Microsoft is previewing the future of its Office user interface and design today, which involves some significant changes to the traditional ribbon interface. Over the past few years, the software giant has been using its Fluent Design system to gradually improve Office, adding new icons, dark color patterns, and overhauling the ribbon toolbar to make it smaller and easier to use. The next phase of Microsoft Office’s design will focus more on simplicity.
Microsoft will explore adaptive commands, which allow users to move simplified toolbars around the screen to what they think is most useful. According to Friedman, Microsoft is currently exploring how the interface works, but some of the design details the company is announcing today will be available in a year or two.
Microsoft originally introduced the ribbon interface in Office 2007, and now the company is ready to go beyond it. Microsoft has been gradually simplifying ribbons on the mobile and online, but the new design shared today is a big step beyond ribbons. Microsoft’s simplified Office interface focuses more attention on the actual content you’re creating.
Other changes include a simple application icon at the top of the application to indicate which Office application you’re using, and a centralized search or command bar that takes a central place. Microsoft has been emphasizing this search and command bar interface in Office in recent years, and this feature also exists in Microsoft Teams. Microsoft will further advance seamless cross-service search, bringing relevant information directly to the user’s fingertips. By designing multiple cognitive states, the focused experience throughout the Microsoft 365 ecosystem minimizes external interference, reduces self-interference, and initiates processes.
It’s unclear when these changes will come in Office apps, the Web, and elsewhere in Microsoft 365. “While some of these changes will be rolled out in a year or two, others are still very exploratory, but simplicity, less interference, and focus on mobile and the web feel like microsoft’s new Office UI is moving forward.”