Refreshing: An Office update that won't frighten the horses

Microsoft reins in some of its excesses with a visual tidy-up

Microsoft's much-trumpeted "visual refresh" for its suite of Office applications has begun making its way out to users enrolled in the Insider programme, last night slithering onto both the Windows 11 Intel and ARM test setups at Vulture Central.

To be fair, our Arm setup consists of a Raspberry Pi-400 running a preview of Microsoft's next version of Windows and we were interested in seeing how it would cope.

The refresh came after we'd subjected the Pi to the native ARM64 version of Microsoft's cash cow and it updated without drama after we told Word we were keen to try out the new experience.

As for what is actually new, we'd have to call this more a tidying up of the user interface to feel a little more consistent with the rounder bits of Windows 11. And yes, the Office desktop applications will pay attention to the selected theme in Microsoft's new OS.

Old office versus new Office

Ooo rounded ... New Office left, old right

The changes are all a bit more pleasing to the eye rather than revolutionary. The ribbon has been given the rounded corners so beloved by fanbois and the customisation is improved. The splash screens have also had a makeover and the Quick Access toolbar is no more, although some of the changes have come at the cost of a few vertical pixels by default.

The update has been a while coming. After the announcement at the end of June, it was first delayed into July, then rolled out in stages until all users on the beta channel could gaze upon Microsoft's work and say… "is that it?"

Which is arguably no bad thing.

Microsoft seems content to frighten the horses with changes to its flagship operating system, Windows, that include a very different Start menu and a shunting around of system settings (although it doesn't take much picking to uncover dialogs from a far earlier era).

But changes to Office? The outcry when the toolbar was ditched is still echoing through the halls of Redmond. As such, the upcoming "visual refresh" for Office looks to be minor enough the soothe enterprise nerves left jangling by the changes coming down the road in Windows. ®

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