Microsoft has rebuilt the web version of Office, giving it a performance boost and updating the Ribbon to make it more streamlined. Now, instead of seeing everything on the Ribbon, you'll only have the most-used options visible, although you can easily display the full set of options when you need them. The changes are available on Word on office.com now, with Insiders getting the update on Outlook in a few weeks.
This isn't the first time Microsoft has experimented with decluttering the Office interface. A previous version hid menu options you didn't use often, only exposing them when you looked for them. This time, rather than smashing users with a massive UI change, they're bringing the new interface to each of the Office apps more gradually.
In time, the changes will be added to the desktop versions of the Office applications. And, if you don't like the simplified Ribbon, it takes just one click to bring back the old one.
The other big change are the use of new icons and colour. The new icons are built with scalable graphics so they render nicely on screens of any size. The new colours and icons will first appear in the web version of Word for Office.com. Later this month they'll go to select Insiders in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows. Outlook for Windows gets them in July and Outlook for Mac gets the updates in August.
The design team hasn't been developing these changes in some back room in Redmond. They've been working with customer groups to develop the new look.
We've reached a point where people aren't looking for more features in the Office apps. What they want are smarter tools that are easier to use.
Microsoft has provided lots more detailed information.