Sunday, September 25, 2005

Office 12 User Interface observations

Okay, so I finally watched the Office 12 UI demonstration video (after two days of downloading via dial-up at home...school won't let me download big files...bah!). It didn't "blow my mind" as I expected it would, but then I've been too spoiled already. Anyway, here are some of the new features (basically just the UI stuff) shown in the video :

- Replacing the drop-down menu bar is The Ribbon, as they call it. A ribbon basically a set of button commands with a unifying theme (either Write, Insert, etc.). The Write ribbon, for example, shows all the applicable text-editing and formatting commands in organized groups. The idea is to show you only the kinds of button commands that you want so you don't get overwhelmed.

- You know those floating toolbars that appears when you select an object? They've also been happily replaced by the Ribbon, which dynamically shows applicable commands everytime you do something new. Also, when selecting text in your document, something kind-of-like a floating toolbar/smart-tag hybrid appears showing the most common formatting commands, but it slowly fades away when you move your mouse away from it...quite cool, actually.

- Almost all kinds of formatting can now be done without dialog boxes or task-panes. Formatting Galleries appear all over the ribbons, allowing you to make quick formatting choices. You can quickly preview a formatting choice in a gallery just by hovering on it; doing so temporarily changes the look of your document to follow the particular formatting, so you know what it looks like when applied.

- A Zoom slider makes zooming in and out of documents kinda fun.

- Improved accessibility. For those who simply don't like to use a mouse, all commands can now be accessed easily via keyboard.

- Better help features. The tooltips offer much more helpful information.

These are just a few of what we can expect from the next Office user interface. I also read a couple of blogs talking about the new features in the OneNote 12 Office app (fast table-creation, whoa!). They seem to have focused a lot on improving the overall user-experience, reducing the need to hunt for commands, keeping things predictable, making work fun. I'm already loving the product, and all I've seen is the UI! Let me just say what I've felt for so long: the Office suite is certainly what Microsoft does best, product-wise. As long as they keep on developing the technologies that make Office the best, there will always be a reason to like Microsoft, even if many of their other products suck, and even if they're seen as the epitome of software evil. :-P