows 10's 21H1 update.
To learn about Windows 10's most recent new features, check out our guide to the October 2020 update.