Microsoft to give Office 365, apps a makeover

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That's why it's taking things slow: the redesigned version is making its way to Word on today, and then to Outlook for select Insiders in July.

Second, the applications are using new colors and icons. Inspired by a new culture of work, the changes are created to meet the demands of customers who tell Microsoft they love the power that Office apps deliver but would prefer a simplified user experience. Apart from that, there is a new Focused Inbox, summary cards for travel and delivery details. "We aren't ready to bring the simplified ribbon to these versions yet because we feel like we need more feedback from a broader set of users first".

That subscription qualification is important: only Office 365 subscribers will get this new interface.

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The biggest change by far is coming to Microsoft Word, where the toolbar at the top of the screen (officially dubbed "the ribbon") will be pared down to just one line. This will allow IT admins to control the roll out Office updates across all their devices.

For everyone else, Microsoft is moving forward cautiously, especially when it comes to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows. This feature is already available to commercial customers using, SharePoint Online, and the Outlook app, with a launch in Outlook for web scheduled for August. "Users have a lot of "muscle memory" built around these versions, so we plan on being especially careful with changes that could disrupt their work", Microsoft wrote in today's announcement. Leveraging the Microsoft graph, the new search experience will immediately bring up search recommendations when you place your cursor in the search box. Users who tend to work more on their own or prefer to have most of the commands at their fingertips will still be able to expand the ribbon to the familiar three-line view.

The new icons are meant to render more crisply and cleanly on screens of any size and to look better for those with vision there are more than 10,000 different icons in Office, Friedman noted, and Microsoft wanted to make them more consistent and accessible from the get-go, using color, contrast and other design elements. Microsoft is rolling out new features in waves so it can collect feedback and improve Office slowly, which is definitely a good idea given the reaction to some of the changes it's previously implemented.