Microsoft is redesigning its Office productivity applications to make them easier to use, as it faces a tougher Google competition.
Microsoft said on Wednesday it is refreshing Office 365 applications, including Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint, in part to make them more accessible to users with disabilities. The company is greatly reducing the size of the ribbon, the toolbar that for many years has been loaded with buttons.
Users who prefer traditional tape can go back with a single click. www.office.com/setup
Office renewal comes two months after Google unveiled a redesign for Gmail. Google has been gaining traction in the business world with its suite of cloud-based office applications.
But Microsoft needs to maintain the momentum in Office 365, which remains one of the company’s main growth opportunities. As part of the update, the icons have been modernized to make their functions more obvious. When working on a document, users can hover over the comments to change their color, and on the Office website, they can hover over the name of a file to be displayed virtually.
Microsoft brings the animations of its “fluid” design system to Office applications. Above the ribbon, the category of options you are currently viewing is underlined in blue, and the underline seems to move quickly when you select a different category.
The changes are not only cosmetic. Microsoft will also begin to allow you to anchor the tape to the individual features you use frequently, just as you can set certain applications to the start menu in Windows.
The search box on the Office website and applications will automatically offer suggestions for people and files based on their use, and search suggestions will vary by application.
So far, new features have been made available to a small group of paying Office users.
Jon Friedman, chief designer of Office, told CNBC that the company is paying close attention to customer comments so they can make the necessary improvements before driving changes to different operating systems and applications. The new tape, for example, is coming to the Word web version before it appears anywhere else.
“We are very confident that it is a step in the right direction,” Friedman said.
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