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Microsoft’s Project Neon visual design has Windows 10 developers revved up

Why it matters to you

Microsoft is working to make a more visually pleasing experience in Windows 10 with a new design language and this is just a small sample.

A Windows 10 developer has created and released a preview build of an app called Interop Unlock Tools for editing the registry, making tweaks to Windows 10, and more. However, the big news here is that it’s based on Microsoft’s unannounced Project Neon design language for providing better visuals in Windows 10. Project Neon isn’t expected to become a major part of Windows 10 until Microsoft’s Redstone 3 update, which arrives in the fall and after Creators Update (Redstone 2) arrives this spring.

However, bits of Project Neon are already showing up in preview builds of Windows 10 served up in the Windows Insider program. The Interop Unlock Tools app takes advantage of these bits by enabling a semi-transparent background so users get a hint of the desktop wallpaper and other apps floating underneath. There are a few animations regarding the text too, giving the app more visual appeal.

Project Neon made its first appearance in November. It follows the current design language called Microsoft Design Language 2 (MDL2) used throughout Windows 10, which also provides transparency, animations, and other visual effects. However, Project Neon will supposedly lean more toward Microsoft’s previous Metro design that was used on Windows Phone and Windows 8.

That said, Project Neon will build upon the current Windows 10 design of using simplistic, clutter-free interfaces and spruce up the visual aspect to make the user interface less boring to the eyes. That includes adding transitions, even more animation, and so on. Project Neon will supposedly be more lively and more fluid than what we see in Windows 10 today.

From a developer standpoint, Project Neon won’t completely replace MDL2; developers won’t be required to jump from one design language to another as seen with the transition from Windows 8 to Windows 10. Project Neon will be the next step in the evolution of Microsoft’s design language that is improved and more streamlined.

In a previous report, sources said that Project Neon will serve as a visual bridge between holographic/augmented reality and the desktop environment. The user interface will “transport across devices” with an experience that “maps to the physical world” using 3D models, textures, lighting effects, and more.

Participants of the Windows Insider program are expected to see the first builds of Redstone 3 sometime around April or May. Again, Redstone 3 will contain the bulk of Project Neon even though some of the bits are showing up in builds now. Microsoft is expected to continue working on Project Neon throughout Redstone 3 and into Redstone 4, which will reportedly land in the first half of 2018.

If you’re confused about all the Windows 10 codenames and release dates, here is a roadmap to clear the air:

Code Name Official Name Version Release Date
Threshold 1 Windows 10 1507 July 2015
Threshold 2 November Update 1511 November 2015
Redstone 1 Anniversary Update 1607 August 2016
Redstone 2 Creators Update 1704 Spring 2017
Redstone 3 N/A  N/A Fall 2017
Redstone 4 N/A N/A First half of 2018