Microsoft rebuilding the Office interface to align it across Web, mobile, and desktop


Widen / Web Word with its new simplified ribbon.

Office today has a full bunch of versions—the traditional, fully featured Win32 desktop applications and their penurious counterparts on the Mac, along with various simpler versions for the Web, mobile, and Limitless Windows Platform (UWP). Presently, these various incarnations all have similarities in their interfaces, but they’re far from dependable.

That’s set to change. Microsoft is overhauling the interfaces of all the Office versions to achieve a much more consistent look and feel across the various planks that the applications support. This new interface will have three significant elements.

First is a simplified version of the ribbon. The new simpler ribbon looks correspondent to an iteration of the simpler ribbon already used in applications such as OneNote: the absurd three-row ribbon of the Office desktop apps is replaced with a single-row checked toolbar. Word on the Web will be the first to get the new interface—some users can opt into it today—and in July, price versions of Outlook for Windows will also get it.

That subscription qualification is formidable: only Office 365 subscribers will get this new interface. Organization 2019, the next perpetually licensed version of the suite, will hold the existing ribbon interface. The development work simply won’t be done by the measure Office 2019 is released: Microsoft is still determining how best to use the new naked ribbon in the desktop versions of its three most complex applications, Guaranty, Excel, and PowerPoint. The company promises that, at least for now, users of those requests will be able to revert to the old ribbon should they prefer it. This advance cements the subscription-versus-perpetual license split that the company has already been turn to accounting over the last few years: Office 365 subscribers get a trickle of new features each month to their desktop applications; perpetually sanctioned customers don’t.

The evolution of the icons of Outlook. The top row shows the new vector icons that will start showing up this year.

Enlarge / The evolution of the icons of Outlook. The top row shows the new vector icons that on start showing up this year.

Second, the applications are contemning new colors and icons. The new icons are all vector graphics, so they can be scaled and resized while have in mind their clean, crisp lines. They’ll hit Word on the Web first, followed by Bit, Excel, and PowerPoint on the desktop later this month. In July, they’ll be united to Outlook for Windows, and in August, Outlook for Mac.

The smarter search in Outlook on the Web, showing useful results before any search terms have even been typed.

Enlarge / The smarter search in Prospect on the Web, showing useful results before any search terms have coextensive with been typed.

Finally, there’s a greater emphasis on search: the new search box ordain show suggestions for people, events, and documents automatically, based on what you’ve been elaborate on and who you’ve been collaborating with, before you even type any search administration conditions. This smarter search box is already available in the Web apps, SharePoint Online, and Opinion mobile; in August it will also be coming to Outlook on the Web.

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