Microsoft gives Office 365 a new, simplified look with a slimmed down toolbar and AI search feature designed to make it easier to use
- Word is the first app to get the all-new design, with Outlook to follow in August
- The toolbar on the top of web-version of Word has been slimmed
- Outlook’s search function will suggest more results, including contacts
- The simplified user interface will only be available to Office 365 subscribers
- Microsoft Office redesign comes on the back of a new look for rival Gmail
Microsoft Word has been given a makeover, with a focus on simplicity.
The new look ditches most of the icons in the banner at the top of the app, reducing three-lines of shortcuts down to a single row of the most commonly used features.
Microsoft has redesigned each of the remaining icons with a new sharper, high-contrast style that it says will improve visibility for users.
The simplified design is now available to Office 365 subscribers worldwide.
Microsoft has also unveiled a similar update for Outlook featuring an AI search feature.
However, the company says it will hold off redesigning the remaining apps in its productivity suite, including Powerpoint and Excel, until it hears back from customers on the new look.
The redesign comes as Google overhauled its email client, Gmail, earlier this year to better compete with Office 365.
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The updated version of the ribbon (pictured) is designed to help users focus on their work. People who prefer to dedicate more screen space to the commands will still be able to expand the ribbon to the classic three-line view
Microsoft says the new Word design will help users ‘focus on their work’.
The new look, dubbed Simplified Ribbon, strips back the rows of icon and shortcuts that populated the toolbar at the top of the app in previous versions to a single row.
However, Microsoft says users are able to revert back to the old design by toggling the Simplified Ribbon switch in the top right-hand corner of the window.
‘We recognise that established skills and routines are powerful – and that the way someone uses the apps often depends on specific parts of the user interface. So we want to give users control, allowing them to toggle significant changes on and off,’ Microsoft said in a blog post announcing the redesign.
Each of the remaining icons in the toolbar have been redesigned from the ground-up with an emphasis on high-contrast to help those with low visibility.
The icons have also been designed to render with ‘crisp, clean lines’ on a variety of different display sizes, so the new interface can scale from everything from a pocket-sized tablet, all the way up to a sprawling desktop set-up.
Office 365 subscribers will start to see the changes from today.
Microsoft will be rolling-out its redesigned icons to the Windows version of Word later this month, with Outlook for Windows to follow in July.
New colours and icons will first appear in the web version of Word for Office.com. Later this month it will roll out to select users in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows. In July, they will go to Outlook for Windows, and in August they will begin rolling out to Outlook for Mac
Outlook is set to get its own version of the simplified toolbar later this summer, Microsoft said.
The popular email client will also be the first app in the Office 365 suite to get a new AI-powered search bar, which tries reduce the need to type-in a search term.
As soon as Outlook users hover their mouse over the search bar icon, AI will start to populate the bar with recommendations in an attempt to anticipate the search.
Outlook says the AI learns from users’ habits and tailors its suggestions accordingly.
WHAT FEATURES ARE INCLUDED IN THE NEW MICROSOFT OFFICE 365?
Microsoft has started to roll-out a new design to its Outlook and Word apps.
It includes a simplified user interface, and redesigned icons.
New Toolbar: Microsoft has reduced the three-lines of shortcuts previously on-display in the toolbar at the top of Outlook and Word down to a single row.
Updated Icons: The remaining icons have been redesigned from the ground-up to better scale to different display sizes. Microsoft has also increased the contrast to make the icons clearer to those with low visibility.
AI Search: Starting with Outlook, Microsoft will bring an AI-powered search bar to its Office 365 productivity apps. The intelligent search bar will try to anticipate users’ query as soon as they hover over the bar.
Reversible: All of the user interface tweaks rolling out today can be reversed. Microsoft has promised users the option to revert to the previous design with a click.
The latest updates to Outlook arrive less than a month after Microsoft pushed-out a slew of new features to the email client to help it better compete with the likes of Gmail.
Microsoft says it has improved time zone support in Outlook to allow users can now add calendar entries which start in one time zone, but ends in another
Bill Reminders: Outlook automatically trawls your emails and adds any due dates for bill payments included in your messages to the calendar.
Better Location Support: The updated app leverages Bing to populate your appointments with additional information about the venue.
Syncing: Outlook for iOS will now sync any unfinished draft emails between your iPhone, Android smartphone or tablet, and PC devices.
RSVP: Outlook now shows users the complete list of responses from people who have RSVP’d to an event – not only their own.
Better Time Zone Management: Microsoft says it has improved time zone support so that users can now add calendar entries which start in one time zone, but ends in another
Following the roll-out of the simplified toolbar in Outlook, the search bar will become the default home for common commands and people.
Microsoft said: ‘Search will become a much more important element of the user experience, providing access to commands, content, and people.’
The updated Outlook interface will roll-out to Office 365 subscribers in August.
Although the new icon designs will hit Excel and PowerPoint this month, these apps will not get a similarly simplified toolbar design as Word and Outlook.
Microsoft plans to introduce a new user interface in the future, but will wait until it hears back from customers on the changes made to Word and Outlook.
The company said: ‘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.
‘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.
‘But when we do, users will always be able to revert back to the classic ribbon with one click.’
Microsoft Outlook received a slew of new features last month.
The Redmond-based company introduced a new bill reminders feature that scans emails for bills and automatically add any due dates to users’ calendar.
Outlook will then send an email reminder two days before the payment is due.
The service already runs a similar feature for travel reservations and package deliveries, as does its rival Gmail.
Outlook also now offers suggestions for meeting locations in calendar entries and uses Bing to automatically populate information about the venue.
This feature is also available in the Outlook client on iOS, as well as the option to book a meeting room from a mobile device.
Microsoft is also upgrading the RSVP system built into Outlook, with users now able to see the responses listed by everyone invited to the meeting.
Bill payment reminders (pictured) and a ‘quick reply’ box are among a host of new features unveiled by Microsoft as part of an overhaul of its email and calendar software Outlook
Microsoft is also upgrading the Outlook calendar’s RSVP and meeting attendee tracking (pictured). You’ll soon be able to see the responses of attendees to all of your meetings – even if you didn’t organise them – allowing all of those invited to track who has RSVP’d
Microsoft faces increased competition from Google.
Earlier this year, the Mountain View company pushed-out a redesign to its popular Gmail app with a number of new features to help it compete with Outlook.
The new-look Gmail, which Google says took two years to complete, includes support for self-destructing messages, email snoozing and smart replies.
Elsewhere, machine-learning algorithms run safety checks on every message received in the email client – alerting users in bold when it detects a possible threat.
The updated Gmail also suggests when users should unsubscribe from newsletters or marketing emails they no longer care about.
The new Gmail is available to users worldwide.
WHAT FEATURES DOES THE NEW GMAIL INCLUDE?
Snooze – Gmail has added a hover menu that has the option to snooze messages until a specific time
Nudging – The nudging feature relies on AI flagging messages that are from a certain sender and contain specific content.
The company estimates that the ‘nudges’ feature will lead 8 per cent of business users each week to remember to follow-up on something important.
High priority notifications – Gmail will use its in-built AI to flag high-priority notifications. It says this will ‘help you stay focused without interruption’
Unsubscribe -Gmail will start suggesting when to unsubscribe from newsletters or offers you no longer care about
The new layout will allow users to click on attachments without needing to scroll through large conversations. The snooze button will allow users to delay some emails until they have time to address it Credit: Google
Attachment chips – You can view and download attachments without opening an email
Confidential mode – Users who enable a ‘confidential’ option when sending an email can time-limit its access to recipients.
The new setting does not override corporate email retention policies or present new obstacles to law enforcement.
Recipients can also be blocked from being able to forward, download or print an email.
Improved security – Google’s machine-learning algorithms will run safety checks on every message received and will alert users in bold when it spots something that appears to be a threat.
Two-factor authentication is also being added so users can request the recipient authenticates themselves with a passcode received by text message before opening the confidential mail.
Google is also trying to up its security and protection for users against fraudulent emails and spam with alert of potentially risky emails
Smart replies – These will let users rapidly answer with a automatic response.
New look – Cosmetic changes bring Gmail’s website in line with Office by placing Google’s calendar, tasks and note-taking services within the same page as emails.
Generally, the design aims to be less cluttered with side panel that provide access to Google’s other apps such as Calendar.
How to get it – Users will be invited to opt in to the new changes from today, but most can also opt-in by going to ‘Settings’ and selecting ‘Try the new Gmail’.
In order to go back to the original Gmail, users can go to the same place and select ‘Go back to classic Gmail’.
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