Microsoft teases a new UI for its Office and productivity apps

The ribbon interface that Microsoft (perhaps most famously) iterated in its suite of Office apps (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook among others) is recognised by many as a hallmark of UI design – and now, the Redmond giant has teased another new change that will reach its most popular apps in due course as it continues to refine its Fluent design.

While the productivity game has changed over the last few years – having seen Microsoft bundle its foremost apps into its 365 package, and now competing with free alternatives such as Google Docs – the company has seen fit to steadily evolve its UI. For most users, that’s amounted to change at a snail’s pace as the core framework behind Windows 10 has gradually been lifted to compete with modern standards.

In a statement to The Verge, Jon Friedman, corporate vice president of design and research at Microsoft, quipped that “since its inception, the ribbon has been a signature experience bringing user intent and commanding together. It originated on the desktop, but as the world and people’s lives are entirely cross-platform and multi-device, we’re re-imagining what intent and context-aware commanding looks like in the future.”

As Friedman elaborates, Microsoft is now pursuing a design which would leverage toolbars that could contextually follow a user’s input – especially one powered by Search.

“We’ll be further advancing our seamless, cross-suite Search to bring relevant information right to your fingertips”, before adding that “having your ribbon commands follow your actions and being context-aware will reduce cognitive load and increase focus on the task at hand, whether you’re on your phone in the subway or your tablet on the sofa or your desktop.”

Microsoft has increasingly promote the presence of search across its core apps, perhaps most notably on Teams, and its own Android Launcher.

It’s not clear as to when Microsoft will officially release the changes, though a newly released teaser video highlights the firm’s upcoming design ethos.

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