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Outlook for Windows has evolved through multiple generations of improvements to create a user experience aimed at making it easier for you to get things done and focus on what matters. Now, after rounds of validation and refinement through customer research and the Coming Soon preview feature, the updates to the user experience are rolling out as the default experience.

Customer informed updates

Many elements of the user experience have been in progress for over two years, undergoing research and design iteration. Available as a preview through Coming Soon for the last several months, we’ve given you a chance to try the new updates on your own time and provide feedback. This has been invaluable in helping us refine the experience.

 

Do these changes make Outlook better? Almost half a million users responded, with over three-quarters saying “yes,” often with further written comments and high praise for the simpler, cleaner, more modern design. Based on your feedback, we updated the entire canvas to bring you a powerful and simplified experience. These updates are now moving out of a preview mode (through Coming Soon) and are rolling out as the default experience to all Office 365 Monthly Channel subscribers in the coming days. Below is a more detailed description of the changes.

Customizable options

Based on user research, we learned that many of our customers enjoyed the smaller command-set on the toolbar to simplify the experience and reduce distraction. The optional, Simplified Ribbon provides a streamlined experience for Outlook with a core set of most commonly used commands in a single line and can be easily expanded anytime to the full, classic ribbon.

 

win32_SimplifiedRibbon_NOComingSoon.pngFigure 1 - Simplified Ribbon

win32_ClassicRibbon.pngFigure 2 - Classic ribbon

However, the “right” set of commands varies by user and work style; what may be a daily used feature for one user might never be used by another user. We made the Simplified Ribbon customizable so you can quickly personalize it by simply pinning and unpinning commands to tailor the experience for you.

 

win32_PintoRibbon.pngFigure 3 - Menu to pin commands to the Simplified Ribbon

The updated user experience is designed for simplicity, to feel lighter and more open, and focus on getting things done faster. We made it easier to scan the message list with more separation between emails, added stronger treatment for flagged items which are more consistent with other Outlook end-points and updated the single line view to include an unread indicator.

 

Among the feedback we heard over the last several months is that for some users the ability to see the maximum number of messages at once is paramount, so we recently added an option in the View tab to adjust density. Now the default experience will include the option to choose tighter spacing to see more messages at one time in the message list. This is especially helpful for users who work in single line view and choose Use Tighter Spacing on the View tab. Using tighter spacing also gives you control of the space around Send/To/Cc/Subject when composing emails. 

 

win32_MessageList_SingleLineView.pngFigure 4 - Single Line View with tighter spacing and unread indicator

Designed for faster interaction

Reading and creating email messages and calendar events needs to be straightforward, fast, and uncomplicated. The updates we made are geared to help you quickly focus and take action in a snap.

In the reading pane and email windows, the Subject is now at the top of the header, so it stands out more clearly. Part of this update includes reducing the area for the email recipients, making them collapsible while still clearly delineating To, From, and Cc. All of this helps you focus and leaves more room for your content in the message body.

 

The response toolbar has been updated to bring additional actions into the message area, such as to Reply with Meeting, and Forward as Attachment. These commands are now in context of the space where you are working, and you can respond faster.

 

Message header.pngFigure 5 - Message header updates

When you are writing or responding to an email, we’ve added more spacing around the To, Cc and Send buttons and removed some outlines to help the experience be less cluttered and therefore more usable.

 

We recently added new capabilities to Calendar in Outlook for Windows to make creating a new meeting easier. This includes changing the end to end flow of creating a New Meeting. Title is now the first field on the form and the Date and Time are BEFORE location providing smarter suggestions based on meeting room availability.   

 

Thank you for your feedback

Thank you again for your feedback provided over the recent months while these changes have been available for preview. The Coming Soon button and toggle switch is going away for now. However, given the positive feedback we received about using Coming Soon as a tool to introduce change, we plan to bring it back when we are ready to introduce another new set of changes to preview.

 

We have simplified the Outlook for Windows experience and made it more powerful and customizable to help you stay organized and focused. As these updates are available to you, we hope they will save you time, help you get things done faster, and make Outlook more enjoyable to use. Please continue to give us feedback in-app and Outlook.uservoice.com.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why have I not seen these changes and Coming Soon before?

The reasons you may not have seen these updates previously may be:

  • Your company may have restricted the option to preview the changes through Coming Soon
  • You may not have a subscription to Office 365 and therefore receive updates as part of the Monthly Channel subscription
  • Your company may not yet moved your email and calendar to the Office 365 cloud

Can I go back to the previous version of Outlook for Windows?

These updates are now the default experience for Outlook for Windows however you can choose to keep the classic ribbon which provides 3 levels of commands versus the single line of commands in the in the Simplified Ribbon. Additionally, if you Use Tighter Spacing, the wider spacing around messages and Send, To, Cc and Subject will be removed.

 

What are all the changes I should be aware of with this new user experience?

The changes are described above however here is a list of all the changes with additional images to help you identify where the updates have been made across the Outlook for Windows canvas.

Simplified Ribbon – see Figure 1 and 2 above

  • Option to remove or pin commands to the Ribbon

win32_RemovefromRibbon.png

  • Overflow of commands used less often now found with a drop down ellipses

win32_PintoRibbon.png

  • Adaptable ribbon that scales the visible commands based on the size of your window

Message List updates and layout density

  • Additional spacing between messages
  • Stronger visual cues for flagged messagesUX Message List spacing.png
  • Unread indicator in the Single Line View – see Figure 4
  • Option to Use Tighter Spacing

win32_TighterSpacing_ClassicRibbon.jpgClassic ribbon

win32_TighterSpacing_SimplifiedRibbon.jpgSimplified Ribbon

  • Tighter spacing option for composing new messagestigher spacing compose.png

Reading pane – see Figure 4 above

  • Subject moved to the top
  • Smaller area for From, To, Cc
  • Long recipient lists are collapsible (not shown on Figure 4)
  • More response options are now in the message reading pane (instead of exclusively on the ribbon) with additional options to take action in a drop down ellipses

Meetings and Appointments

  • Subject change to Title
  • Title is now the first field
  • Required and Optional attendies are on the New Meeting form, instead of a single To field
  • Date and Time are before Location
  • Additional Timezones included as an option on the New Meeting form
  • Scheduling Assistant is now an option as a ribbon tabmessage compose.png
27 Comments
Contributor

Why would you remove "Save & Close" as the left-most button on the appointment screen (pictured just above) and replace it with something that deletes the appointment?  Did you consider that "Save & Close" has been there for many years and that many would have muscle memory when it comes to using that first button on the ribbon?  Instead, they're going to get a surprise.

Occasional Visitor

This is a step in the wrong direction.  Moving links, buttons, and changing the UI so drastically is counter productive.  When you change things in this way without an opportunity for the user to go back, it provides the extra motivation to just buy an office perpetual license to mitigate these kinds of surprises.  This is lost revenue for you.  Because of this change, I am going back to office 2016 for at least 5 years and will use this experience to inform my customers and coworkers during their purchase decision of office.  Not good.

Occasional Visitor

The To/Cc/Bcc buttons now occupy 25% of the reading pane. The reply buttons are a duplication of those available on the ribbon. It's a complete waste of real-estate and not desktop-friendly. It wouldn't be an issue if Microsoft had not forced this on users. Why is there no option to use the old view? Why does Microsoft always think it knows best?

I Agree with @ginginho regarding this, I've spent 3 hours this morning attempting to 'fix' this new spacing of the To/From/CC fields for a customer before I found this post. Very poor customer service by Microsoft on this.

 

What's worse is the spacing goes back to normal when running Outlook in safe mode, which would usually indicate that the change is attributed to an add-in. Please add an option to revert the spacing to how it was before the simplified user experience rollout, even with "Use Tighter Spacing" the vertical spacing is gone but the buttons\textfield still have padding on the sides.

 

This change is also not listed under the May update on https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/officeupdates/monthly-channel-2019.

Occasional Visitor

Very unhappy clients, it’s changing things for the sake of changing things.......

Frequent Visitor
This is indeed the worst design choices that could have been made. It is like the designer did not know of the existence of the FROM and BCC fields.
Visitor

Well.... I never thought I'd be nostalgic for the ruler introduced....when... 2007? But the new default layout is even more awful and what a waste of screen resource. What's all the white space for??

And why would I ever want a simplified user experience? After 22 years I should be looking for a richer more complex experience... not a dumbed down one.

I now know I can roll it back a bit so it's not quite so awful....... but it's an unnecessary negative experience.

Visitor

This was an unwelcome change that is interfering with my workflow. How can I change the preview pane back to what it was before??? Seriously!!!! How do I change it back? You didn't ask if we wanted this change in appearance, but rather forced it on us. You have broken my normal workflow, and I'm upset about it. I need it back to normal!!!!

Occasional Visitor
Okay, for those (like me) that threw up in their mouths a bit when this launched, you can revert to the prior version by following the steps here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/2770432/how-to-revert-to-an-earlier-version-of-office-2013-... This redesign is horrendous. Who are the users that had input on this? Are they blind? Have they never used Office before? I burned an entire morning reverting to a prior version so I could actually get work done, and turned then off automatic updates. I would rather have my email open to cyber attack than use the new version of Office. Please, for the sake of your long term users, give us an opt out of this monstrous and horrible "simplified user experience".
Visitor
What genius decided that professionals want more blank white space on their 13" laptop so we have to drop our chins to read minimal content that is only at the bottom of the screen? We don't want your huge banners at the top with empty space. This is not modern, it's moronic. We don't need simplified products with more space than data, we need data. We want as much data on one page as possible, because otherwise we have to strain our shoulders and necks and scroll and page down incessantly. We use devices to read data, not to look at white or your purple empty-headed empty banner space. Who is making these empty space decisions? Is it simpletons on 40" screens? This O365 rollout is beyond terrible and for the first time since the 1980's I will be reverting back while I seriously consider buying another Mac Pro but this time WITHOUT OFFICE for Mac.
Visitor
I am a new user and I am attempting to "like" the other commenter's posts. One would assume all I need do it hit the thumbs up icon, but that is not working. Can someone please enlighten me so msft can see that these posts are not being read in a vacuum? Thanks.
Occasional Visitor

I also agree with all the comments about the waste of space. Even in the example from Microsoft showing an email message in the window, the new "simpler" version shows more space for buttons, headers, etc. than for the email content. When I read an email, I am reading for the content. If I need to reply, forward, etc I can use the ribbon buttons. When I want to see who the email is to and on a CC, I can open up that info. 

As for the message list, I like to have it above my preview of an email with one line for each email. Now, I barely get a couple of lines of the message in the preview. Not efficient at all. 

The redesign looks like it is designed for a phone or for easy deployment to a web page. I suspect the developers did this for their benefit and justified it as an improvement with customer feedback. Please look at the feedback on this page and count the positive comments versus the negative ones. 

These changes will reduce the quick reading of emails and instead have millions of people scrolling down to read more than the first few lines of email.

The designers need to read Dave Allen's book "Getting Things Done" before they do a redesign. Millions of people spend hours of each day in email. Making it less efficient and effective is a step backwards. 

Occasional Visitor

One useful hint to all that don't like the poor use of space with this change is to use the "Tighter Spacing". It helps, but doesn't solve the issue:

choose Use Tighter Spacing on the View tab:

(https://nam06.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fsupport.office.com%2Fen-us%2Fartic... )

Occasional Visitor

I'm a user of outlook since the 1990's.

Peak outlook was around about the Office 2010 version, which I still use at home.  The recent changes in Office365 seem to be all form over substance - fiddling about for the sake of it.

 

The *only* recent change that I think is worthwhile is the unread bar - but previous versions used bold - as does the new one (bar + bold text) so have we really made an improvement here?

 

All the recent flattening, removal of texture, removal of colour is a reversion back to the simple UI of the 1980's when CPUs were small and graphics cards were terrible. The UI's were simple because there was not the horsepower to do better. 

 

Whatever happened to the style guides of the 1990s about buttons, shadows, some thought into making things look useable?  Now we have flat buttons with no raised shading, flat mono-colour icons so I can't find anything (I have over 200 folders in outlook and the endless visual search is mentally draining).

 

I have no idea where you get your user acceptance information from, but perhaps you should research The Hawthorne Effect  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect) Perhaps all your changes approved by users are just because they like something a bit different, not because it's actually better.

 

The recent changes with more spacing, more changes to buttons, less ability to get stuff done... this is all steps backward.

 

Please microsoft - undo most of these silly changes. The core function of Outlook is good. Please stop trying to put lipstick on it. Put it back how it was and then leave it alone.

 

By the way I had to go through a convoluted sign up process to post this, which is a measure of how grumpy I am about the changes you made.

Occasional Visitor

I would like to report back that I am now happy that I have uninstalled Office 365 and reinstalled Office Professional Plus 2016.  Everything just looks...well, better.  I did notice that if I run updates, the Office 365 update will infect your installation with new application icons, logos, and a revamped user experience.  But never fear, learn from my perilous journey and just disable updates.  Now bask in the bliss that is Office 365 no longer.  Welcome back my friend!  :)

Occasional Visitor

@sizzlefinger I don't see that disabling updates is the answer, your leaving your system open to security issues.  MS need to rethink their "updates" to Office 365, just give people the option to change the way it looks completely.

Visitor
I will say, the simplified ribbon is one good thing amidst the rest of this epic fail. And while the "use tighter spacing" is an excellent concept, it's got such a minimal effect that it's effectively useless. Go back to the drawing board, please. And please learn from this - always offer the option to revert back, or even better, to opt in. Apple is smart enough to realize this and many of us wait to install ios and other Apple updates for this exact reason. Many of us have no time to be your guinea pigs. We are busy professionals whose hours you have wasted, so please be more respectful with your upcoming rollouts. Thank you.
Occasional Visitor

Signed up today to post the same type of comment as seemingly everyone else here:

Our organization just got this update this week, and it is universally disliked. The very few "neat" features (simplified ribbon if you want it) are far outweighed by the unnecessary and unintuitive changes elsewhere. The Subject line when writing an email doesn't even look like a place where you can type anything at first glance! While "use tighter spacing" helps a small amount, it doesn't really make it look less bloated. What's with all of the empty white space everywhere, and why the removal of contrasting colors to help differentiate between fields and elements?

This seems like change for the sake of change, or made to look more in line with the web app version. It feels like it was designed around tablet use or something, without consideration for the fact that a large majority of users of Outlook are probably sitting at a desktop computer with a relatively low resolution monitor (i.e. under 1080p).

Frequent Visitor
@jasonFS well to be honest I am looking at a 28" 4K monitor and two 24" 1440p monitors in vertical and even I don't like this update... there is a reason why I have 3 monitor... to have more space.... and what does MS do.. makes me buy a 4th monitor.... So please think before making changes... and yeah don't ask tablet users...how the design should be of a desktop applications thats the reason I don't use outlook on my phone and tablet I don't want simple things I want advanced things, to get more work done in less space and time....not the other way around. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ninefolders.hd3&hl=en ms should really take a look at this app and learn a few thing about there own product.
Occasional Visitor
@SeyedGH Agree. Nine Folders email client for Android is a fantastic application. The best part is TONS of customization options and no weird forced style changes that make it unusable (at least, none since I've used it for the last six or seven years). Comparatively, the Outlook email app is a mess. Microsoft could learn a lot by looking at the applications people choose when there is an open application ecosystem. The Use Tighter Spacing feature is OK, but does nothing to fix the horrendous drafting window with all it's white space and inconvenient buttons, and there is absolutely no way to fix it short of rolling back the update. All I want is a secure email client that doesn't require me to burn a morning rolling back updates or trying to figure out how to disable new "features." Seriously pondering a switch to Open Office and/or Mozilla Thunderbird.
Contributor

Not that MS reads comments, but here's a thought: why did you bother changing the spacing at all?  If you had left it alone, you could have included a button called "Use Looser Spacing" for the edge cases (tablets?  not sure who else?) who would actually benefit from looser spacing.

 

Don't the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

 

Instead, you changed it for everyone and then belatedly included a half-measure called "Use Tighter Spacing."  At the very least, such a button should have restored spacing to what it had always been, but it doesn't.

Deleted
Not applicable

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Occasional Visitor
I signed up today to this forum for one simple message. Where does Microsoft end with its perversion for white space and ever changing of the UI without any new functionality? These massive From, To, CC, Subject fields? and with the cluttering distracting line the changes colour under each of them? What possibly were you thinking? Why burn up so much of my precision screen real estate? Tell my please Microsoft, what was wrong with the previous From, To, CC, Subject fields. After all these years typing emails was I somehow limited in my ability to put an email in address in the To box and a subject in the Subject box? Have I missed out on something for two decades only to be solved not? But now I miss out ..I miss out on screen realeaste. No new function, just lest space to read my emails and more visual distraction with underlines that change color. What, dear Microsoft, is the purpose of an email client? Is it to view white space and pretty underlines? Or, is it to write and read emails? Its like what you did with the calculator, add white space and then make every number on it grow and distort in size, and the adjacent numbers, and weird moving borders. What a distraction. Same on the outlook calender when hovering over dates. Who are you asking for user feedback? 10 years olds that want gimmicks and side show carnivals? I'm "looking forward" to Office 2022, where the entire screen is empty a big "To Box", flaring colour around it, and a tinsy wincy little bit at the bottom, after a scroll down, past the enourmouse Subject field,, scroll again where I read and write my email.. In fact, why even waste any space on the bit where you read and write email? Lets just make the whole thing a visual bonanza of white space and dynamic colour undelines. We could hang it in an art gallery. Move over Mona Liza, the Microsoft Design Team is here
Microsoft

This new UI is not very functional in my opinion.

 

In "updating", many of the functions that were used broke. Why can we no longer see titles or links of those in an organization in a contact card? Why was "Scheduling Assistant" and "Tracking" moved to completely different tabs in the calendar? Why was the layout for a meeting invite adjusted? And worst of all - why was "Location" moved to AFTER start and end times making us have to click through all that or move the mouse to type in a location. All these things have done nothing except slow people down.

 

Simplification is keeping the things people use handy - not moving them! If you want to give people a simplified experience, then let them decide what needs to be in their tool bar. My tool belt is going to be different that then next person. Removing the things I use 50 times an hour because the guy next t to me doesn't just doesn't make sense.

Occasional Contributor

Hi @Eugenie Burrage. I am looking for the list of all Outlook changes. It is referenced in this article, but the link does not work. Can you please share the it? Many thanks.

Hi @Eugenie Burrage. I am looking for the list of all Outlook changes. It is referenced in this article, but the link does not work. Can you please share the it? Many thanks.

@Rebecca Jackson I too have been searching for a comprehensive changelog for Outlook, it seems this is the closest we are given, which has no mention of these changes at all. This blog post appears to be the only statement Microsoft has made on these recent Outlook changes.

Microsoft

@dddddd-mmmmmm@Rebecca Jackson  The list of all the changes are compiled in the last FAQ of this article.  The underlined text was not intended to be a link to a different list, we listed the changes herein for your convenience.