Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

Yesterday, I wrote about our fight against interface squalor.

The most dangerous features from this perspective are the ones that appear to
need to be available “all the time.”  Each one of these occupies a space in
the window that can never be given back to the document canvas or to other
features.  Needless to say, we’ve taken a very conservative approach to
allocating space for “always
available” features.  One needs to be skeptical about what “always
available” really means.

That said, we are aware that some features do need to be available efficiently
nearly always.  One class of functionality that we felt fell into this
category was “view switching.”  In this category, I put three kinds of

  • Actually changing the view of the document (from Page Layout to Outline
    for instance).

  • Turning on and off user interface components, such as the Ruler or the
    Formula Bar.

  • Changing the zoom level of the document.

Because these “view switching” commands were pretty much task-agnostic, we
didn’t feel like they fit into a specific
Ribbon tab.  At the same
time, we were pretty much already out of space above the document–with the
Ribbon, contextual tabs, and the Quick Access Toolbar (which I need to write
about soon

We started exploring the idea of the window frame itself being the container
for these “view switching” controls.  This was an idea I liked because of the kind of
mechanical nature of it.  At the time, we were in the midst of redesigning
the status bar down at the bottom of the frame.  We realized that we
couldn’t do away with the status bar altogether, as it plays an important part
in the UI.  On the other hand, we didn’t need all the space it took up most of
the time just to do “status-y” things.

So, taking the lead from other programs (including the Picture Manager that
shipped with Office 2003), we integrated zoom into the status bar.  View
switching soon followed.  Instead of the typical zoom combo box, I liked
the feeling of “live zoom”, so we built in a slider to control the zoom level.

Down the road we also integrated windowing functionality in with the view
switching, so that you control both what is showing and how it is showing from
the same place.

But the big winner, in my mind, is zoom.  I never
thought about zoom much in past versions of Office; I tended to just live with
what was on-screen.  It was fairly inefficient to set the zoom level
correctly; unless I wanted exactly 150%, I had to use a lot of wasteful
trial-and-error to get things set correctly.  Now, using Office 12, I think
of zoom as more of an organic part of how I work with documents.  I seem
much more likely to zoom in or out on something, to quickly tweak the level with
the slider.  I’ve found it especially useful when navigating long documents
or spreadsheets.

View, windowing, and zoom control in the Word status bar

There are a couple of downsides with putting this UI in the lower right-hand
corner.  In the Beta 2 visuals we’ve made the control area more distinct
because some people had a hard time finding it initially.  (The good news,
though, is that once people do find it, they remember where it is.)  Also,
the Windows taskbar has an AutoHide setting which can sometimes cause the
taskbar to come up over the controls you intend to use.  I personally use
this configuration at home and haven’t had a problem with it yet, but I could
imagine having a harder time with a low-precision pointer like a touchpad. 
Luckily, the vast majority of users do not use AutoHide, so I don’t think it’s a

The upside is that space that is normally wasted in Windows apps can now be
reclaimed for useful purposes.  In many apps, most of the status bar is
just wasted space, included to look “standard” and so that there’s somewhere to
host the window resize widget.  I’m hopeful that our solution to view
switching, windowing, and zoom becomes the standard and that we see it become just a
seamless part of how document-centric apps work.

Comments (30)

  1. TomG says:

    I don’t think I’ll like the slider, let me see if I can convince you why based on my experience.

    I know why you never got used to using the zoom level in the box… IMHO the choices are lousy!

    BUT, I use the box all the time, never by selecting a preset, only by typing the % in the box.

    I use it so often I know by looking at a doc displayed (even on someone else’s monitor) if it should be displayed at 120, 90, 80, 75 or 67.

    Here’s a quick rule of thumb:

    120% – for reading over someone’s shoulder when font size <12 (use 110 if size is 12pt).

    90% or 80 – when I’m using a computer with only 1 montor and I want to see something else at the same time

    75% or 67 – for reviewing a doc which will be displayed on a veiwer and I need to know what it will look like from the back of the room. Also good to do with docs which will be read only in printed form.

    Why these exact numbers = fractions. Pixels are basicly discreet, so I figured the rendering would be the most accurate if I used 6/5, 9/10, 4/5, 3/4, and 2/3.


    A really odd thing to me is how close 75% is to 80% and how often the two display very different with my screen resolution.

  2. Adrian says:

    I’m a big auto-hide user for the taskbar, and thus I’ve grown to detest controls near the very bottom of any application. I’ve also learned that it is IMPOSSIBLE to bring up and auto-hide taskbar on a tablet PC, since the absolute pointer method breaks Fitt’s Law.

    At home I’ve got a 24" monitor, and at work I’ve got dual 19" monitors, so I rarely run any application maximized anymore, so perhaps I won’t mind the Office 12 controls at the bottom. But not everyone has that luxury.

  3. James Schend says:

    I assume you still have the widget on the scroll bar I can use the split the document and show two different locations at the same time? Does that create a clone of the ribbon for the second view, or is there still just one ribbon at the top?

  4. Kim Siever says:

    I look forward to useing live zoom. I wish more apps used this.

  5. PatriotB says:

    Now get that status bar to look like a standard Windows status bar and I’ll be happy.

    I think IE7 is incorporating a new "page zoom" feature; maybe you both can use the same UI for it. :)

  6. Dan McCarty says:

    – Does the slider have "stops" for presets, such as 75, 100 and 150%? (Or "page width" or "whole page") I would imagine that most of the time users are going to want to hit some preset and not, say, 119%.

    – I don’t see any spots for the typical mode indicators: REC, TRK, EXT and OVR (personally of those 4 I only ever cared whether Insert was turned on or off). Were they done away with?

    – The status bar in Word is less "statusy" than other apps, because the Word status bar is usually showing you things like your page position, physical position, background tasks status, etc. Are those features still going to be there?

  7. Ilya Birman says:

    Live zoom is cool, but there’s always been a Ctrl+Scroll, which is MUCH better, cause you don’t have to "aim" at zoom dropdown or the status bar in Office 12. So if I actually use the dropdown, I always use the way TomG does: when I want to enter an exact value.

    I’m not sure if after migrating to Ribbon we will be able to customize the Office UI the way we can now (like adding buttons to toolbars, assigning keyboard shortcuts to actions). If we will, then TomG’s problem is really small: he could add the dropdown back to toolbar (Ribbon now), just don’t forget to include it in the controls list. And also you can make the "100%" text auto-convert to editbox when you click on it, so that user could enter the zoom level manually.

    I didn’t get what the term "windowing" did relate to in your post? ("we also integrated windowing functionality in with the view switching", "View, windowing, and zoom control in the Word status bar", "I’m hopeful that our solution to view switching, windowing, and zoom becomes the standard") The term itself is very strange, and a screenshot does not make things any more clear… To me, at least. Will you please explain?

  8. BradC says:


    From what I saw at the PDC demo, the status bar is configurable by the end user to show the stuff that interests them.

    Just right-click the status bar, and you can choose to show or hide the toggle indicators, or the current section #, or whatever you want. I don’t have a screenshot, but this should be in Jensen’s downloadable PDC presentation.

    Or maybe he can just dedicate an article to it on this blog–this is a really cool feature!!

  9. tomo says:

    Sorry to be off-topic, but I just wanted to say thank you for your amazing blog! I’ve found myself become totally addicted – to the point where I (silently) go "yes!" everytime my aggregator tells me that there’s a new post waiting to be read. Seriously.

  10. Mike Dunn says:

    Re the status bar being wasted space – I forget if I’ve mentioned this here, but one of the UI changes that I never understood was the removal of flyby help. Starting with (I think) Office 2K, there was no more flyby help for menus, which only added to their usability problems. It would be great to have that back for whatever menus survive the UI redesign. 😉

  11. Tim says:

    The one thing that concerns me is that in, for example, Word, all I ever usually do with zoom is select one of two settings: 100% or ‘Zoom to page width’.

    Both of these seem significantly less convenient in the new system. Are there other magical elements of this interface you have kept from us?

  12. Mike says:

    "I (silently) go "yes!" everytime my aggregator tells me that there’s a new post waiting to be read. Seriously."

    I feel exactly the same. This blog has been absolutely amazing – and the regularity of posting is fantastic. A big thankyou!

  13. Kawigi says:


    I think he’s referring to switching windows (like the Window menu in current Office).

  14. I just recall that one program that I use has a similar feature: ACDSee 7 has a slider just above the image thumbnails area, and use the slider for setting size of the thumbnails.

    It also includes the plus and minus on either side of the slider, just like in your included screenshot.

    You might want to check ACDSee out for ideas, but in my opinion, your work in office 12 sounds very well thought of already 😉

    Thanks for sharing your interesting thoughts!

  15. jensenh says:


    Getting to 100% is very easy.

    Page width takes three clicks in all the apps except PPT–click the zoom %, then double-click page width in the dialog.

    We did build a special "fit to width" button in PPT and have gotten feedback that are causing us to evaluate putting it in Word as well.

  16. TC says:

    > and the regularity of posting is fantastic

    I concur. And the fact that Jensen replies to individual comments is extraordinary, given his senior role in the process. These blogs are really excellent. They serve to dispel many misconceptions about how/why MS does what it does. The blogs also, for the most part, avoid the temptation to descend into marketing drivel. No-one would stay here for that. Well done folks, keep it up.

  17. TC says:

    Um, I did not mean to imply that I thought that any posts in Jensen’s blog, have ever been "marketing drivel". I had certain other MS blogs in mind, with that comment.

  18. One of the issues I run into over and over again is how a word document is displayed when hosted in an Internet Explorer IFRAME. In such an environment, it is generally desirable to show the document in Normal view zoomed to "page width."

    In an intranet setting such as mine, it isn’t likely that we’ll ever be able to convince people uploading Word documents to make sure their documents are saved with these settings so that users viewing the documents online will see the most text with the least work (try though we have to educate our content admins). Of course, there are technical solutions (e.g. post-upload processing of DOC files), but the methods I’m aware of come with their own headaches.

    Sadly, I’ve watched numerous presentations in which the presenter (and, at times, the entire audience) was unaware of how to make more of the text visible (e.g. normal view and zoom "page width"). The small status bar at the bottom (of the IFRAME or of the browser window) was totally unnoticed. I agree that a feature like a live-zoom slider is visually appealing enough that users will probably remember its location, but I question whether or not the icons to the left of the slider will ever be noticed (or understood) regardless of their proximity to the slider.

    Returning to the IFRAME dilemma, I rather feel that what is necessary is an evaluation of what commands and controls are most likely to be of use when a document is viewed under such conditions. I see from Office 2003 that some thought went into this (one toolbar…reviewing I think…is always displayed in the IFRAME whereas in the past, none were displayed). Compressing the Ribbon into an IFRAME may wind up being a disaster (though not because it doesn’t scale beautifully ;-]), and I can’t imagine how you’d integrate the MS Word Ribbon into the IE toolbar (for a word doc hosted in an IFRAME or otherwise loaded into IE). The “Tools” button in IE’s toolbar does this currently (though only when a DOC file is loaded into the root window).

    A single toolbar/mini-ribbon with commands such as Save As, Zoom, and View Type (an arbitrary list based on experience not formal usability testing) which is displayed when documents are viewed in IE (within an IFRAME and/or when a DOC file is loaded into the root window), might help word docs compete better with PDFs as online documents.

    Finally, I’ll second the applause for this blog! I’m addicted.

  19. Richard says:

    Zoom on the status bar sounds interesting… how well it will work to set zoom to 200% or 500% (useful when checking details of type) needs to be seen.

    However what I would like to see on the status bar is horizontal position as a measure from the left hand side in something more useful than characters — I want to know how *far* in I am.

  20. Bronwyn says:

    I too use "zoom to page width" all the time! Adding — or allowing users to add — a control for it would be a really good idea.

  21. Centaur says:

    For me, there are two levels of zoom. 100% and Page Width. I never understood the need for everything else.

    Also, I do not think view switching is such an always-needed task. If I work on a document, I don’t care if it’s Normal or Print Layout, any more than I care of browser width while working on a Web page — it must look good with any, and there are easy guidelines for achieving that.

    One thing that absolutely requires Print Layout is pictures. I have always been frustrated with how Word handles pictures, allowing to drag and drop them everywhere. That’s just not right. A picture wants to be either inline with the text, or floating left or right with text flowing around it. All other positioning I consider unnecessary and harmful.

  22. Kawigi says:

    Centaur: View switching probably isn’t that important in Word (or Excel), but it seems a little more important in Power Point and it’s central to Access. I suppose each app will get different mileage (/levels of confusion) from having these controls on the status bar.

  23. Please make the zoom slider BIGGER. Presets or "stops" along the slider for standard zoom levels get my vote, too. But if that slider were any smaller we wouldn’t hardly be able to click on it.

  24. Kurt Thomas says:

    What, a slider for zoom? Goodness…. at long last! So where Acrobat and even PageMaker had a Magnifying Lens ten years ago, it took Word until now to come up with a better way for controlling zoom…. And didn’t "About Face 2.0" mention this, too?

  25. splintor says:

    After reading this, I noticed that Office Picture Manager already uses the status bar area for a zoom slider. Very cool.

  26. Maybe you can fullfil the need of presets by changing the percentage indicator into a dropdown with some presets and common percentages.