A common question I hear: “Are there dialog boxes in Office 12?”
The answer is a definite “yes.” Dialog boxes remain a part of the
Office 12 user interface, and many of the “tried-and-true” dialog boxes from
past versions of Office remain untouched in Office 12. The dialog box has
proven to be a useful paradigm for presentation of advanced functionality and
thus we’ve left it to play that role in Office 12. What we’ve tried to do
through the use of galleries and better-scoped features is to reduce the amount
of time you have to spend in dialog boxes, especially for frequently-used
In today’s world of menus and toolbars, the entry points to dialog boxes are
divorced from the efficient way of performing commands. For example, in
Word 2003 most people know how to use the Bold and Underline
toolbar buttons. But what if you want Double Underline? Or
Strikethrough? These uncommon font styles are only available in the
Font dialog box, and your knowledge of the location of the Bold button
doesn’t help you find the related advanced functionality which is located in the
“Format – Font…” menu.
Similarly, if all you want is a simple alphabetical sort in Excel 2003, you
can use the Sort Ascending toolbar button. As soon as you want
something more complex than that, you have to dig through the menu structure to
find the more powerful version, tucked away on the “Data – Sort…” menu.
The Office 12 UI introduces a concept called the “dialog launcher”, which
formalizes the relationship between the efficient presentation of functionality
in the Ribbon and the advanced version in a dialog box.
Each “chunk” in the Ribbon can have a dialog launcher which leads to the
dialog box which maps to a chunk’s functionality. In this case, the Font
chunk on the Write tab in Word contains a dialog launcher that navigates to the
Format Font dialog box in Word:
If you know where the simple version is, you know where to look for the
advanced version. Similarly, every gallery that has a more advanced set of
settings or choices in a dialog box contains a dialog launcher at the bottom of
As you can see in the previous picture, the dialog launcher at the bottom of
a gallery is called “Advanced.” One of the current topics of discussion
internally is what to call these and deciding how important it is that they are
standardized. “More Columns”, “Advanced”, “More”, “Columns Dialog Box”,
and several other variations are all in the running.
Our internal design criteria for when to use dialog launchers is: “only when
the dialog box cleanly supersets a chunk or gallery on the Ribbon.” What
we don’t want is people feeling like they have to check every dialog box in the
product as part of scanning for a certain feature. So, when the mapping
isn’t totally clean, we don’t expose the feature as a dialog launcher and
instead leave it as a normal labeled command.
The dialog launcher is a simple concept that helps make the interface
of Office more logical. It was designed to help people become proficient
at finding advanced functionality when they need it in Office 12.