Yesterday, I walked you through some of the history of the status bar.
Today, I’m going to write about what we’ve done in Office 12. It’s
not a radical departure from previous versions, but there are some nice
I mentioned yesterday that in thinking about the status bar for Office 12, the
first conversation we had was “do we need it at all?” We looked at the
various scenarios that required the status bar, those that used it but didn’t
need to, and features that could be made better through using that space.
We came to the conclusion that it did make sense for the Office 12 frame to
contain a status bar. There were many “status-like” items that needed a
place in the UI–document load information, printing status, long recalculation
in Excel, and other background tasks.
There are also a number of add-ins to Office that people have written which
expect the status bar. One could have imagined trying to integrate every
piece of status into a separate place in the UI (as someone mentioned yesterday, perhaps
putting page number in the scrollbar, for instance), but in the end we decided
to stick with simplicity and leave a status area at the bottom of the screen.
But at the same time, we knew that these “in-progress” status updates wouldn’t
always be up, and we didn’t want the status bar to be just a wasted piece of
screen real-estate with just the words “Press F1 for Help” showing most of the time.
So, we started to think of how to use the space in a way that made sense with
the rest of the Office 12 design. First,
we made the decision to use the right side of the status bar area a place to
host view switching, window switching, and zoom control–basically, everything
that controls how your window looks. We thought it was consistent to have
these “window frame commands” near the scroll bars and it gave us an ideal,
standard place to host these controls in a way that increased the
density of the UI.
The next thing we needed to work out was scalability. One of the reasons
the previous Word status bar was so cryptic (with lots of three-letter acronyms
like TRK, EXT, and OVR) was that the status bar was pretty much fixed-size… it
had no way of scaling up to show more information. We needed to work on a
way to show information in a more clear way while still permitting “urgent”
messages to be visible when necessary. (And, of course, letting the status
area grow to two lines was not a realistic or desirable option.)
The Word 2003 status bar had some fairly cryptic acronyms: REC, TRK, EXT…
Once we had a design that allowed the status bar to scale well to different
data (an algorithm I won’t get into here), we started brainstorming what data people might want to see along with
their document. We wanted to keep the default list set of items short and
manageable, while allowing more expert users the ability to customize and add
more items over time.
Word count was the first thing that jumped to mind; why should people have to
open a separate window or click “Recount” when the word processor should just
know at all times how many words you have written? Word count is in the
default status bar in Word 12, and as you select text, it updates to show you also the
number of words in your selection. You can click on the number of words
(which lights up like a button) to bring up the full Word Count dialog box.
Many parts of the status bar can be interacted with to reveal more information.
Word count as part of the default Word 12 status bar
In Excel, knowing the average, total, minimum, maximum, and sum of any selected
numbers seemed like a handy shortcut.
Handy math as part of the Excel 12 status bar
If you’re someone that misses all of things that used to be on the status bar
(such as knowing whether Num Lock, Caps Lock, Scroll Lock, and Overtype mode are
activated), you can add them to your bar. We make these much easier to
decipher compared to their cryptic current-day formulations. To customize
the status bar, you simply right-click on it to reveal a list of items to add or
remove. (A cool feature of this is we show the values of the customizable
items right in the menu, so you could just use right-click to see how many lines
you had without actually adding them to the status bar.)
Right-click the status bar to see what you can add or remove
Finally, key reading scenarios (such as the full-screen reading experience in
Word 12) have no status bar at all, so that you have the maximum space available
to focus on your document.