Microsoft Access has a future

Mobile & Apps

Microsoft gives insights into what its office suite could look like soon. A new user interface is planned that will visually bring the Windows 10 ecosystem closer together. The ribbon bar, with which many users were never really warm, should disappear. In a blog post, Jon Friedman, Microsoft's chief designer for Office 365, explained numerous planned innovations - but without specifying a fixed schedule.

Microsoft has continuously updated its Office package in the past few months: Microsoft Search was the big innovation in 2018, last year the Fluid Framework, which breathes life into Office documents and keeps them always up to date. In 2020 Microsoft finally decided to reveal the source code of the technology.

Microsoft Office: That brings the future

As part of the Microsoft Inspire 2020 conference, the Redmond-based group unveiled numerous innovations to its 365 apps - in particular the Teams collaboration solution is to receive new features. Friedman announced that after a multi-year design journey, a major upheaval is imminent: "The next big wave of UX changes to Microsoft 365 will go further than the previous ones and reduce the color elements of the apps significantly and support adaptive control types. We will also expand our seamless, cross-suite search function to ensure that users always have the relevant information at hand. Fluid frameworks will also play a key role in Office in the future.

In purely visual terms, Microsoft wants to appear more subtle in the future. The memorable color scheme, which has shaped the Office apps for many years, is to be reduced significantly. According to Friedman, the goal is to focus on the content of the user instead of the UI of the apps. To underline the plans, Microsoft has also captured the future of Office in moving images:

Should it actually be possible in the future to open several Office apps within one window, that would be the reincarnation of Microsoft Sets: The idea of ​​the "tabbed interface" for the Windows UI first emerged in 2017 before it disappeared silently from the scene .

Microsoft is also thinking about what virtual personality development can look like - within its collaborative apps it goes without saying: "Our tools have been used for years to implement ideas," says Friedman. "Now that work and private life are increasingly merging, users may want to reveal more of themselves than just an avatar photo. In the future, numerous new themes, backgrounds and UX elements will enable users to share information about themselves, their culture or to give their hobbies - in the sense of a more authentic and inclusive communication. "

The whole thing should also work asynchronously, which, however, does not mean a return to good old e-mail: Instead, Microsoft is considering integrating video comments in chats, as Friedman reveals. A feature that platforms such as iOS have been offering for a long time. Since the debut of the voice assistant Cortana for Windows 10, artificial intelligence (AI) has been a focus of the Windows group.

It is therefore not surprising that major innovations are also planned for Office in this area. These are currently still a little difficult to define - the only thing that is certain is that Microsoft would like to use AI to automatically provide its users with context that would otherwise have to be defined first. Specifically, in the future it could look like that, for example, PowerPoint suggests a specific team chat with which you want to share the presentation you have just created.

There are also somewhat more down-to-earth innovations to report: In the future, Excel will be able to recognize errors and automatically suggest alternatives, while Microsoft Planner automatically suggests a target date for tasks based on their dates.

Microsoft will roll out these innovations over the next few months and years through its Office Suite, presumably app by app. Even if the timeline is in the dark: The visual presentation of the future of office is something to be proud of. (fm)

This article is based on an article from our US sister publication PC World.