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Microsoft refreshes its flagship Office mobile apps, talks Fluent design on mobile

Microsoft has announced a refresh of its Office apps for mobile devices, starting with the five flagship apps - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, and Outlook. New versions of Teams, Yammer, and Planner are also coming, and they represent the latest step in the evolution of Microsoft's Fluent design on mobile devices, which Microsoft took some time to explain.

The new apps aim at improving productivity by speeding up what Microsoft calls microtasks, small tasks that users perform quickly as part of a bigger task. The company's research shows that despite spending hours every day working on their phones, users only spend an average of 20 to 30 seconds per session, which is why speeding up these microtasks is useful. Newly-added features, like being able to scan documents and tables into text, also aim to increase productivity.

With these new apps, Microsoft wants to set the trend for a consistent design language that works across all of its products. Microsoft had a team of over 40 people creating the necessary toolkits for all of its teams to be able to build experiences from the same core elements, making them feel familiar and consistent. The team will also be maintaining and updating the design system over time, and when parts of them are updated, they will automatically populate all the apps using those elements.

In addition to Microsoft's own teams using these Fluent design elements, other developers can get started with the Fluent toolkit, which was first announced back at Build. Since that initial release, many more Fluent controls have been added, which should help developers create more coherent experiences based on the design language.

Microsoft says it's only getting started with mobile productivity, and that we can expect AR-oriented experiences and design as those devices become more prominent. Microsoft says it also hopes to keep improving accessibility with its design language.

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