Visualize Whirled Peas (Galleries: Part 2 of 3)

Yesterday, I started discussing the "gallery", which is a new control that appears throughout the Office 12 user interface.  Today, I want to discuss the most obvious use of galleries in Office 12: choosing visual styles.  The underlying graphics engine of Office has undergone a substantial upgrade in Office 12.  If you've seen the charts and diagrams demoed online or in the PDC keynote, you've seen some of the possibilities.  The quality of the graphics you can make are just dramatically better. (I find myself thinking: "is this really Office?"  It's some really eye-popping stuff.)  But, we knew that we'd be wasting all of these new capabilities if we didn't provide an interface to help people produce beautiful results without having to understand how many pixels they should offset a drop shadow, or where the light should precisely hit a 3D object.  Hence, the gallery:

(click to enlarge)

(Please forgive the bad-looking thumbnails in the gallery in the above picture; we don't have real artwork yet so we kinda just make them up as we go.  The chart is real though...)

Whenever you're doing formatting in Office 12, you are presented with a gallery of designs.  These designs package up a number of discrete features into one visual style you can apply all at once.  For instance, there might be a chart style that turns on a shiny surface, rounds the edges, turns on a reflection, colors the bars with a subtle gradient, adds a shadow, and configures the correct light source and intensity all at once.  We pay the graphics designer so that you don't have to.

That's not to say that you can't continue to tweak the expert settings if you want to--you definitely can.  And if you're a settings tweaker, you'll find a lot to like about the capabilities of the new graphics engine.  But personally, I find it easier to choose a style that's 95% of the way towards what I want and then tweak it compared to being forced to start from scratch. That's the philosophy behind the use of galleries to do visual styling in Office 12, and I'll be talking more about the usability ramifications of the philosophy on Thursday.

For people like me who aren't trained in graphic design, it's pretty cool to be able to produce graphics in my documents that look like I know what I'm doing.

Tomorrow, using galleries is a less obvious way...

Comments (7)

  1. anon says:

    I’ve got two questions :

    1) desktop heap: don’t you run out of it with so many graphics?

    2) bitmap loading in the gallery (assuming these are bitmaps, not vectors) : when is the load done? It’s not super obvious the bitmaps are preloaded at all. In the short PDC keynote clip, the glitch appeared clearly in one of the galeries. Does this satisfy the 0.1 sec user interface response time? By the way, do you have such response time metrics? You cannot take Office 2003 or earlier versions in comparison since in Office 12 you seem to load and show so many more 24(32bits?) bitmaps(vectors)?

  2. jensenh says:

    On the heap issue, I can only say that it hasn’t been a problem so far.

    Gallery load time and reaction time is a great topic for an article in the future, thanks, I’ve added it to my list. In general though you are right, larger images take longer to load and response time is a key metric.

  3. RobertWrayUK says:

    Regarding load / response time, when (hopefully ‘if’ !) you get a chance to post about that in the future, could you maybe comment on the methods you use to optimise image load and UI responsiveness. (Or one of your more techy colleagues if you’re not that way inclined! 😉

    Whilst I’m thinking about it, I haven’t seen any examples off the top of my head but, do you guys do any specific UI l10n for en-gb as opposed to en-us ?

  4. Step says:

    Thanks for the blog, I’m loving it. After watching the video, I’m excited about using Office again.

    I’m not too sure about the "floatie" thing yet, that could go either way as far as usability. I guess I’ll have to see how it actually impacts me. It seems like a really good idea, but on the other hand what if I really want something right behind the floatie? Currently when my Outlook messages pop up, they can be quite annoying if I happen to be doing the wrong thing.

    I’m also wondering how discoverable the advanced features are, with no menus at all? While it’s clear I’ll already be able to do significantly more with my docs in 12 than before, what if I still want to tweak them? How do I get to those controls? Do they still preview live if appropriate?

  5. jensenh says:

    I’ll be introducing floatie soon in the blog…

    I hope the new UI helps more people use advanced functionality in the apps. On Thursday, I’ll share some of the knowledge we’ve learned about how people approach formatting (including accessing advanced functionality.)

  6. Shine says:

    Tomorrow, using galleries is a less obvious way…

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