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Inside the new look and defaults in Office 365

The look of Microsoft Office 365 for Windows is changing with new features beyond the simple design changes.  Here’s what you can do with the new look, mostly changes to the Quick Access Toolbar and important changes to Office default settings.

Note: what you see in Office 365 might not match our description. The Office interface changes are a ‘work in progress’. There are differences between what’s available for Insiders at various levels, what Microsoft describes and even in the screen shots the company provides.

Show Below Ribbon

Right-click on QAT to see a ‘Show Below Ribbon’ option.

That gives the QAT more room to grow along a full window and make more space on the top title bar.

QAT below the ribbon is the new default position but it can be restored to the title bar.

Hide Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) can be hidden from the pull-down menu at bottom right of the ribbon.

Hiding the QAT does NOT remove the pesky and compulsory AutoSave and Save buttons. 


However, Microsoft seems to be moving to fix that, based on their screen shots. That can’t come soon enough for us.

Show Command Labels

An interesting new option is ‘Show Command Labels’. Look on the Customize QAT pull-down options to see if the feature is there.

A standard QAT is mostly icons only like this …

Show Command Labels adds text next to each button.

As you can see, Microsoft hasn’t fixed the long-standing problem of forced labels for some commands (like the common ‘Para Keep with Next’).

Show Ribbon

Also on the bottom right of the ribbon are ‘Show Ribbon’ options. None of the choices are new, just new ways to activate them.

Full-screen mode – fills the screen with the current document.  Similar to View | Focus.

Show tabs only – a minimized form of the ribbon which will appear when needed but otherwise hide.

Always show ribbon

The existing shortcut like double-clicking on the tabs or Ctrl + F1 still toggle between ‘Show tabs only’ and ‘Always show ribbon’.

New defaults for Office

There are new defaults for some Office settings.

  • If the QAT is not customized it will be HIDDEN by default.
  • Quick Access Toolbar BELOW the ribbon
  • Undo and Redo buttons on the QAT, in addition to AutoSave and Save.
  • Office Theme defaults to ‘Use system setting’.
    • Office will go into Black theme if you’ve put Windows into Dark theme. 
    • Windows Light theme sets Office White mode.
    • Colorful theme will be switched to ‘Use System setting’.

You can switch back to your original settings for the Quick Access Toolbar.

Change the Office theme at File | Options | General | Office theme

More changes coming …

Microsoft is promising more changes in the near future.

We’ve already mentioned that AutoSave and Save buttons will be configurable (as they should have been from Day One).

The Mica look will be added to Office apps. Microsoft is inordinately excited about Mica and seems to think it’s more important than practical improvement to Office. Mica is just another display option for Windows apps.

Who gets it?

As we said, it’s a work in progress, what you see might not match the above description or Microsoft’s statements. You need the latest version of Office 365 for Windows.

According to Microsoft the changes are in these releases:

Current Channel (Preview) users running v2108 build 14326.20046 or later.

On Windows 10, choose ‘Coming Soon’ or ‘Upcoming Features’ from the megaphone option on the title bar. Scroll down the ‘Coming Soon’ pane and turn on the ‘Try the new experience’ option.

On Windows 11, update Office 365 and restart the apps.

New look for Microsoft 365 and Office 2021
Changing text and icons on Office Quick Access Toolbar

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