For the first time in a decade, Microsoft is making substantial changes to the Office ribbon interface. But not to worry, the changes don’t appear to be enough to put anyone off Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook.
The existing ribbon is retained, that’s an important point that’s not emphasized enough in the leaked Microsoft video.
But you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re going back to the toolbar of Office 2003!
Microsoft released the above video after ‘Walking Cat’ has leaked an incomplete Microsoft video on Twitter. Not even Office Insiders have seen anything yet.
The Redmond video opens with Microsoft’s favorite zombie statistic – that ‘over a billion people use Office‘ which still isn’t believable five years after they started making the unsubstantiated claim.
What’s coming is a new, condensed ribbon with more animation in the tabs for each ribbon.
Ribbon tabs get an underline when hovered or selected.
There are animations as part of the Fluent design that Microsoft wants applied across Windows apps.
The condensed ribbon is first appearing in Word Online (the browser based version of Word). It’s being rolled out gradually so you might not see the new interface right away.
Microsoft is also trying to standardize the ribbon across all the apps, Windows, Mac, Mobile etc.
Collaboration continues to be a focus for Microsoft with all the collaboration status indicators at top right of the ribbon.
Some of the videos features are already in Office like the color coding of collaborators and showing comments on the side.
Coming Soon button
Microsoft might have learned something from the inept introduction of the Office ribbon. There’ll be a ‘Coming Soon’ button at top right that you can use to turn the ribbon changes off, at least for a while.
Simple doesn’t mean better
It’s way too early to judge these ribbon changes. If they are just about adding a simplified ribbon for beginners, that’s OK.
The worry is Microsoft throwing away more complex options useful for more experienced users in favor of some simplistic ‘experience’ for novices.
There was no mention of the improved ribbon editing. It’s been interesting to watch Microsoft backflip from ‘changing the ribbon is easy’ to ‘maybe ribbon editing should be better’. Less talk, more action.
Outlook on the web search
Another addition is integrated search on what’s called ‘Outlook on the web’, presumably Office 365 hosting only. The single search box will make suggestions on people or events, based on past behavior.