Microsoft recently announced major visual changes that will first arrive at Office.com and Office 365, according to a Microsoft blog post. In an effort to make Office's visual style more in line with that of Windows 10, Microsoft is changing the aspects of core Office applications to match their "Design Fluency" visual guidelines.
Fluent Design began to be widely available in the Windows 10 Fall Creators update at the end of 2017, which largely combines Google's similar guidelines on "Material Design" with the blurred translucency, parallel shadow and highlight effects that found in Windows Aero.
Updates include a simplified version of the "Ribbon Interface" that was introduced in Office 2007. The new simplified distribution hides by default the 3-line view and the grouping of options that was endemic to the design of Office 2007. . By way of comparison, while the Office 2007 tape presented the content of the toolbar organized both horizontally and vertically, the new design reverts to a single horizontal bar, which is more in line with Office 2003 and G Suite. That said, the new Fluent Design toolbar can be extended to look like the Office 2007 style ribbon interface.
In the publication, Microsoft points out:
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows offer our set of deeper and richer functions, and they are the preferred experience for users who want to make the most of our applications. Users have a large amount of "muscle memory" built around these versions, so we plan to be especially careful with changes that could interrupt your work. We are not yet ready to bring the simplified tape to these versions because we believe that we first need more comments from a wider set of users. But when we do, users can always return to the classic tape with a single click.
This comes first to the Word web version, and will be extended to Outlook for Windows in July.
SEE: Comparison chart: Office suites (Tech Pro Research)
Similarly, Microsoft is adjusting other design aspects, including colors and icons, by replacing the previous bitmap icons with vector versions for a better appearance in Hi-DPI (Retina) and large format screens. Similarly, this is the first in the Word web version and will be implemented in Outlook for Windows in July. The "selected experts" will see them in Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Windows. The updates will also arrive in Outlook for Mac in August.
The search functionality is also being updated, the publication said, with "zero query search" that adds recommendations when users place the cursor in the search box.
Interestingly, these changes, along with other recent changes to Windows 10, largely undo the most criticized design decisions found in the 2007 Office Ribbon design and the Windows 8 Metro design, which were created under the address of Steven Sinofsky and Julie Larson-Green. Sinofsky left Microsoft on December 31, 2012, months after the delivery of Windows 8, in a move that was widely seen as Sinofsky being kicked out of the company. He was succeeded by Larson-Green, who left in 2017, and Tami Reller, who left in March 2014.
The big conclusions for technology leaders:
- Microsoft is changing aspects of core Office applications to match with its "fluid design" "visual guidelines, with features first for users of Office Web and Office 365.
- Changes in Office and Windows largely undo the most criticized design decisions found in the design 2007 Office Ribbon and the Windows 8 Metro design