Microsoft Office’s new Fluent Design overhaul makes it easier to use

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Microsoft is bringing its Fluent Design system from Windows 10 over to its Office apps to simplify them for the billion people that use Office. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook are all getting a new simplified ribbon which is smaller and easier to use. The ribbon includes new animations, icons that are designed to be accessible, and subtle color changes to modernize the look and feel of Office. While these changes are coming to Microsoft’s main desktop versions of Office, they’re also coming to the web.

Microsoft has re-built its web version of Office on a modern platform to run faster than it has before, and visually it looks a lot better. The new simplified ribbon is a great fit for the web, and you can still expand it to the larger more classic version. Office on the web will now include avatars for comments and dedicated colors for participants who are also viewing and editing the same document, much like Google’s G Suite.

Office on the web’s new simplified ribbon

“Office is used by more than a billion people every month, so while we’re excited about these changes, we also recognize how important it is to get things right,” explains Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office. “Over the next several months we will deploy new designs to select customers in stages and carefully test and learn.”

Microsoft is testing the simplified ribbon first with the web version of Word today on, before testing it with Outlook for Windows users in July. Outlook on the web is also getting a new search experience which anticipates contacts, revisiting searches, or upcoming meetings. Microsoft says it’s taking its time with a simplified ribbon for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on Windows as users have a lot of muscle memory with these versions, but when it arrives you’ll still be able to use the classic bigger ribbon. The new colors and icons will also appear on first before heading to Outlook for Windows in July and Outlook for Mac in August.

Word for Windows animation changes

The design tweaks are subtle and welcome additions to Microsoft Office, and the more important changes will be how now performs. Microsoft’s promise of a faster modern web version of Office sounds appealing, and it’s one we’ll be testing once it’s available.


The big blue bar seems a bit heavy, taking up some valuable vertical space, but otherwise looks pretty nice!

I personally think the previous version featured a much more obtrusive blue bar. This seems like a good redesign. Let’s see.

Lets hope it gets smaller, between the ribbon, the bar and the browser UI you can end up with a very limited FOV of the actual doc or spreadsheet.

It’d be nice if there was a browser option that let you choose for some websites to hide the bookmarks bar and address bar while keeping tabs available, like full screen but limited to certain websites/tabs.

For your particular use maybe you would want to use a site-specific browser just for web Office. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about the browser UI getting in the way.

Or we could come up with a UI that allows this for all web apps that does this sorta thing.

You mean the blue highlight across the titlebar right?

I definitely agree, it looked much better when the whole ribbon was coloured (like it is currently), or back in Office 2013 when the theme was predominantly white like this:

Just change the theme to White?

I don’t think so at all. I absolutely love the colour. It’s bold, vibrant and creates useful contrast. Colour is beautiful! I hate the all white trend in UI. Google’s crippled a lot of their designs because of it. I love that Microsoft is simplifying the ribbon and I’ve asked for something like the UWP OneNote but I didn’t want anything other than iconography changes and a simplified ribbon. Microsoft should not have changed the background colour and the blueberry colour of the tab itself. It should not be white. It should be grey. Only the document should be white and the document should be focus.

Lol. Blueberry? How did my keyboard type that? Well, I think it’s possible to change the background colour.

Need to see it in person but looks less intrusive than the original ribbon. I may be in the minority but I have hated the ribbon since it’s introduction.

A lot of people have complained about the ribbon for years, so you may or may not be in the minority. I personally never had any issue with it and in some ways actually prefer it, but to each their own.

People don’t like change.

You aren’t wrong but it’s not just that most of the time. It’s often justified. I don’t like this redesign because of the bad contrast, lack of colour and because a lot of things require more clicks.

The ribbon was great for grouping functionalities, but it’s too big, especially on mouse-and-keyboard environments where precision is much finer than touch-first interfaces.

Now that I’ve moved to a higher resolution external display it is not quite as annoying but it is extremely painful on my 15" 1080p laptop screen.

Me too. I get it and why they went there but man I missed my old menus!

I gave up Office years ago.
If they rewrote the code from scratch, got rid of all the unused stuff that dates back to XP or even further, cleaned it and dealt with the bugs, then I’d go back. It’s huge, slow, bug-ridden and contains elements I will never use, so I’m paying for redundancies.
The bug that drove me away was the one that corrupts long documents if you go in and edit and add to them a lot. It’s erratic, hard to track down, but somewhere in the program, there is something that does that.
Also, I will not rent my software, and I don’t want my program to "call home" every time I open it.
I found a program that has been freshly rewritten and revised, and works. So stop dicking about with the interface and actually go in and deal with it.

We all pay for stuff in software we don’t use…

You should talk with Microsoft and ask them for a special office for you… What software are you using now.. Open Office? Libre office? Google Docs?

You literally rent all software you use. That’s in every EULA.

Also, office may be overkill for you. For me and our organization – there is literally no other alternative that would allow us all the features we need to do day to day work. The simple fact that it CAN be accessible for pretty basic straight forward tasks and still be flexible enough for use cases such as ours that push the suite’s limits is actually quite a testament to Microsoft. All while keeping a generally affordable price point. This is in stark contrast to basically all other pro-capable software suites (Photoshop for instance, which costs way more, or even more egregiously Acrobat, which has a fraction of the functionality).

It would help you to be informed on the things you’re talking about.

Google Docs/Sheets/Slides is a good alternative to Office.

No it is not. For some people who don’t need the full power of office maybe, but if we’re talking alternatives, there are none to Office at this moment.

for basic sheets or docs…

I’m assuming you don’t need Outlook, Publisher, or Access (since most people don’t), and for you, MS still offers the "Home and Student" edition that is not a "rental" product.

You still rent it, technically. Just not a subscription. The real cost benefit between subscription vs. buying is constant monthly fees vs. always having access to the most recent version. If you buy the one-time license for a product you get no upgrade rights.

Eh, you know what he means. He has a problem with the fairly recent practice of subscription based usage and I don’t blame him but my point is that there is an alternative in this case (unlike the annoying Adobe CC). Infinite updates are never guaranteed and software licensing vs ownership is as old as software itself. Most people don’t need constant feature updates as long as their software is secure. In the case of Office I can still "own" my license and upgrade every other year for the same price as a 365 sub. Yes I understand there are other limitations but this is assuming I only need one copy which is reasonable. It worked fine for 30+ years and it still works fine now if companies allow it.

The real benefit for subscriptions is more for large corporations trying to more easilyanage dynamic expenses than small businesses or individuals but I’m sure you already knew that.

View All Comments
Back to top ↑