Microsoft teases the future of Office 365 user interface! Here’s what is changing

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Published: July 22, 2020 8:11 PM

So far, it is unsure when the changes would be rolled out, since some features would see the light of day within a year or so, while others are still in an exploratory stage.

The ribbon interface had been introduced by Microsoft with Office 2007.The ribbon interface had been introduced by Microsoft with Office 2007. (Image: Microsoft)

Microsoft Office UI: Tech giant Microsoft on Wednesday teased the Office UI and design that it has envisioned for the coming few years. In an article, Microsoft Office design head Jon Friedman said that over the years, the giant has been constantly working to better its suite of apps to provide a wholesome user experience that works together seamlessly for the convenience of the users. However, the giant has now been forced more than ever to think of changes in light of the pandemic that struck the world, and as a result, led to people working from home without any semblance of distinction between work and personal life.

Explaining about the changes that Microsoft has already introduced to ensure that the user is not distracted due to the user interface of their apps, including a dark mode and overhaul of the ribbon toolbar, the next move would be to make the use of Microsoft Office even simpler. Friedman said that the giant would now fade the brand colours from the headers of the apps in the next wave of the Microsoft 365 UX and it would also explore adaptive commanding. This, he said, would allow users to move a simplified toolbar to anywhere on the screen as they require, while using progressive disclosure to reveal commands contextually.

This would lead to the ribbon interface of the Office being replaced with a toolbar, ready to be undocked. This toolbar would reveal commands as the users require while they are working. Friedman said that the tech giant is exploring how this interface can be brought to life, while some of the details would be rolled out within a couple of years.

A report in The Verge quoted Friedman as saying that the ribbon has been a part of the user experience since its inception and it became a signature. It had originated for the desktop versions. However, now that users and their needs are now cross-platform and multi-device, the giant is re-imagining what the user intent and context-aware command would look like in the future. Having a ribbon that is context aware would reduce the cognitive load and the user and it would aid in increasing their focus on what they are working on, regardless of the device or the place they are at.

The ribbon interface had been introduced by Microsoft with Office 2007, and now it seems like the giant is ready to make it a thing of the past. The ribbon has over time been simplified on other devices, but the new changes seem to be a steeper step than any taken by Microsoft so far. The changes are aimed at ensuring that the focus of the user remains on the work instead of the UI.

Apart from this, the new interface would also include a simple icon at the top of the apps to indicate to the user the app that is being used. It would also have a centralised command or search bar.

So far, it is unsure when the changes would be rolled out, since some features would see the light of day within a year or so, while others are still in an exploratory stage. Apart from that, the tech giant is also taking stock of user requirements all over the world in light of the pandemic.

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