Looks are superficial but they matter for software that millions of people use every day to get stuff done, so Microsoft has now rolled out a revamped look for Office that aligns its productivity suite with the Windows 11 redesign.
Microsoft has been updating its core apps for Windows 11 with rounded edge windows. The visual refresh applies to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, according to Microsoft. It's a preview feature for now and can be turned off or on using the Coming Soon feature in the respective apps.
Microsoft's design experts hope the redesign will make collaboration less painful.
"When it comes to the Microsoft legacy, Windows and Office have been twin heads. Each has a powerful purpose, but when used in concert -- like in Office apps on Windows devices -- the experience created many customer pain points. Inconsistencies, overly complicated UI, and painful collaboration experiences were among the top challenges people faced," Microsoft UI designer Rachel Romano wrote.
"In many ways, addressing these pain points continues the Power & Simplicity design journey we began several years ago. Office had always been an incredibly powerful tool, but it was a far cry from simple. We wanted to make it easier, faster, and more delightful for people to use their favorite Office apps and features, so we began to radically simplify our suite. Fluent, the Microsoft design system, was instrumental in doing so," Romano said.
Its Office apps will now also obey system-level preferences for dark and light themes, allowing for black backgrounds, or white, colorful and dark grey, Microsoft explained.
"Earlier this month we made the visual update available automatically for 50% of subscription users running Current Channel builds, and Microsoft Office Home & Student 2021, Microsoft Office Home & Business 2021, Microsoft Office Professional 2021, and Microsoft Office Personal 2021 users," it said.
The quick access toolbar is now concealed to make for a simpler interface, but can be revealed by a right click on the Office ribbon or by clicking the Ribbon Display Options icon.
Microsoft has been updating the look of its core apps to fit with Windows 11, recently launching the new Media Player app for video and music content, the Paint app and other 'inbox apps' like Mail and Calendar.
Microsoft has about 200 million commercial monthly active users on Office and 145 million daily active users on its Teams collaboration platform.