Microsoft has begun rolling out subtle changes to the web version of Word with an aim to simplify usability for its customers.
‘ribbon’ at the top of the popular word processing program will be trimmed down to a single row of menu options. The changes come as similar online document editing services such as
Google Docs and
Pages from Apple have gained popularity in recent years, in part due to their more streamlined interfaces that nevertheless still provide enough tools for most casual users.
However, as the developer of an industry standard, the company does not want to anger or confuse existing power users by burying more advanced tools. To that end, it will hold off on any interface alterations to
Excel, PowerPoint and other Office 365 applications until it can thoroughly research the impact the changes to Word have on its customers. It will, however, relaunch the online version of
Outlook with the same simplified menu system in coming months.
The search function in Outlook will eventually show more types of results and populate with suggestions for common commands and contacts based on what the user has been working on before they even start typing. Office 365’s icons will also start to see a makeover during the summer period, firstly in Word, with new colours and a more contrasted appearance.
Interestingly, Microsoft has said these adjustments are not being considered as a beta test. Instead, Office chief designer
Jon Friedman referred to it as “co-creating with our customers”. Some Office 365 users will see new features introduced almost monthly, which they will test for the company simply by using them. Designers can then decide which additions to keep and which to kill off.
For Mac non-subscription business users, Microsoft has opened its Office 2019 preview program, which it has been running for Windows customers since April. As with Windows users who are hesitant to use the cloud and do not wish to run Office 365 with all the updates, Office 2019 for Mac will be an individual release of the same suite of applications with a bevy of new improvements.
Office 2019 for Mac offers customisation of the ribbon in all applications as well as a
roaming pencil case. The developer is adding a new translator and a focus mode to Word along with accessibility improvements. Excel users will be happy to find several new functions, charts and the option to add 2D maps.
PowerPoint will receive a range of long sought-after new features, including
3D model support, 4K video export and
play in-click sequencing. Outlook is to borrow a few usability tweaks from its mobile version, in addition to receiving some extra productivity tweaks such as scheduled delivery of emails, email templates and read and delivery receipts.
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