Outlook and the Ribbon



On Tuesday,
I wrote about some of the new features in Outlook 12 and, in passing, I
mentioned that Outlook was the
single
biggest consumer of the Ribbon
.



Not surprisingly, since I didn’t explain the remark any further and because it
seems to contradict my
post
about what apps get the new Office UI
, I got a lot of feedback questioning
my remark.  "Surely you’re mistaken… or crazy?" one reader wrote in.



While it is true that I have been quite sick this week and woke up with a > 100
degree fever again yesterday morning, I assure you that I am not, in fact, any
crazier than usual.



(That’s 37.8 C for you non-United Statesians…)



Anyway, while it is true that part of Outlook has the new UI and part of it does
not, the half which does required the design of more Ribbon tabs than the rest
of Office combined.



Start with the fact that in Office 12, the Outlook editing and reading canvas is
based on Word.  This means that the feature set of an e-mail message starts
with "everything you can do in Word", subtracts "things that don’t make sense in
an e-mail, such as page orientation" and adds "all of the features Outlook
supports."



And now, you’ve successfully designed the Ribbon for one scenario: sending an
e-mail message.



However, there are so many different scenarios within Outlook: post a message,
send a meeting request, accept a meeting request, counter-propose a meeting
request, accept a task, resend a message, read a non-delivery receipt, forward
an iCalendar, etc.  In fact, there are more than 40 unique "application
experiences" within Outlook, each which requires a set of tabs in the Ribbon
that 1) expresses all of the possible functionality  2) is as consistent as
possible with other similar features within Outlook and  3) is as
consistent as possible with the Word experience.



So, while it might seem like Outlook is just dabbling its toe into the new UI,
in fact Outlook contains the largest and most complex set of scenarios to
utilize the Office 12 UI.  As a result, Outlook is probably the place where
we’ve done the most revisions of the Ribbon experience since Beta 1.  Of
course, we’ve made improvements in every app based on feedback, but the Outlook
tabs have really been overhauled to make them more straightforward to use.



Which is good, because Outlook is the place people do most of their reading,
writing, and document creation.

Comments (19)

  1. Sendell says:

    Hi Jensen,

    I sounds like you want to tell us how difficult it is to make the ribbon work correctly for Outlook (and prepare us for the fact that it’s ‘just dabbling its toe’?) because of the many features in Outlook. But isn’t that just the reason you introduced the ribbon in the first place? If it cant do this very well, doesn’t this mean it’s not as good as you wanted it to be?

    (btw great blog)

  2. Henry says:

    Thanks a lot, at least now I know where Outlook 12 is going.

  3. pli says:

    Hi Jensen,

    I’m curious, then, based on what you said here, what’s the reasoning behind the decision not to implement the ribbon for the 3 most common scenarios – namely:

    – Open Outlook and Review My Email

    – Open Outlook and Review/Edit My Calendar

    – Open Outlook and Look for a Contact

    Hope you’re feeling better. Thanks for the blog.

  4. Ryan Phelps says:

    Select a range of cells that contains an array formula:

    Click a cell in the array formula.

    On the Edit menu, click Go To.

    Click Special.

    Click Current array.

    ——————

    These are the instructions for selecting the cells that are returned by a function that returns an array. Make this better. Please. For the love of all that is sacred in this world, make array formulas slightly easier to use. Thanks.

    I love the blog. I read it daily with Raymond and Larry’s. I’m very much looking forward to the new Office, which I haven’t done in a long time.

  5. Ryan Phelps says:

    oops. Sorry that last post was completely unclear as to what the heck I’m talking about. Array formulas are in Excel, not Outlook. But they’re still ridiculously difficult to use.

    Sorry about that.

  6. Robert says:

    "However, there are so many different scenarios within Outlook […] In fact, there are more than 40 unique "application experiences" within Outlook"

    Maybe Outlook is too big an app in the first place and would benefit from being split up into smaller parts?

  7. Any chance some screenshots could be posted…? 🙂

  8. jensenh says:

    Sendell,

    Nah, it’s not too hard, I think we have a great set of designs for Outlook.

    I was just explaining my statement about why there’s more overall Ribbon-based UI in Outlook than in any of the other programs.

  9. Djblois says:

    Any plans for the Future to add the Ribbon to the shell of Outlook. Also, plans to add it to Internet Explorer and other Microsoft products?

    Thank you

  10. Foobar says:

    Ryan: Try Ctrl+/

  11. Ryan Phelps says:

    Foobar:

    You rule. I’m astonished. Where did you find that?

  12. Shaun Phurrough says:

    Your post raises a side question. You mention:

    "Start with the fact that in Office 12, the Outlook editing and reading canvas is based on Word."

    My understanding was that the feature to use Word to edit the message might be going away. Many of our corporate consultants also tell us that major corporations are split on this feature (there seem to be a wealth of both cons and pros against it being used).

    Having said that, could you point me in a direction that discusses the future of this integration based on what you’ve said above? Also, how will different versions of the Office Suite integrate in that situation? I’ve checked several of the MS Blogs to no avail so far…

    Wonderful blog, by the way!

  13. Foobar says:

    Ryan: Excel help / Keyboard shortcuts / Keys for selecting data and cells / Select cells with specific characteristics

    Enjoy 🙂

  14. Wictor Wilen says:

    Ed Bott’s Microsoft Report blogs about What do you think of Office 2007 so far?

    I’ve been using it,

  15. I love Office 2007. If you have not yet downloaded or played with it, pop along to http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/beta/overview.mspxto

  16. On Tuesday , I wrote about some of the new features in Outlook 12 and, in passing, I mentioned that Outlook was the single biggest consumer of the Ribbon . Not surprisingly, since I didn’t explain the remark any further and because it seems to contradic