Narain is the founder & CEO for 360 Degree Interactive, a web services firm based in Chennai, India. This blog is about his personal views on Web 2.0, RoR, Social networking,Digital media, interactive advertising, SaaS, Service Oriented Architecture, India Inc, rural education, Web standards, mobile 2.0 and more.

Wednesday, September 14

Microsoft Office 12 Core Applications UI

This via SVN [aka Jason Fried]. With the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2005, Microsoft unveiled the sneak peak of next version of Office tagged as "Office 12 Core Applications". Office 12 comes with an altogether different UI. With Microsoft PressPass's interview, Microsoft is seriously thinking of changing their fuddy-daddy image of providing gray bars with highlighted icons. The Office 12 Core application's UI is more matured with larger icons, functional grouping, user-centric groups and so on. The one feature which is strikingly different from the earlier UIs are offlate, Microsoft understand the proper usage of colors, graphics & sequential groupings for better customer experience. Although, still not matching the bubbly icons & UI elements of Apple, Microsoft this time has moved certainly few inches ahead.

Some of the UI improvement in the words of Larson-Green, group program manager for the Office User Experience at Microsoft.

There are far too many features to describe in any detail, but here are a few of the key innovations. The main part of the user experience is code-named the “ribbon.” It’s the one place you go to find the commands that are all about authoring –creating the document, the presentation or the spreadsheet you’re working on. There’s no longer a stack of task panes and menus and toolbars to look through. There’s just one place to look for commands.

Another feature is “galleries.” Galleries give you a visual representation of the kinds of formatting choices you can make in your document without needing to set a number of individual elements to achieve it. For example, if you want your margins to be wide or narrow or short or tall, you can go to a gallery for a visual image of what that would look like all at once instead of needing to changes several items in a dialog box. The galleries also offer “live previews” in many instances, so you can see exactly what the document is going to look like before you make the choice, which makes it easier to experiment. For example, with something simple like fonts, you can select the text in your document, go up to the font drop-down menu, and by just rolling down the menu you can see the font change happen simultaneously in the document before you’ve selected the font you want. It makes it easier to create a document that looks the way you want it to look. These live galleries are almost everywhere in the product – it’s a try-it-before-you-buy-it kind of thing that cuts out lots of steps.

A feature code-named “Super Tooltips” integrates Help topics into the product in a new way. One of the main problems that people have with Help topics today is that they don’t know the terms used to describe features. Super Tooltips are integrated Help tips that provide quick access to information about a command directly from the command’s location in the ribbon. The tooltip itself will usually give you enough information about what that feature does so that you can use it.

Another feature is the “Quick Launch Toolbar,” which allows you to customize the UI by adding as many commands as you like to a toolbar. It’s a place where the user can collect the specific set of commands they use frequently. There’s also a feature code-named “Floatie” which is a formatting tool that presents the most common text formatting features on a tool panel that “floats” over the selected text - improving formatting efficiency by eliminating mouse trips to the command area. So, for instance, if you’re in the picture tools and you notice that your heading needs to be bold, the Floatie means you don’t have to switch all the way to another tab just to make that change.
Have a look at the screenshots Word screenshot here. Excel screenshot here. Powerpoint screenshot here. Read the full interview here.


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