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Microsoft is Giving its Office 365 UI a Refreshed Look and Feel

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Microsoft is redesigning its Office productivity apps to make them easier to use.

Microsoft said in a blog post published today that it’s refreshing Office 365 apps, including Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint, in part so that they’re more accessible for users with disabilities. The company is vastly reducing the size of the ribbon — the toolbar that for so many years has been loaded up with buttons.

The simplified version of the Office Ribbon allows users to collapse it so it takes up less space and hides many options, or keep it expanded into the current three-line view. Microsoft is starting to roll out this new Ribbon in the web version of Word to “select consumer users today in Office.com.” In July, Microsoft will also make this new Ribbon design available in Outlook for Windows.

“We’ve found that the same ten commands are used 95% of the time by everybody,” said Jon Friedman, General Manager of Design Management and Operations.

In addition to the Fluent Design being added, Microsoft has added a new search experience that uses machine learning and Microsoft AI. In addition to allowing you to search for documents or text within documents, this new search also includes a feature called “zero query search”

Zero query search allows you to simply click in the search field and before you type anything, Microsoft AI will offer a list of related documents, people you can collaborate with, and commands that you may want to execute.

The changes are meant to reflect the changing dynamic in the workplace. By 2020, Millennials will be the dominant age group, but several generations will share offices, and each group works in its own way, Friedman said.

“The context of the world is changing dramatically, and while we’ve grown up with these productivity experiences that we’ve grown to love, I think there is a broader set of people we have to adapt to,” explains Friedman.

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