Microsoft is now rolling out “a new tablet experience” for convertible PCs. This is a beta, but it looks like that Windows 8-style Tablet Mode is being replaced with a more touch-friendly desktop environment.
Update: Microsoft has clarified that Tablet Mode is still present. But, as Engadget notes, Windows 10 will no longer automatically switch into Tablet Mode when you remove a device’s keyboard or transform it into a tablet. Windows will automatically enable this new desktop “tablet experience” instead, and you’ll have to manually enable Tablet Mode if you want it. The new experience is sort of in-between mode for 2-in-1 convertible devices. The powerful Windows desktop becomes more usable on a touch screen.
Tablet Mode on Windows 10 PCs today is a full-screen experience. When you switch to tablet mode—either manually by clicking the tile in the Action Center or automatically by converting your PC into a laptop—your applications become full-screen. You can use apps side-by-side, but you can’t use windowed applications or interact with the desktop anymore.
Your Start menu is also replaced with a full-screen Windows 8-style Start screen. Taskbar icons vanish and you have to use Task View to move between open windows. Even the notification area icons on your taskbar vanish.
In the latest beta, which is part of Insider build 18970 for Windows 10’s 20H1 update, expected to be stable in the first half of 2020, Microsoft says it’s changing all this.
Microsoft says people who enable Tablet Mode will “stay in the familiar desktop experience without interruption.” Rather than a whole different way of using Windows, the desktop is just made a bit more touch-friendly. To make the desktop easier to use with touch, the taskbar icons become farther apart, the search box on the taskbar becomes a button, and File Explorer switches to a more touch-optimized layout. It’s like using Touch Mode in Microsoft Office.
The touch keyboard will automatically appear when you tap a text field, making it fast and easy to type with the touch screen.
Microsoft says this is only for convertible 2-in-1 PCs, so Windows 10 tablets that can’t transform into PCs may still have the old Windows 8-style touch interface. It may also change as Microsoft gets feedback and experiments with this new mode.
If all goes to plan, this new Tablet Mode will be polished up and released with Windows 10 20H1 sometime around April 2020.
This latest build also features the new Cloud Download feature for restoring your PC. Windows 10 can now automatically download the latest version of Windows 10 from Microsoft and install it as part of the restore process, saving you some download time later.