Microsoft said in a blog post published today that it's refreshing Office 365 apps, including Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint, in part so that they're more accessible for users with disabilities. Microsoft is bringing focused inbox to Outlook, as well as Send Later. Microsoft had released a preview build of Office 2019 for Windows users back in April itself. That's why it's taking things slow: the redesigned version is making its way to Word on Office.com today, and then to Outlook for select Insiders in July.
Microsoft, of course, would prefer the masses of its customer base to actually move across to its Office 365 subscription package, but for those who haven't yet done that, or who choose not to for their own internal reasons, Microsoft offers a yearly update of Office that allows businesses to handle all of their productivity needs. Created to make the apps look more modern, the new icons are built as scalable graphics "so they render with crisp, clean lines on screens of any size", Microsoft says. They include a simplified ribbon-the once-controversial collection of menu items and tools that reside near the top of Word, Excel and PowerPoint will soon take on a more streamlined appearance meant to help users focus on their work and collaborate with others.
The company announced Wednesday it will begin rolling out subtle changes to the Office.com and Office 365 app designs in order to make them look simpler and less cluttered. The update also includes icons that scale better with screen size and a more prominent Search feature in the Office applications.
Finally, Microsoft is looking to make search more efficient. "With 'zero query search, ' simply placing your cursor in the search box will bring up recommendations powered by AI and the Microsoft Graph". Like the simplified ribbon, the new colors and icons will first appear in the web version of Word.
It sounds like these are just the first new features in a larger Office redesign.
The new search features are already available to commercial users on Office.com, SharePoint Online, and Outlook Mobile, and will show up on Outlook Online in August. Microsoft is rolling out new features in waves so it can collect feedback and improve Office slowly, which is definitely a good idea given the reaction to some of the changes it's previously implemented.