Microsoft is giving Office 365 a facelift

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Microsoft is giving Office 365 a facelift

Microsoft is giving Office 365 a facelift, with user experience changes to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook set to roll out over the coming months.

The updates will be exclusive to Office.com and Office 365 versions of Microsoft's popular productivity software.

While there are more changes in the works, Microsoft corporate vice president for Office and Windows marketing Jared Spataro previewed three of the upcoming changes.

The first change is a simplified ribbon – the set of toolbars that sit at the top of Office applications – which Spataro said was designed to help users focus on work and to collaborate with others.

"Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows offer our deepest, richest feature set—and they’re the preferred experience for users who want to get the most from our apps," said Spataro.

"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."

The web version of Word will be the first application to receive the new update starting today, followed by Outlook for Windows for select Windows Insider users.

Another new change is to search functionality, which Spataro said would be a "much more important element of the user experience". The search function will provide users with access to commands, content and people, powered by Microsoft's AI and Microsoft Graph. The new search functionality is already available for commercial users of Office.com, SharePoint Online and the Outlook mobile app, and will start rolling out to the web version of Outlook in August.

Microsoft is also making aesthetic changes to Office 365 including new colours and icons, which are built as scalable graphics to adjust to different screen sizes.

Spataro said that the company worked with customers to collect data on how they use Microsoft's apps and built prototypes to test new concepts, and will continue to monitor feedback and update the new designs as necessary.

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