Not since Microsoft introduced its infamous ribbon in Office 2007, have we had so many complaints about the look and feel of Outlook, Word and Excel.  Office 2019 and O365 present a cleaner desktop - less cluttered – whiter.  Not everyone likes it.


Microsoft presents a plethora of options to mitigate the new look.  Since we get the most complaints about Outlook, let’s focus there.


  • “Focused” vs. “Other” Inboxes.  These Inboxes have already been around for a while.  “Focused” inboxes show emails from people Outlook thinks you want to hear from.  All other email ends up under the “Other” inbox tab.  You can toggle this off with the icon on the View tab, but we do not recommend it.  Outlook learns your preferences.  It actually uses AI to figure out who is important to you, and, after a couple of weeks, it becomes eerily accurate.
  • Add some contrast.  If the glaringly bright white background hurts your eyes – change it.  In any Office app, go to File > Account or Office Account and modify the Office Background or Office Theme.  Try the Dark Gray theme.  It provides a nice amount of contrast which can make text easier to follow.  Note:  Changing these settings will change ALL Office applications.
  • The “View” Tab in Outlook holds the key. Not only can you turn off the “Focused” inbox here, you can also control the space between messages and decide what helpful information panes to present.  We love the “People” Pane.  If you have enough monitor real estate to work with, the People Pane will show you all the email, appointments and mail with attachments from the person you highlight in the email list.  Think efficiency here – why do a sort or search to see emails from this person?  Outlook will do it for you.
  • The Ribbon.  Okay, the ribbon has always been our friend, right?  The reality is that it takes up space and it is not always necessary.  New and improved Outlook gives us display options that are quick and easy to use.  Find the icon in the top right of the Outlook screen (Ribbon Display Options).  Select Auto Hide, Show Tabs, Show Tabs and Commands.  Choose whatever makes you most efficient for now and try others when you have time.  It’s fun!


There are more customization options available, but alas, I have a limited amount of space to discuss them.  Give me a call at 414-228-7474 if you’d like some help or direction.  Just remember that change is not always bad.  We made it through that awful Office 2007 ribbon – at least the new look we have today provides value.

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