Outlook’s New Simplified Ribbon Menu

Windows Outlook has an optional new “Simplified Ribbon” menu at its top that is now rolling out to many users in the monthly Office 365 updates. I just recently got it, and I really, really like it. 

I’ll create a video soon that fully reveals the features of this new simplified Ribbon and put that video in the Outlook Inbox Ninja course. Look for that soon. But in the meantime, here’s how to activate it and some of my initial thoughts on its design.

How to activate it:

  • It’s being slowly rolled out. Even if you get monthly updates, you might not have it yet. At first, only Insider Programs members were getting it, but it looks like non-Insiders are starting to get it now.
  • Even if you have access to it, at the time of this writing, this is still only offered as a Coming Soon preview which is turned off by default. If you see the Coming Soon button in the upper right corner of the Outlook window (see image above), then you have the update and probably can activate it.
  • To activate it, flip the Coming Soon button to On, then restart Outlook, and you should have the new Ribbon. You might need to collapse the full ribbon by clicking the up/down pointer in the lower right corner of the Ribbon to see the new design.
  • By the way, this in NOT included in the current Outlook 2019 shrink wrap product, and I have no idea if it will be added in later releases of Office 2019. But it sure looks like it is just for Office 365 subscribers.

My thoughts on this new design:

  • I love it! After using it a few days, I truly think Microsoft hit a home run with this new design.
  • And that’s good news because too often, when Microsoft “simplifies” one of their applications, they end up discarding important features (for example, the bonehead decision to force people to use the new, greatly feature-limited, OneNote). But so far, in this new Outlook design, it seems like all previous features are still there and not hard to get at.
  • The new Ribbon obviously shows fewer commands, but it seems like it is showing the exact commands I usually use. And it’s so easy to toggle the full Ribbon back in to place, there is zero pain in this transition.

Why use the new Ribbon?

  • Well first, in the simplified form, this Ribbon obviously takes up less vertical space on the Outlook window.
  • But also, I find I can get at the commands I use quicker. That’s because there are fewer distracting and unneeded buttons in the Ribbon. I like it!
  • The new Ribbon is also available inside new e-mail messages. However, Microsoft has enlarged the addressing header quite a bit in the new message window, so, overall, I am not sure there really is that much more vertical space in the message window. But it IS simpler to use.

Other changes in this new version of Outlook:

Beyond the new ribbon, there are other welcome changes in this new Outlook release.

  • The Inbox list view has more vertical space above and below each item, which looks and feels good.
  • Same with the To-Do Bar, more space between task items.
  • The New Email window has a more spacious and relaxed feeling to it.
  • There may be more changes, but that’s all I’ve noticed so far.

So, give this new version a try. I think you’ll like it!


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9 Responses to Outlook’s New Simplified Ribbon Menu

  1. David W Feigal says:

    Since the change I can’t get the to-do list to list anything other than the subject although it also shows the completed flag and will group by importance. I at least need the start date. If I go into the task list I can see any field I want but the to-do list seems to have a lot of functionality diabled. I turned it off.

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      David, thanks for your comment. When you say “the to-do list” do you by chance mean the To-Do Bar? (the to-do list is a very specific view inside the tasks folder, while the To-Do Bar is the pane off to the right that you can see next to email). Let me know, and by the way, they both are still working for me. So a small tweak might get you fixed. Michael

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  3. Bogdan Costea says:

    Can I ask a silly question perhaps? Is there a way to revert to the old icons? These are fine but I wondered if that option exists somewhere.

    Thank you so much,

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      You mean the actual icons? Or do you mean to undo the smaller size of the Simplified Ribbon? Sorry, don’t know of a way to revert the icons. But you can get the full sized Ribbon back by clicking the arrow at the far right of the ribbon. Hope that helps. Michael

    • Bogdan Costea says:

      THank you so much! I meant the actual icons… It is clear that they did not provide a way back to the old version.

      Thank you again!


  4. Tim says:

    I definitely prefer the previous version. The color made it easier to use. I will adapt but count me as not a fan of this version.

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