Microsoft has been pushing a new design language that will unify its apps and experiences across all platforms. While it might want all its users to just grab its own Surface devices, especially the upcoming Surface Duo and Surface Neo, there’s no helping the fact that not everyone can nor will. Some will always prefer Apple’s products even if they have to begrudgingly use Microsoft Office, which is why Redmond is trying to meet them halfway with a new and improved trio of Office apps for iOS devices.
Microsoft switched its strategy from creating its own mobile platform to creating a more consistent experience across its supported platforms. That doesn’t always mean being consistent with Android or iOS underneath and Microsoft sometimes pushes its own design agendas to users on those platforms. Some of them are admittedly for the better, like a new three-tab layout for iPhones.
Microsoft pushed out an update to its three Office apps on iOS, namely Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that it describes as having been redesigned from scratch. It throws in words like “simpler”, “faster”, and “more beautiful” but, in practice, it really just means it has reduced some visual clutter to three bottom tabs. These tabs for your documents’ “Home”, a “New” tab filled with templates, and a place to “Open” existing files.
That said, each of the three also gains one or two new features. All three now have a new Alt Text pane that lets you annotate or put captions on non-text items. You can also mark some items as merely decorative to make it easier for screen readers and accessibility tools to ignore them. Lastly, Excel gets a new XLOOKUP feature that lets you search for the data you need row by row.
It may not be a huge update but updates like these do give some assurance that Microsoft is “playing fair”. Just last week it updated Outlook to support iPadOS’ split-screen, which could also become a key feature on the Surface Duo and Surface Neo dual-screen devices.