Report: Microsoft testing Office update with feature-finding 'Tell Me' tool, black theme, and more

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When Microsoft launched Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium subscriptions in January 2013, the new model was widely expected to mean faster feature rollouts and improvements to the Office suite. But other than personal subscriptions, Microsoft has yet to deliver any significant updates since then. Office Metro apps aren't even out yet, nearly two years later.

The dearth of updates may soon end, however, as The Verge says a new update to Office—dubbed 'Office 16'—is in the works. The new Office update is currently being tested internally and also being shared with some Microsoft partners.

It's still early days for this new version of Office so things are subject to change, but it appears the "Tell Me" helper from Office Online is headed to the desktop.

office16 The Verge

The Office update is being tested with an optional black theme and Tell Me integration, according to screenshots revealed by The Verge. (Click to enlarge.)

If you're not familiar with this feature, it's a virtual assistant for Office, but without the annoyance of an animated character like Clippy. Instead, it's just a search box and a light bulb icon in the ribbon that lets you search for actions in plain English.

Other significant changes that appear in the works are automatic image rotation in Word, based on the camera orientation described in the photo's metadata. There's also an option to manually adjust orientation if Word gets it wrong, the Verge reports.

Outlook will also make it easier to sync a limited amount of email at once including options for 1, 3, 7, or 14 days—an ideal setting for tablets and laptops with limited onboard storage.

The only other big change to leak is the addition of a black theme for the Office apps. The Verge says the black theme was one of the most requested features for Office 2013, probably owing to the fact that Office 2010 had a similar option.

As for the Ribbon, haters will have to continue to hate as the primary interface for office introduced with Office 2007 is here to stay.

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