Microsoft’s Windows 10 UI overhaul continues with new system icons

Microsoft is starting to modernize some of the basic parts of Windows 10 by improving the system icons that are available in the operating system. A new preview version of Windows 10 is rolling out to testers this week, and it includes system icons that now adhere to Microsoft’s Fluent Design style.

The new icons include a more rounded and simplified look, and are available as a new font: Segoe Fluent Icons. Microsoft has also updated its new taskbar widget with the new icons, giving a good insight into how basic icon changes can modernize even the smallest parts of Windows.

Some of the new system icons for Windows 10.
Image: Microsoft

It’s a small change in Windows 10 that will appear later this year for most, but it’s part of a broader push by Microsoft to revisit Windows 10. Microsoft updated some of its Windows 10 icons last year with colorful versions, and it even modified the Start menu. to make it a little more agile.

Microsoft is also planning a “radical visual rejuvenation of Windows,” codenamed Sun Valley. It may seem like Microsoft has been promising visual revisions of Windows 10 for years with its push for Fluent Design, but it looks like even bigger UI changes will appear later this year.

The Windows Start menu, File Explorer, and built-in applications are expected to be revised as part of this UI update. Even basic things like buttons, controls, and sliders in apps should have some love for design. This should mean that Windows will look much more consistent and hopefully a lot of the old icons and Windows 95 era hints will start to fade.

The new system icons in action.
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft has worked hard to improve the consistency of its user interface in Windows 10X, an upcoming version of Windows that will be designed for Chromebook-like devices. Windows 10X includes a new Start menu and many changes to basic controls like Wi-Fi, the notification center, and more. It feels like a more simplified version of Windows.

The way Microsoft markets Windows 10X could be a clue to where it sees Windows heading in the future. Rumors suggest the company is gearing up to use “the new Windows” as a marketing term, and we expect Microsoft to have much more news from Windows soon. Microsoft is planning events in the coming weeks to detail its future plans for games, Windows, and more.

While Microsoft held its Ignite conference this week, the company had very little to say about Windows. However, Microsoft’s director of Windows and devices, Panos Panay, acknowledged that there is news on the way. “I haven’t talked about the next generation of Windows and what will come next,” Panay said during an Ignite session earlier this week. “I’m so excited. The future of Windows is amazing, but we’re here today to talk about Windows 10.”

It’s unusual to hear Microsoft talk about its “next generation of Windows,” particularly since the company has been sticking with the Windows 10 brand since its debut nearly six years ago. I don’t think that means we’re about to see a Windows 11, but how Microsoft separates Windows 10 and Windows 10X will be key to avoiding any confusion (hello, Windows RT). That’s especially true if Windows 10X doesn’t support legacy desktop apps at launch, as our recent OS review suggests.

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