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Resolving Complexity: Office 365 Updates That Are Taking User Experience to New Heights

Many people usually turn to Microsoft’s online productivity suite, Office 365 because of the apparent breadth and depth of its features, which allow them to accomplish what they are unable to do with other similar products on the market.

However, the business environment is always changing and organizations increasingly put a premium on agility, as staying competitive means being able to do more with less. Time is increasingly more valuable as well. Organizations need technology that requires very little training to reduce onboarding expenses for new employees.

With this understanding, Microsoft is rolling out updates to its Office 365 and the Office.com environment to simplify tasks and take the user experience to a higher level. Once this rollout is complete, users will be able to enjoy a much better experience across Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, as well as Outlook.

While these user experience updates are set to roll out slowly over the next couple of months, many of them are already available for Office.com users to experiment with. Microsoft has deployed new designs to a select customer group. These will be released in phases and carefully tested, so the tech giant can learn as they go.

A user centric approach

According to Microsoft, every change they are making on the user experience is focused on three key things: incorporating customer input, considering the context under which the feature will be best and most easily applied, and giving people control over their experience.

It is actually because of this user-centered approach that Microsoft is rolling out these updates gradually to allow room for incorporating the new feedback they obtain from customers during the process.

Shadow and depth on Office

As you scroll over the items on Office.com, you will notice that they pull forward with shadow and depth. This is because Microsoft is bringing its Fluent Design system to the web and to Office 365.

More importantly, Microsoft has rebuilt Office on a modern platform to be much faster and far more efficient than ever. So you’ll notice that every item you tap, such as a Word document, opens much faster than ever.

Simplified ribbon

Once you open your document, you’ll notice an updated, simplified, and better version of the ribbon. The new ribbon design will help users focus on their work and collaborate with others in a more natural and informal way.

For those who prefer to dedicate more screen space to showing commands, there is the option to expand the ribbon into the classic three-line view. This option will continue to be available to users so that everyone can choose the experience they prefer.

The simplified ribbon is first rolling out on the web version of Word. It will then become available to select consumers on Office.com and to Select Insiders in Outlook for Windows later on in July.

The simplified ribbon will not be available on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows yet. Microsoft intends to gather enough feedback from a broader set of users before implementing any changes that could disrupt people’s work. Upon rolling out the ribbon on these products however, users will still be able to revert back to the classic version of the ribbon with just a single click.

New animations

As part of the Fluent Design system, the ribbon has been improved with new animations. The user experience is improved with better speed and velocity to improve the overall look and feel. All these have been designed to be inclusive and accessible so that the user experience is streamlined.

New icons and color in the right places

Along with the new animations, users will enjoy a fresh array of new colors and icons. These will help people find the commands they’re looking for more easily. These new features were developed as scalable graphics. They render with precision on any screen size or type.

Users will be able to see the new icons and colors first in the web version of Word for Office.com. Select Insiders will see these new features in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows in late June. The new icons and colors will then roll out to Outlook for Windows in July, and ultimately to Outlook for Mac in August.

Personalized intelligent Search

Microsoft is also rolling out a new personalized, intelligent Search feature across its products. This will provide access to commands, content, and people in a more enhanced manner. This feature makes suggestions on actions you can take, the content you may be looking for, and people that you may want to connect with – all based on your past work patterns. For those who love Office 365 and even for those who may not yet be fans, these new updates promise a world-full of new possibilities.

All you have to do is place your cursor in the search box and all these recommendations powered by machine learning and the Microsoft Graph will show up.

This experience is already available to commercial users in SharePoint Online, Office.com, and the Outlook mobile app. Commercial users of Outlook on the web will also start seeing this experience in action in August.

Wrap up

These updates are a sign of Microsoft’s commitment to making its products more useful to its customers. Against this backdrop, we can expect nothing but the best user experience from these products as the tech giant continues to roll out innovative modifications.