Three things the rumored Windows 10 Sun Valley Update could learn from Ubuntu 21.04

Arif Bacchus

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Windows 10 is at the top when it comes to operating systems as it powers more than 1.3 billion devices across the world. However, Ubuntu, one of the many flavors of Linux, is popular, too. It is in use by many developers, and it is even possible to add it in a terminal environment or use Ubuntu GUI apps to the Windows subsystem for Linux.

I’ve previously compared Chrome OS to Windows 10 and looked at some gains Microsoft could make from it, and I’ve also compared MacOS to Windows 10. Both times, my arguments mentioned the need for a visual redesign.

Right now, the leading rumor is that Windows 10 could finally be getting one with the rumored “Sun Valley Update” for later this year. But this is just a rumor, and despite teases from Microsoft execs, the true extent of the update isn’t really known.

That’s why I’m again dipping my feet into another operating system. Here’s a look at three things the rumored Windows 10 Sun Valley Update could learn from Ubuntu 21.04.

Improved dark mode

I’ll start first with something that almost every Windows 10 user will complain about — dark mode. While dark mode in Windows 10 turns off the lights in most system apps, there’s a couple of areas where you’ll see some overlap. In some classic settings pages, the dark mode might not apply, and some apps might not respect your dark mode settings, either. It’s led to some inconsistencies, even in the File Explorer.

On the other side of the spectrum, switching over to Ubuntu 21.04, for a few days, I really appreciate the dark mode settings. The Files app and other system apps like Thunderbird mail (and even third-party apps like Edge) will respect your dark mode settings. No matter where you go in Ubuntu, everything remains dark.

It’s really amazing to me to see the consistency across the operating system, and how dark mode “just works.” If Windows 10 Sun Valley really delivers a complete visual redesign, the dark mode should be a big part of that.

Cleaned up File Explorer & icons

Next on my list is another common part of Windows 10, the File Explorer. In its current state, the File Explorer is mainly what is leftover from Windows 8. Microsoft hasn’t tweaked it much, and understandably so, for all the enterprise and other users who might be depending on that “legacy” look.  But if Sun Valley really does want to rejuvenate the look of Windows, the File Explorer and icons also need to be changed.

I say this because Ubuntu’s Files app really pleases me to use. Everything you need is front and center. You can open a file directly from an app without having to navigate popups, the sidebar is cleaner and easier to understand, and there are not too many things in your way as you try to navigate through your documents. It might be too simple for some people, but the way it flows just works so well.

And then there are the icons. Unlike Windows 10, which has a catalog of legacy icons here and there, Ubuntu is quite clean. You’ll see the same icons across the system such as the Files app, the settings menus, the menu bars, and other places. Microsoft is making gains one icon at a time with fixing this problem in Windows 10, and there’s hope we’ll finally see things cleaned up soon.

Performance on low-end hardware

I’ll end with a note on low-end hardware. This is an area where Windows 10 has always struggled. Microsoft has made attempts to “flavor” Windows 10 for lower-end devices with Windows 10 S. This often means cutting out features like the Command Prompt or even Power Shell and Win32 app support so the system could feel more streamlined.

But after using Ubuntu as my main OS for a while (I installed it on a persistent USB so it can run on different systems) I’m amazed. On a Core i3 system, Ubuntu is quite snappy and responsive just as it is on a Core i7 system. For low-end hardware, Ubuntu has always been slim and light, without cutting back on its own system features. I get that doing the same in Windows 10 will take a lot of work, but using Windows on lower-end devices can be quite frustrating sometimes with freezes and glitches when web browsing. Sun Valley should try and tweak this.

Microsoft plays nice with Linux

Microsoft Edge On Linux

As I’ve mentioned before, Microsoft does play nice with Linux. Microsoft Edge and Teams are all available on Linux as native apps. If Microsoft plays nice with Linux like that, then it could also learn a lesson or two from it, too. Sun Valley might be coming soon, and there’s still time to tweak it to make it right.