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Microsoft teases the future of its Office UI

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Windows is great and all, but Microsoft has become the force they are in the tech space on the strength of their Office Suite that so far, no other company has come close to matching. Other companies can build different operating systems and even make better hardware, but all seem to have come to the conclusion that when you are looking for the best in office productivity, Microsoft has this market well and truly cornered.

And now the company is teasing their next evolution of the Office UI and design to not just enhance the features it already offers but try and focus on simplicity on making it even easier to use. Even though it’s already quite intuitive in the first place. Jon Friedman, corporate vice president of design and research at Microsoft, has provided details behind some of these new changes and the reasoning behind them to The Verge:

The next wave of Microsoft 365 UX changes will go even further by fading brand colours from app headers and exploring adaptive commanding, This lets you move a simplified toolbar around the screen to wherever you find it most helpful, using progressive disclosure to contextually reveal commands. Since its 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. Having your ribbon commands follow your actions and being context-aware will reduce cognitive load and increase focus on the task at hand, whether you’re on your phone in the subway or your tablet on the sofa or your desktop

This adaptive commanding will see Office’s ribbon interface replaced with a toolbar that can be undocked to float nearby actions you’re taking in documents with contextual commands. The focus will move away from the usual shell that your different documents, spreadsheets or presentations are contained on to the content itself. Other changes include a simple app icon at the top of apps to indicate which Office app you’re using, and the centralized search or command bar taking the centre stage:

We’ll be further advancing our seamless, cross-suite Search to bring relevant information right to your fingertips. Throughout, we’re grounding everything we build in deep research into the nuances of attention. Some moments call for lengthy, sustained concentration. Others, such as many mobile scenarios, are optimal for micro-tasking. By designing for multiple cognitive states, focused experiences throughout the Microsoft 365 ecosystem minimize external distractions, lessen self-interruptions, and jumpstart flow.

Along with the visual changes to the Office suite, teams will also be getting new developer-focused features will let apps integrate into Teams meetings during video calls, and even before and after meetings. Third-party apps will be able to display content during Microsoft Teams calls, and even display notifications during calls. And open up the video-sharing platform to possibly countless more new possibilities as developers build tools around them to make meetings and collaboration more efficient and fun.

Microsoft hasn’t revealed when these changes are coming, whether it through the different apps or on Microsoft 365. I find it interesting how much emphasis though Micorosft is putting on constantly streamlining an interface which is already quite intuitive, but like a new coat of paint, sometimes these graphical and UI changes can breath new life into an old and familiar product.

Last Updated: July 23, 2020

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