Office Mobile Goes Fluent on Windows 10 Insider Preview

Posted on July 19, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Office 365, Mobile, iOS, Android, Office, Windows 10 with 30 Comments

Office Mobile Goes Fluent on Windows 10 Insider Preview

The core Office Mobile apps for Windows 10—Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—are being updated to support the Fluent Design System’s Acrylic material translucency effects. This gives them a more modern and consistent look on Windows 10. But it makes me wonder whether it makes sense to bring this user experience to Android and iOS as well.

To get the new versions of the apps, you must be running the Windows 10 Insider Preview. When are doing so, you will see version 17.8414.10001.0 of the apps. On the shipping version of Windows 10 (Creators Update and older), you get version 17.8269.47711.0. Today, anyway.

Functionally, the apps are probably mostly identical, though I haven’t really checked. But there is that one obvious difference: The versions on the Insider Preview, running pre-release versions of what will be the Fall Creators Update, feature an Acrylic material translucency effect. It’s most obvious on the Start page, where you can see the background bleeding through in the Recent pane on the left.

By comparison, this pane is opaque in the shipping version of Windows 10.

So this is mildly interesting. But I’m curious whether Microsoft intends to bring this effect, and other Fluent flourishes to its Office Mobile apps, and other mobile apps, on Android and iOS. There are good reasons to do so. And good reasons not to.

The central issue here is what makes more sense: For Office Mobile to be consistent with itself and other Microsoft experiences across devices. Or for Office Mobile—and other Microsoft mobile apps—to be more consistent with the underlying platform.

I guess I would argue for the latter. That Office Mobile adopts the Fluent Design System on Windows 10 because that is what makes it more consistent on that platform. And that Office Mobile look and feel like native Android or iOS apps on those platforms. But you could make an argument for either choice.

More relevant, perhaps, is how long it will take Microsoft to actually make these Fluent design changes seem consistent on Windows 10 itself.

As you may know, Microsoft intends to rollout this change over time, and to evolve it based on user feedback. This suggests we’re in for tons of inconsistencies in the months ahead, because some apps and experiences will have Fluent effects, and some will not. And that Microsoft doesn’t really have a clear vision for what Fluent is, as the design itself will change over time.

So we’ll see what happens. Job One, I think, is to get the core Windows 10 user experiences updated in time for the Fall Creators Update. Anyone care to bet on whether that happens?


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Comments (30)

30 responses to “Office Mobile Goes Fluent on Windows 10 Insider Preview”

  1. Polycrastinator

    Honestly the most significant part of this to me is it means they're not depreciating the mobile apps. When they were removed from Store search, I had presumed that they were going to be discontinued. Glad to see they're still being worked on.

  2. JaviAl

    And what about an Aero 3D theme requested when Window 8.x was in Beta, and in Windows 10 Beta?

  3. wright_is

    Why the timewarp with the acrylic look? It was fun for 5 minutes in 2004 on Linux and later on Windows Vista, but I don't see what it brings to party?

    If you have a blank panel, with a solid colour, it doesn't distract you from the task at hand. If you get bleed-through from the windows behind the one you are working on, I find that is a distraction.

  4. IanYates82

    I thought the UWP office variant was effectively deprecated now that office is going the centennial route?

    • wright_is

      In reply to IanYates82:

      Not for mobile devices. The Office UWP apps are still better suited to a touch experience. The Centennial Office is better on a traditional desktop or notebook, but the UWP version makes a lot of sense if you are using your device in tablet mode.

      • Waethorn

        In reply to wright_is:

        Office 2016 has a touch mode.

        I think the argument is that many people don't use half of the features of the Win32 version of Office even though Microsoft is selling it in droves to consumers that don't need it.

        Perhaps Office is rife for a Responsive UI overhaul based on device input options. Windows has a "Tablet Mode". Why not Office?

        • wright_is

          In reply to Waethorn:

          2013 also had a touch mode, but it isn't really suitable for touch use, it just makes the ribbon icons a bit bigger and selecting a little easier, but the Mobile versions bring a lot more usability for touch.

          • Waethorn

            In reply to wright_is:

            For all this talk about UWP though, you'd think that they would bring more functionality to the mobile versions and make them with Responsive UI to fit any computing platform target, rather than try to wedge in touch support into their legacy apps.

            I guess that just goes to show you how much of a priority universal application development is to Microsoft. Their executive board has clearly indicated that they're only willing to cater to enterprise companies that deploy traditional desktops and laptops. This whole universal app platform is just lip service to tech enthusiasts. Once they move Office wholesale to the cloud, Windows is done anyway. It's just done. RIP Windows 1985-2025.

  5. Win74ever

    "This suggests we’re in for tons of inconsistencies in the months ahead"

    We already have tons of inconsistencies in Windows 10.

    "And that Microsoft doesn’t really have a clear vision for what Fluent is, as the design itself will change over time."

    Microsoft doesn't really have a clear vision for Windows 10. Who are they kidding with this Fluent design?

  6. CaedenV

    Better stated:

    it is weird that the blue section shows the window behind it rather than a blank document, ruler, ribbon, etc. within the applicaiton

  7. CaedenV

    Cant wait for this to be brought up on WW and have MJF gong Paul for making up things that nobody can see


  8. StephenCWLL

    "So we’ll see what happens. Job One, I think, is to get the core Windows 10 user experiences updated in time for the Fall Creators Update. Anyone care to bet on whether that happens?"

    I'll vote for "Doesn't happen on time".

  9. Waethorn

    Who are these apps for, again?

    • SvenJ

      In reply to Waethorn: And me. I have no need for the full Office apps on my Surface 3. The mobile ones are just fine for reading and light editing, and don't use one of the full licenses out of O365. They are for anyone who doesn't write thesis in Word, run a business in Excel, or build presentations in Powerpoint at home.

      What I'd like to know is who/what MS thinks they are for. They do not show up in a search on either my Surface 3, which has the 'get only store apps' switch turned on, or my 8" ASUS Vivotab note 8. So if I didn't already have them, I couldn't find them without a direct link. (both those devices are on insider builds).

      • Waethorn

        In reply to SvenJ:

        Why would you consume a full license? Isn't the Surface 3 a "tablet" under the license scheme? From all the marketing information Microsoft has provided, Windows tablets are included in the tablet category, so it doesn't matter if you use a Win32 or UWP variant. You'll still consume *a* license to get editing features on a Surface 3 though, since it's bigger than 10.1".

        Microsoft doesn't care about users that aren't using Surface Pro or better anyway, otherwise they would've made an update to the Surface 3. It remains to be seen whether they will even refresh the Surface Book.

        • SvenJ

          In reply to Waethorn: Because if you install Office 2016, it's an Office 2016 license. You get five. Technically you can attach/use/login with, 5 mobile devices as well. Those could be phones, tablets, iPads, whatever. It's easy to get on your O365 portal and see what devices are using what license. And no, my Surface 3, running the mobile/store apps does not use up one of the 5 full Office licenses. When I open the mobile app the first time it asks me to sign in with an O365 account to authorize the additional features that allows. Beyond that, it is no different than the mobile app on my Windows Phone, iPhone or Pixel. I also have the mobile apps on my ASUS 8" tablet and my desktop (which also has Office 2016 installed). Those mobile installs don't snag a full license either. I have them on the desktop, to see how close they come to fulfilling all my normal needs. Surprisingly quite a bit.
          I do find MS needs to get its stuff together though. The typical install allowance for store apps is 10 devices. so I should be able to install Word Mobile on ten Windows devices of any sort. By the O365 license, I should only be allowed to fully utilize 5. That makes no sense.
          As far as the Office 2016 licenses go I can actually install that on as many Windows devices as I can come up with. On my 6th and subsequent device, I can simply go into the portal and deactivate one (it doesn't uninstall it) and then log in on that 6th device.

          • Waethorn

            In reply to SvenJ:

            Right, so it seems you're still confused by this. Here's the marketing bit that Microsoft has always said: 5 PC's or Mac systems, 5 tablets, and 5 phones. Tablets are tablets, no matter which OS they run. Windows tablets are not exempt from that rule - it isn't based on which edition you install. I've tested this already, even for Office 365 Personal where you can install the Win32 version on a regular system and still have a Surface Pro with the Win32 version installed and it won't lock you out. The license scheme isn't restricted to 5 Win32 installs and 5 mobile installs on tablets and 5 installs on phones - it's per actual device type. Windows detects the type of device it's installed on. Laptops, desktops, all-in-ones, tablets, etc., are all device types that are enumerated by Windows' hardware detection. Tablets and phones are detected as such devices. If there was a full Windows 10 phone device on the market, you could even install the Win32 version on that, and it wouldn't count as a "PC" license. This replaces the old license scheme that said "one desktop, and one mobile PC" because the definition for "mobile PC" is a bit more fluid nowadays, and doesn't always include Windows devices.

            This is also backed up by marketing materials given to reseller partners which I get from them.

            • SvenJ

              In reply to Waethorn: So, in your understanding, is a Surface Pro 3 a tablet or PC? It was marketed as a tablet (that can turn into a laptop). Now the current Surface Pro is marketed as a laptop (that can act as a tablet). Is that what makes the difference, or is it size? What's a Surface 3? I imagine an 8" device is clearly a tablet? I'm pretty sure that thing showed up against my 5 'PCs' before.

              • Waethorn

                In reply to SvenJ:

                Surface and Surface Pro are classified as convertible tablets according to Office licensing. IDK about Surface Book though.

                • wright_is

                  In reply to Waethorn:

                  My Surface Pro 3 always showed up as a PC license in Office 365, when installing the full Win32 version. It also appeared as a tablet, when I installed the mobile version.

                • SvenJ

                  In reply to Waethorn: Do appreciate the insight. Still doesn't quite explain what MS thinks is a tablet. The Surface is 'too big' (over 9-10" was a break point at one time) but doesn't come with a keyboard. Fine with me if they want to call it a tablet though. Gives me more installs than I thought I could get away with.

                • Waethorn

                  In reply to SvenJ:

                  An iPad Pro is available in a 12.9" model too. You wouldn't call it a laptop.

                • SvenJ

                  In reply to Waethorn: It doesn't get Office 2016 either. It's those things that that don't get the mobile version, but are considered tablets that seem nebulous. Besides, everyone knows an iPad is just a big iPhone ;)
                  Yes, I know there aren't really any tablets running Win 10 Mobile.

    • Polycrastinator

      In reply to Waethorn:

      Anyone who uses a Windows 10 in tablet form.

      So just me.

  10. Martin Pelletier

    It will be done the day all Windows 10 apps are UWP :)

    That means, it will never be done.

  11. prettyconfusd

    I think Fluent Design should come to Microsoft's major apps across platforms - if Fluent is present on the Windows 10 app it should also be there on the iOS and Android app. It's been a shame after moving to a Galaxy S8 from my Lumia 950 to find that while some apps are near identical (bless you, Groove!) but some use Android and iOS design language instead.

    Now MS are putting together their own consistent design language they need to push it everywhere their apps are - Facebook doesn't change how it looks across platforms and demote its own design language and neither do a lot of major brands - Microsoft should have faith in it's own UX designs.

    I'm thrilled to see these apps are still being updated though - they're great and much better than the desktop apps for general use - especially on touch devices, but also for non-power users - these apps are perfect for my parents and great starter versions for schools.

  12. harmjr

    So we want to make sure this pig has lipstick.

  13. Gabi Ghita

    Would be great if they actually showed up in the Store. Microsoft recently hid them from regular search, presumably to point people to the recently added full Office or Office 365 or whatever. Which is still in preview. So the question is, why are these apps updated again if they're being abandoned? I'll assume someone in the Office Mobile team didn't get the memo that they've stopped being relevant -- but only for Windows, ironically.

    To be honest, I love using Office mobile on PC and would have loved even more to see it being promoted by Microsoft as being the way going forward. Sadly, it just seems like abandonware at this point (for Windows, at least), which is a shame because it just signals that they're not serious about UWP being the future, but all the while urging developers to embrace it as that.