Microsoft is redesigning Office to simplify the user experience

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Later this month, some Office Insiders will see them in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows.

Following in Gmail's and Apple's recent redesigns, Microsoft is giving Office a makeover. A subset of users with the web version of Word will see the new Ribbon first. While two are relatively minor and focus on visuals and efficiency, there's one major change that even Microsoft knows it needs to tread carefully with. There will be new colors, icons, and new animations and reveal effects in ribbons.

For those who are interested in this Office 2019 for Mac preview, the company published a "how to participate" website here which allows businesses to sign-up for its Commercial Preview program, including all of the prerequisites before a business can actually sign-up. Microsoft will roll out this experience to the web version of Word first and will start to roll out to select consumer users today on Office.com. Users can expand the ribbon to the classic three-line view whenever they want.

For everyone else, Microsoft is moving forward cautiously, especially when it comes to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows. The new icons will be vector graphics, so they should be able to render on screens of different sizes and resolutions.

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According to Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Office and Windows Marketing, search "will become a much more important element of the user experience, providing access to commands, content, and people". In August, they will roll out to Outlook for Mac.

Microsoft also is making search smarter by providing recommendations that officials said are "powered by AI" and the Microsoft Graph programming interfaces.

A final and very welcome development, according to Friedman, is that the apps open faster, having been rebuilt on top of a new platform. Microsoft has been testing the simplified Ribbon with 30 large Office 365 customers and has been flighting changes to users there to see how they would be accepted, Friedman said. This smarter search box is already available in the Web apps, SharePoint Online, and Outlook mobile; in August it will also be coming to Outlook on the Web. 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.

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