Microsoft Office 365 Gets Simplified Ribbon, New Colours, Icons, and Design Tweaks

Microsoft has announced a design update to Office 365, and it will also be made available to users of Office.com. The update, which is planned to roll out this month, brings a simplified command ribbon at the top. This ribbon comes from the Fluent Design system that the Redmond company originally brought to Windows 10. The update also brings new icons and colours and a better search functionality, using artificial intelligence (AI) and Microsoft Graph. The new user experience tweaks are heading to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook gradually over the next few months. The update will also debut on Office.com and for the commercial users of Outlook on the Web.

In the list of new changes that Microsoft has planned for its Office package, the new simplified ribbon comes on top. It helps users to focus on their work by hiding the commands and giving more screen space. Users can also expand the ribbon into the classic three-line view by hovering the mouse pointer on any of the menu items. There are also new animations, icons, and subtle colour changes to deliver a modernised experience. Similarly, the ribbon includes scalable graphics.while the new design is meant to focus on simplicity, you’ll still be able to expand the ribbon to the classic three-line view.

Microsoft has re-built its web version of Office on a modern platform to run faster than it has before, and visually it looks a lot better. The new simplified ribbon is a great fit for the web, and you can still expand it to the larger more classic version. Office on the web will now include avatars for comments and dedicated colors for participants who are also viewing and editing the same document, much like Google’s G Suite.

The ribbon is coming first to the Web version of Word and will start rolling out to select users on Office.com. However, select Insiders will get the simplified experience in Outlook for Windows in July.

Apart from the new ribbon, there are new colours and icons that are built as scalable graphics so that they can render with clean lines on screens of any size. The new colours and icons will debut in the web version of Word for Office, and then later this month, these will reach select Insiders through Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows. The interface-level changes will also debut on Outlook for Windows in July and will reach Outlook for Mac in August.

Microsoft has additionally enhanced the search functionality on Office by adding AI and Microsoft Graph support. There is access to commands, content and people along with the “zero query search” that would bring up recommendations just by placing the cursor on the search box.

“Office is used by more than a billion people every month, so while we’re excited about these changes, we also recognize how important it is to get things right,” explains Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office. “Over the next several months we will deploy new designs to select customers in stages and carefully test and learn.”

Commercial users on Office SharePoint Online, and the Outlook mobile app can already experience the new search update, though it will reach Outlook on the Web in August.

The design tweaks are subtle and welcome additions to Microsoft Office, and the more important changes will be how Office.com now performs. Microsoft’s promise of a faster modern web version of Office sounds appealing, and it’s one we’ll be testing once it’s available.

“Through gathering feedback from thousands of people, we’ve found that people react most positively to feeling in control, productive and secure,” said Trish Miner, principal design researcher, Microsoft, in a blog post.

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