Microsoft emphasizes focus in upcoming Office user interface

Once, Microsoft was rebuked for its egregious space-wasting when it came to user interface. Whereas the classic Mac interface, originally designed for a 9″ 512 X 384-pixel display, kept commands hidden in menus until they were needed, Microsoft fostered the distraction-free work backlash with toolbars filled with inscrutable icons and, later, a ribbon for Microsoft Office that consumed a large part of the work area.

The company recently scaled back the ribbon’s space requirements, though, and from the sound of this Verge article, more dramatic changes are in play as the Office team builds, per a preview video, “experiences built for focus.” Perhaps the closest look we get at the future concept is this ethereal view of old favorite Excel:

In addition to an overall simplification, Microsoft is also moving toolbars closer to the action where they are needed, which should also help with screen clutter. As is made clear both in the illustration and the even more abstract video, part of what’s driving the shift is Microsoft’s move onto platforms such as smartphones where there are not only smaller screens, but a need for larger targets to be hit by fingers as opposed to cursors.

There’s still much to be revealed here, but a redesign of Word that moves much of the user interface out of the way could put pressure on the cottage industry of distraction-free word processors.

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