Microsoft teases the future of its Office UI
Major changes are coming to the ribbon toolbar and Office’s color scheme
In a new video released on Tuesday, Microsoft gave consumers a first glimpse at what its Office user interface (UI) design will look like in the future. It appears that some major changes are on the way for Office users.
One of the biggest updates is major alterations to the ribbon interface that Office users have come to love. The UI changes shouldn’t come as a surprise. Microsoft has been slowly working to improve Office with its Fluent Design system over the past few years. While new icons, a dark mode, and an overhauled ribbon bar have been nice, the next step will give Office a major facelift.
Focus on Simplicity
It appears that all of the changes coming to Office’s UI revolve around simplicity. As it is set up right now, Microsoft’s suite of productivity tools can get messy. At times, it’s easy to get distracted by the nested option menus and endless tools within apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Since introducing the ribbon interface into Office 2007, Microsoft has been working to simplify it. The new changes will bring Office into an entirely new, ribbon-less age.
The ribbon isn’t all that’s changing though. From the video teaser, it looks like Office will become a more cohesive set of apps that look and feel a lot like each other. Instead of a vibrant orange theme for PowerPoint and a green theme for Excel, users can look forward to a more neutral backdrop for all of their Office apps.
Jon Friedman, corporate vice president of design and research at Microsoft says, “The next wave of Microsoft 365 UX changes will go even further by fading brand colors from app headers and exploring adaptive commanding.”
He adds, “This lets you move a simplified toolbar around the screen to wherever you find it most helpful, using progressive disclosure to contextually reveal commands.”
In other words, the new interface will include a toolbar that can be undocked. It may show certain commands after users do something significant in their work, such as starting a new paragraph.
Microsoft is currently working to figure out how the new interface will work. According to Friedman, users can expect at least some of the new design features to roll out within a year or two.
It’s clear that the days of being productive exclusively on a laptop or desktop are over. Today’s employees and creative professionals work in countless different environments. That includes an iPad on the couch and a smartphone on the subway (just not right now).
“Since its [Office’s] inception, the ribbon has been a signature experience bringing user intent and commanding together. It originated on the desktop, but as the world and people’s lives are entirely cross-platform and multi-device, we’re re-imagining what intent and context-aware commanding looks like in the future,” Friedman says.
Now that Microsoft has apps for devices of all shapes and sizes, it will be nice to have a UI that looks and functions the same on all of them.
While it will certainly take time to adapt to these major changes, it should result in a better overall experience for Office users.
Originally published at https://www.theburnin.com on July 22, 2020.