Obsession to Detail

The success of a user interface depends on getting the details right. 
That's not to say that a little bit of fit-and-finish work can save a horrible
design, but a good idea won't thrive either unless enough of the little details
are right.

I know that I am sometimes frustrating to work for because I
can be a bit of a perfectionist around the UI.  Especially during the last
part of the product cycle, I'm constantly prodding and poking (and asking those
around me to prod and poke) to make sure that every decision we make is as good
as it can be.  (I mean, you only get one chance to do something like
this, right?)

Our development team has gone out of their way to provide us the
opportunities to get the details right.  Unfortunately, sometimes getting
the small stuff right costs way more time and energy than doing something "most
of the way."  Yet, the whole team has remained committed to going beyond
the "good enough" mentality so that the user experience is seamless in ways you
wouldn't even notice unless we got them wrong.

One of my favorite examples of this was a design change we made a number of
months ago called "Eat Dismiss Clicks."

Here's the setup.  Let's say that you drop down a menu in Windows. 
Now, instead of clicking a menu item, you click somewhere else on the screen. 
This has always dismissed the menu and sent a mouse click to wherever you
clicked.  Nothing surprising so far; this is just how the Windows focus
model works.

Now, let's say you insert a Picture in Office 12.  As you know from
discussion of Contextual Tabs
, the Picture Tools appear in the Ribbon because
the picture is selected.  So far so good.

You decide you want to add a shadow to the picture.  So, you drop down
the Shadow gallery from the Ribbon and look through the shadows available. 
You don't see anything you like, so you click somewhere other than the gallery
to dismiss it.

BAM!  Your click goes through to the document.  Because the click
wasn't on the picture, the picture gets deselected.  Because the picture
got deselected, the Picture Tools disappear.  Now, all of a sudden, just
because you didn't see a shadow you wanted, all of your tools disappeared and
you have no idea why.

It's easy from a developer point of view to explain this as the "correct"
behavior.  The behavior is perfectly logical, and it follows the way focus
has worked in Windows for decades.  It would have been tempting to have
just left this as is, and to have rationalized that people should make sure to hit "Escape" or
to click somewhere on the Ribbon or title bar to dismiss the gallery instead.

But when we looked at people actually trying to use the product, they didn't
"aim" their "dismiss the menu" click at all.  They weren't actually trying
to both make the gallery go away and also perform some action with a single
click.  Clicking away from the gallery was just an efficient and
discoverable way of making it disappear.  The software was behaving
rationally, yet it nonetheless managed to completely confound the user's

So, we had a quandary.  Making a fix was expensive, complicated, and
involved working around the Windows focus model.  The test team was
concerned that a lot of unforeseen quality regressions would occur.  Code
down deep in each of the apps would have to change.  It was the kind of
scary technical problem no one wanted to touch with a ten-foot pole.

Did we make the change?  You betcha.

Because it was too important
to get the details right not to.  We bit the bullet, worked through the
technical issues, found and fixed the bugs, and checked it in.

And now?  People find this part of the experience to be seamless. 
No one ever notices the work the team did to get that detail of the design
right, because it works the way you'd expect if you just sit down and start
using it.  Sure, there's a detailed and complicated technical story behind
how it works--but that's what we get paid for, figuring out how to put technology at the
service of delivering great software experiences.

The "Eat Dismiss Clicks" story is emblematic of how our
team has
tried to go beyond to get the little things right in the Office 12 UI.  If we do
the job well,
the experience is seamless, responsive, and predictable, and it makes all of the
extra work worthwhile.

It's the obsession to get the details right that makes all the difference.

Comments (58)

  1. Roman says:

    Guys, your work is really amazing, and I’m glad, that you’re doing this. Thanks a lot.

  2. Phylyp says:

    This sounds very interesting. Can you give a little more detail on what happens now?

    What if I actually want to close the Picture Tools and go back to the doc? Will that take another click?

  3. Alexandre-Jean Reille says:

    (first little statement: I teach word usage. Extensive word usage , and from the reading of your blog it seem you have totaly forgotten to ask that kind of word knowledgeable people, pitty you are missing many many things *in my opinion* – please note: word powerusers ARE NOT necessarily word teachers)

    (second statement: thank you. your blog is very *very* interresting, and enlightening)

    so about the issue at hand.

    I’ll point my comment to one sentence C&P right out of your article:

    "Making a fix [..] involved working around the Windows focus model"

    ont this sentence I have two comment:


    am i reading this right? is a in-microsoft UI specialist actually saying "the windows focus model is flawed" ?

    * woha that felt good *

    if so why does he "work arround it" instead of filing a notification to the right developpement team? (and please spare me the we don’t have access to those people, it is blatently clear when you read the leaked NT sources that hacks were done on the OS at the request of the office team)

    The right course of action in my opinion is TO TEACH the user that whenever he clicks, he "sets" a certain focus.

    See my courses are all done in such a way:

    I start of by saying:

    computers are *so very* stupid. One cannot order them to "print this document" because by the end of the sentence they have forgotten the order.

    you have to say "*this document* print"

    thus you have to focus/select *then* give the order

    (you have to select a paragraph *before* applying a certain effect on it ; you have to focus/select an image before applying a shade)

    So basicaly i start the lesson by teaching to users the windows focus model. I teach them to "read the interface" so that they can tell at any given point where the focus/selection is.

    (i agree this is my personal vision on UI, but teaching it that way has met a lot of success and rendered users free of frustration and ignorance)

    What I would have proposed to the dev team :

    have the focus being taken away from the picture be "marked more clearly" in some way.

    What has been done: " a drastic change in the focus model", so now Office applications will behave a certain way , but not other windows application. But pardon me, the whole windows developpement platform concept was it not that the SAME user feeling throughout ANY windows application ?

    which leads me to ..


    Do i think this change is wrong / non user-friendly ?


    I think it’s great.

    and i immagine how such a big thing it must have been to take the decision (and implement it , kuddos to the dev team)

    But the decision has not been taken in my opinion at the right level.

    It should have been taken at the OSui level, not the application UI level.

    So now, i will have to teach TWO different focus model one for the office applications, and one for the windows applications.

    this goes against any usability concepts. (two different models for the same interface is wrong, see J.Raskin’s demonstration.)


    What transpires out of this big decision and te though process behind it?

    The office 12 will probably be the first genuine "Intelligent" application. it will let even more the user concentrate on the task at hand instead of how to do the task.

    … provided a good teaching.

  4. xml says:

    to the dude above:

    windows doesnt have the ribbon interface… duh!

  5. pli7 says:


    You’re such a good story teller. Thanks again for the blog. So what is the behavior now? Let me guess – When you first click off the picture, the Picture ribbon tab stays there. You’ll have to click a second time to select another object?

    If that’s the case, that reminds me of the way split windows in Word works – the multiple clicking is quite annoying.

  6. Adrian says:


    Several times a day, I end up cussing at applications that ignore clicks. I hope you’ve made dismissing clicks optional. It’s very, *very* frustrating to have an application ignore an intentional click.

    Word, by default, already disrespects carefully aimed mouse clicks by unpredictably extending selections to whole words (and adjoining spaces and trailing puncutation). When revising sentences, it’s quite common to want to replace a suffix and a couple following words. Unless you turn off the option or learn the magic fidget gesture, Word will ignore the careful aim you took with the mouse and extend the selection, causing you to lose an entire word instead of just a suffix.

    Once upon a time, edit boxes, like the Address one in IE, also used to respect click and drag. Now, if you try to delete a portion of a URL, you have to make an extra click, one to set the focus, and then one to select. And although it has worked like this for YEARS, I still haven’t gotten used to it and am constantly surprised and thereby frustrated. And it’s about a zillion times worse in a Visual Studio watch window. I can’t express in words how maddening it is.

    Notepad, even if it’s not the active application, will let me click and drag to select text without forcing me to first set the focus. It respects me.

    If you sample a variety of common applications, you’ll find about half of them will drop a toolbar or menu click if they aren’t already the active application. I don’t find this quite as maddening, but the inconsistency is disappointing. The maddening apps are the ones that drop the mouse clicks that cause activation yet still show tooltips and hot tracking for the toolbar buttons even when the app is not active. That’s just setting up the user for failure.

    I’ve never gotten used to Word’s quirky behaviors. Auto-correct, extended mouse selections, erratic cursor (caret) navigation, and scrolling independently of the cursor are all thoroughly counter-intuitive to me. Worse, they cause far more mistakes than they cure. As a result, I avoid the entire Office suite. But I’ve been reading your blog avidly and thinking that maybe these little details will finally be fixed. Until today. I literally screamed at my screen when I read today’s entry. It’s another "feature" I’ll have to remember to turn off.

    So please, please, please make this "disregard the user’s explicit action feature" an optional behavior.

  7. NateB1 says:

    I think Jensen was referring to drop-down menus in the ribbon (like the underline feature in a previous post). Jensen, correct me if I’m wrong, but this only applies IF you have a drop-down menu open. It does not apply to the contextual tabs (for instance, if you click a picture, and you click a tab in the contextual "Picture," tab, it only takes one click to deselect the picture, and the picture tab goes away).

    I agree that if it takes two clicks to deselect an item with a contextual tab open, it would be *very* annoying.

    BTW, I have greatly enjoyed your Office blog and all the thought and hard work that went in the new user interface.

  8. Andrew Carton Maine says:

    This actually isn’t the first time Word has deviated from Windows’ focus model. Make a selection in Explorer, switch to another application, and then click on Explorer’s window surface. The selection disappears.

    Do the same thing in Word, and the selection remains. I prefer Word’s way of doing it, and this change is in line with that behaviour.

    To Alexandre-Jean: The Office team has a long history of doing things in a different way than the OS team recommends (think for example of those awful file open/save dialogs that the Office apps used to have). Must be very irritating to the OS team.

  9. Alexandre-Jean Reille says:

    Adrian wrote:

    "Notepad, even if it’s not the active application, will let me click and drag to select text without forcing me to first set the focus. It respects me."

    *it respects me*


    A lot and i mean *a lot* could be said about this approach.

    /in my opinion/

    the cognitive approach.

    I , the user , have the locus of control ; not the interface.

    Changing a beaviour as fundamental to the windows UI as the "focus behavior" is like changing the way the steering wheel would react in a car.

    since the dawn of cars, turning the steering wheel clockwise has always turned the wheels from left to right (facing front).

    Imagine if someone would say "depending if you’re in forward gear or reverse gear, turning the steering wheel to the right will steer to the right OR left".


    but changing a fundemantal behavior like the "focus model" (in-app as opposed to system-wide) is *exactly* the same.

    The users will have to yet again learn a different way to work with the app.

    Now please note that i am not against change. change is good. but change has to be *user spawned* not *conceptor spawned*

    You saw and identified a quirk, YOU decided it was a problem , YOU decided it had to be solved, then YOU debated a long time if you were gonna change the behavior or not.

    But *it seems* you didn’t put into your mindstorming the end user.

    the end user has to want the change, not only need it.

    /that/ is respect.

    thus thou shoud have proposed the change (by making it an option) instead of imposing it.

    /in my opinion/


    What i would have done:

    let the system wide behavior the default one (that seems absolutely *imperative* to me)

    use an intellisense script (or whatever) to detect the first occurance and /propose/ to the user the new "focus model".

    The windows proposing the new model should comme with a nice "tutorial" button.

    This perception of Da User *seems* completely absent from your research.

    Which is good *at first* when designing and conceptualizing but *not* when final tweaks are being made/done.

    at the end of your process should be the Almighty User.

    /in my opinion/


  10. Matt says:

    I’m a bit of a UI zealot myself, and I think this sounds like a good thing. The click to dismiss the gallery doesn’t change the *application’s* focus away from the picture, thus preserving the picture tools. This, I think, is the behaviour I would prefer.

    Going around the Windows focus model then is not a bad thing in this case. Okay sure, one poster above said this should have been done at the Windows level. Do you REALLY want to upgrade to Windows Vista in order to use Office?

    This is (particularly with the Ribbon) just the kind of exception to the system-wide UI rules that some apps NEED to make just to make it look like the system-wide UI rules are in effect. I know it makes no sense, but sometimes applying rules without any exceptions is the worst possible thing you can do, and it’s not necessarily because the rules are wrong, but because the rules can never anticipate the needs of every application’s interface.

    I bet all the naysayers here will be using this in a year’s time and won’t bat an eyelid because as Jensen said, you won’t even have noticed it. That’s good design, and I’ll break as many rules as necessary to get it.

  11. jensenh says:

    What Matt said sums it up.

    As much hand-wringing as you can do about the technological implications and how this violates this or that… in the real world, no one will ever notice this one except that it doesn’t feel broken.

    If I didn’t make the behavior clear, it’s this: Whenever a dropdown menu or gallery is open (only), a click in the document surface of Office dismisses the menu but doesn’t perform the click on the document.

    And, yes we had many power users say "this would never work" and "it’ll slow me down." Yet, the behavior is been in the product since way before Beta 1 and I’ve yet to hear a complaint on it.

    When someone drops down a menu, they usually either use something on it, or click somewhere away from it to make it go away. That’s the behavior we’ve codified. It’s not a power-user vs. basic-user thing.

    It’s an interesting theoretical discussion, but I think when you actually use the product, you’ll agree that it feels right.

  12. Alexandre-Jean Reille says:

    first :

    *wake up man*

    you WILL upgrade to vista.

    you pc is owned, didn’t you know that by now?



    again I am not saying this change is bad. on the contrary.

    I’m saying the research done by the office team should be done by the OS team.

    I’m saying the office team should *not* depart from the windows UI. not one iota.

    Does that mean that both teams should be merged?

    well in a user oriented environement YES DEFINITLY.

    In a so-called "free market" (hahaha) that ain’t gonna happend.

    Microsoft cannot spend money on making /any/ app as good as office 12 is gonna be by doing the research on the UI side of things.

    so again we are on the "upgrade ui schemes bandwagon": first office comes with new ideas, then the others (adobe, etc..) then microsoft blatently "steals" the best ideas and integrate them into the os.

    ok steal is not the right word, free market, right.

    *wake up*

  13. Alexandre-Jean Reille says:

    "When someone drops down a menu, they usually either use something on it, or click somewhere away from it to make it go away. That’s the behavior we’ve codified. "

    WHY ?

    why do the want to make it go away? why did they open it in the first place? how can i prevent them from opening it if they don’t need it?

    Respectfully, sir, I wonder if these questions even sliped through your mind..

    (I think theses question would help thee widen your approach, not necessarily their answers , if any)

    "It’s not a power-user vs. basic-user thing"

    not at all , sir, i agree:

    it’s a conceptor’s point of vu VS a user’s point of vu

  14. s_tec says:

    ‘But when we looked at people actually trying to use the product, they didn’t "aim" their "dismiss the menu" click at all.’

    Uh, guys, I think you missed the point here. Jensen’s team didn’t want to change the focus model, but they did it because user testing showed it was necessary. There is no "right" or "wrong" in the land of user interface, only better and worse. What is better for some people is always worse for others. Two posters above value consistency, while another values minimum mouse clicks. Jensen’s research, on the other hand, shows that people actually using the software prefer to minimize context switches in a highly context-sensitive environment. I think people using this unique interface have more say than people with idealistic theories based on existing interfaces.

    Also, from a consistency point of view, I think the new functionality is the correct one. When using a traditional app, opening a menu and then clicking in the document area has no effect most of the time. It does have an effect if the user has hilighted some text, but this is not really common. Now, when moving to the new interface, opening a menu and then clicking in the document area has huge effects, changing the tabbed editing context. As far as the user is concerned, the new interface is "acting differently" than what they are used to. Remember, focus rules are technical details that users aren’t consciously aware of. The rules may be different in the new UI, but the experience is the same.

  15. Alexandre-Jean Reille says:

    "focus rules are technical details that users aren’t consciously aware of"

    So it seems the conceptor has two options:

    1/Teach the user to be aware of these

    thus making him *aware* of what’s going on, thus giving him the locus of control, thus making it harder to learn but easier to use the UI

    (respect towards the user, hypothesis that he actualy can and is willing to learn)

    2/decide what will happen in place of the user

    thus making the user dependent on what goes on that he’s unaware of, thus taking the locus of control away from him.

    (no respect, hypothesis that the user is … "dumb" ?)

  16. Elliot Bridge says:

    Jensen says,

    <i>…in the real world, no one will ever notice this one except that it doesn’t feel broken. </i>

    That’s not so. I’ll notice it, and Adrian and Alexandre-Jean above will notice it. We’ll notice that the UI is behaving <em>contrary to expectations</em>. It won’t behave the way the rest of the Windows UI behaves. We will do the things we always do, but we will get a different result. The steering-wheel analogy is perfect.

    I’m willing to believe that the average end-user screws himself forty times a day by clicking randomly on the screen without looking, and I do agree that "just tell the user not to do that!" is a really stupid design philosophy.

    But don’t pretend that you aren’t screwing up the user experience for some users, because that is precisely what you are doing. Some people are going to hate this arbitrary violation of their expectations every day. When I click on something I expect it to act like it’s been clicked. When I want to dismiss a menu without doing something else, I am bright enough to hit ESC or click on something "dead", and I have been using Windows long enough to do it by deeply-ingrained reflex. You’re making me walk through an extra step in performing common tasks. You really don’t think people notice things like that?

    One of the best things about Windows has always been consistency of UI experience (compare to the horror of X11). Why does Office have such a problem there?

    One of the myriad petty annoyances of Office already is the way, when you click on an unfocused Word or Excel window, the click is "eaten", except for focusing the window. No other application does that.

    There’s also the bizarre behavior of Excel 2003, where it masquerades as a normal application in the taskbar, with one taskbar icon per file you have open (and alt-tab works correctly) &mdash; but then the titlebar ‘X’ button closes all open files. WHY? Has anybody noticed that this is <em>totally</em> arbitrary, and completely inconsistent with every other windows program except Access? Has anybody noticed that, in Word 2003, there are multiple top-level windows, which behave normally? But Excel, the "sister program" that it ships with, is completely different. (In general, the "SDI-ification" of Office was a nightmare. Each application invented its own new, different, and <em>completely wrong</em> way of doing something that’d been done right by hundreds of applications for a decade or more. I think I used a version of Office recently where the titlebar "close" button in one of the applications was <em>permanently disabled</em>, as was the "Close" command on the system menu. Insane. Completely insane).

    And now there’ll be yet another. The Office team thinks everybody’s out of step but them.

  17. Rod says:

    A list of loosely-related comments.

    First, I love the thought and energy that is going into this redesign.

    Second, one can be obsessed about something. One can have an obsession for something. But one cannot have an obsession TO something. (My own obsession.)

    Third, this sounds like an excellent idea. I’ve had a selection canceled inadvertently because I used a mouse click to cancel a menu.

    Fourth, I’ve noticed an “eating keystroke” behavior in the replace dialog. I don’t remember the details. But it seems that after an action was completed I needed two keystrokes tell it what to do next when one should have worked. Sorry I can’t be more specific.

    Fifth, why does Word insist on putting in a space before a line of text which begins with opening quotation marks? If I delete a “paragraph mark” before such a line, the line “moves up,” but Word inserts an unwanted space before the opening quotation mark.

    Sixth, the thing I like most about Word is the ability to adjust the way it works to fit my preferences. It sounds like the new version will give me even more control. But of course I’ll never be satisfied until I have complete control .

    Keep up the good work.

  18. Elliot Bridge says:

    Oh, and somebody mentioned the seemingly non-deterministic behavior of IE and Word when you try to select text with the mouse, and it <em>FIGHTS</em> you, it literally <em>fights to prevent you</em> from doing what you want to do &mdash; well, amen to that complaint, too. It’s like pushing the positive poles of two magnets together just trying to select a few letters with the mouse! This kind of garbage turns the simplest task into a struggle against <em>actively antagonistic</em> software. Why? Can’t you just let me get my work done?

    Remember the "personalized menus"? Didn’t you guys learn from that?

  19. J says:

    "2/decide what will happen in place of the user thus making the user dependent on what goes on that he’s unaware of, thus taking the locus of control away from him.

    (no respect, hypothesis that the user is … "dumb" ?)"

    Oh man I’m glad you’re not the one designing the new office UI. I want my software to work how I want it to work–I don’t want to learn how it works and then adapt accordingly.

    Let’s say you walk up to an elevator with 2 buttons vertically stacked. There’s a man standing next to the buttons. You want to go up to the top floor. Which of these scenarios makes more sense?

    1. The button on the bottom makes the elevator go up and the top button makes the elevator go down. You press the top button because that’s the intuitive thing to to. The man standing at the elevators says "No, you want to go up. You need to press the bottom button". You say OK and press the bottom button. The elevator didn’t work how you wanted and you had to do something wrong to learn how it works. But you kept the "locus of control". Good for you.

    2. The button on the top makes the elevator go up, and the button on the bottom makes the elevator go down. You approach the elevator and press the button on the top. Everything works as you expect and the man standing at the elevator says nothing. You don’t have the "locus of control", but everything "just works".

    Sorry, but I want scenario 2, and I’m glad that the new office is accommodating.

  20. ChrisC says:

    Three quick things:

    (1) It already works this way.

    The ribbon replaces the menu. When you open a menu and then click away from it, the focus is changed and the click is already ‘eaten’.

    "No, Chris it doesn’t do that."

    Yes it does, just not in word… in IE 6 it does, and that’s been with us a while now.

    (Select some text open favorites click beside the selected text your text is still selected) For better or worse, they aren’t exactly blaizing a new trail here.

    (2) "Jensen’s team didn’t want to change the focus model, but they did it because user testing showed it was necessary."

    WRONG. They did want to change it.

    Only if someone TOLD them to change it could you say that they didn’t want to; they decided to and did. For better or worse.

    Let’s not have any political double-speak here on a technical blog – give them credit for making a hard decision, don’t pretend they had no choice or wanted something else.

    (this isn’t said with malice; and [to me] it isn’t nit-picking – sorry if it comes across that way)

    (3) I wish you hadn’t.

    Not because I want you to have a lame UI, nor confused users, nor because you should blindly adhere to a standard.

    I wish you hadn’t, because in the future someone is going to want me to code my VB app the same way and I might offend a client when I tell them, "No thanks, I don’t need the money that badly." (Assuming it even could be done in straight vb – hook into the msg queue and deal with it maybe? Not sure, don’t care 🙂

    -Chris C.

  21. ChrisC says:

    Crap I knew there was something I left out. One last "Don’t do it" that no one else has mentioned:

    (4) The user can already make it go away either by clicking the down arrow again or by clicking the title bar.

    I’m not a beta 1 person but I imagine there are places on the ribbon itself you could click also without changing the focus from your picture.

  22. Hanford says:

    Elliot and others:

    You’re making a big mistake with UIs: dismissing an idea without trying it first.

    In the development arena, it’s the number one killer of innovative UI design. It’s really easy to say "That won’t work", but it’s completely different to try it, test it, inspect the results and say "That didn’t work".

    I was skeptical when I read Jensen’s entry myself, but I haven’t actually used the new Office, and a little bird told me that Jensen actually has used it — and tested it too.

  23. sk says:

    I ditto Hanford, and this particular problem (I am not talking about the various related problems that came up in the discussions) is something that has come up in previous user studies (and I personally HATE it). When a user opens a menu and WANTS to dismiss it a NORMAL way to do that IS to click anywhere but ON the options the user wants to avoid! If the rest of windows does not do that… well… it should. I can think of countless times that I have right clicked on a web-page to print it – and then changed my mind and clicked outside only to find a link and unwittingly navigate somewhere else.

  24. jensenh says:


    It’s a play on the phrase "attention to detail." The mixed idiom was intentional.

  25. jensenh says:

    Of all the topics I write about, I have to say I wouldn’t have guessed this one would be the one to set off the comment storm.

    I do like the vigorous discussion though. 🙂

    The reason that expert users don’t realize this is a problem often is that they’re already skilled enough on a subconcious level to do their dismiss click in a place that has no effect. I think if you monitor yourself using Windows over the coming weeks, you’ll see this yourself.

    Also, the Contextual Tabs raise the level of "badness" when you do hit this scenario. It wasn’t really a big deal up until now because the worst that happened was that your selection changed.

    I don’t disagree with the comments that Windows could/should consider adopting this behavior in general. I think it would be a good thing. But given the amount we’re changing Office, we had to do the right thing to make our interface work.

    Just an FYI that the Mac does and has always gone much further then what I described in this post. On the Mac, switching focus is always a click onto itself. We only did so far a relatively constrained scenario: dismissing a popup menu or gallery.

  26. Brad Corbin says:

    I don’t believe this will badly affect power users, contrary to what Elliot and Alexandre-Jean are saying.

    Scenario 1: (Beginning user)

    Opens a drop-down menu, and doesn’t find what he wants. To close it, he clicks somewhere on his document.

    Office 2003: Random things happen, depending on where he clicks

    Office 12: Menu closes, nothing else changes

    Scenario 2: (Power user)

    Opens a ribbon drop-down menu, and doesn’t see what she wants. She knows that randomly clicking somewhere else is a bad idea, so she deliberately clicks on an empty space in the UI, or clicks on the same menu again to close it.

    Office 2003: Menu closes, nothing else changes

    Office 12: Menu closes, nothing else changes

    So the UI experience is IMPROVED for the beginner, and the SAME for the power user (or even BETTER, once she realizes she doesn’t have to be quite as careful where she clicks to close the menu!)

    I think you all are inventing some other scenario where this could actually cause some confusion:

    Scenario 3: (Power user)

    Opens a drop-down menu, and doesn’t find what he wants. WITHOUT closing the window, he decides to take some specific action in his document (select a different graphic, for example). He’s not worried about the open menu, because he knows it will close when he clicks down on the document.

    Office 2003: Menu closes, graphic #2 is selected

    Office 12: Menu closes, nothing else changes. Now he clicks again to select the graphic.

    Scenario 3 is a CORNER CASE, and only requires ONCE to figure out how it works.

    All that said, I have to admit that I find it EXTREMELY ANNOYING that you have to click TWICE to select a cell in Excel (lets say you’re copying a bunch of individual values from another document). It ends up looking like:

    * Select source data in your browser window

    * Ctrl-C

    * Click the destination cell in Excel (just activates the application)

    * Ctrl-V

    * Swear because the data went in the wrong cell

    * Ctrl-Z to undo

    * Click to select the RIGHT cell

    * Ctrl-V

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    And yes, even though I KNOW how it works, it still gets me all the time.

    One more thing: are they FINALLY going to get rid of the idiotic "when you paste in Excel, it clears the clipboard!!!" stupidity?

    Yes, I know there was a reason for it, but I think its finally time to change it to the way that 99.83% of all windows applications work.

  27. Hanford says:

    BTW Jensen, this entry you wrote highlights another reason why having UI design seperate from UI implmentation is good thing. Some companies put the UI team in a Customer Service department rather than R&D because they feel that their end goals are different, although I think doing that hurts more than it helps.

  28. Alexandre-Jean Reille says:

    side note:

    oh how i do enjoy using the old tricks that will always work:





    ok I say again:

    I think it’s a good idea , by itself.

    I think it *should not* be imposed as default behavior (but proposed as alternate).

    /in my opinion/

    I think drastic change like that are what windows upgrades should be about (as versus to 3D sweety want-not flashy things – we all remember the *SHOOT THE CLIPPER* campagne)

    I still think that Jensenh is in a certain *process of thinking, debugging, researching* that eliminates from the get go several aternate ways of thinking that he could realy benefit from.

    He thinks within a certain box, not very wide might I add, that prevents him form thinking otherwise.

    The sad thing is, he thinks and research all day long, how can he have the time to rethink his processes ?

    How can he measure the quality of his decision making?

    This blog could be used in that perspective,


    or is it just a "look what we’ve done" .?

    we’ll phish some new ideas for office 14 or 15..


    /in my opinion/

    Mainly I think Jesenh doesn’t take into consideration the simple yet very realistic fact that users may actually BE WILLING TO LEARN instead of trying to get things done.

    Users , I have discovered along my years of teaching , (1995 – today) are willing to learn.

    It’s quite hard to get them to admit that they know nothing about the "focus concept" and that they need it; but once they do, their efficiency doubles in a few exercices.

    Let’s take another analogy shall we (i find this one *very* didactive in classes)

    When a painter is in front of his page doing his painting, he doesn’t look at his color box to decide what color he’s gonna use, or his brushes to decide which he will use. He *knows* before reaching out what he wants.

    back to word:

    A user whom opens a menu but doesn’t use it is a painter whom opened his color box not knowing what color he was about to use.

    Hence it’s not the right user to set things for.

    *That* user must change his habits, not the color box da##it !

    what i do:

    When i see a user open a menu then close it without using it I stop him. and ask him:

    "what was your objective when ou opend that menu? what were you looking for? why did you look for it there? where do you think _from the lessons i gave you_ this tool/option should be?"

    my objective:

    I try to understand the causality of the "opened a menu to close it without using it" behavior, and then i supress the causality.

    You don’t. you just tackle the consequence of the bad decision making (opend the menu), instead of trying to prevent it.

    Jensenh I ask you to please reconsider on what basis you take your decisions..

    ok you have identifed a "scenario" as you so technicaly say.

    And you have taken *what seems to you/your team* the most obvious answer in regard of that scenario.

    But what if …

    I mean *what if*

    (indulge me : imagine)

    what if

    the identifed scenario *was not* revelant ?

    of *what if*

    that scenario is revelant of a certain kind of user that should be encouraged to learn how to use office (instead of accomodating them) ?

    What i see in this decision or, should i say the way you toke the decision, is a leveling by the bottom.

    (that is why powerusers feel insulted , un-respected , annoyed ..)

    It does not seem that you want your users to become more efficient with the use of your UI, it seems you want you UI to become more usable for these users.

    How would you react if GM was concettpualizing his next around mobility deficient drivers, and imposing on the rest of the drivers the modifications?

    If a driver wanna-be doesn’t know how to turn the steering wheel, you don’t accomodate the wheel. He /has to/ learn. That’s why a driver with his licence can manipulate any wheel.

    (or is your objective that the user could only use microsoft TM steering wheels?)

    no, don’t lough, sir, please.

  29. Alexandre-Jean Reille says:

    nice exemple , but missleading.

    I do not want an intuitive interface. word is to much a bloatware to be intuitive.

    (btw , i luv word)

    I want an efficient interface.

    efficient interfaces have to be learned.

    (see raskin’s demonstration on that point)

    now of course if the bottom button was correctly label "to go up" I would find that un-intuitive, but that would not errode the efficiency of the button.

  30. Alexandre-Jean Reille says:

    in his post, Elliot Bridge said:

    Jensen says,


    in the real world, no one will ever notice this one except that it doesn’t feel broken.


    That’s not so. I’ll notice it, and Adrian and Alexandre-Jean above will notice it. We’ll notice that the UI is behaving *contrary to expectations*.


    could that mean that you do not have a REAL world measure tool?


    I sure think so, Jensenh. That is why having among your brainstorming a few *teachers* would have been good.

    they know the real world, the End Users. I’m convinced you don’t , whatever the tests you run.


    did you select your user panel exactly as you wanted them to be? (thus leveling by the bottom, as i fear)

  31. Philip J. Rayment says:

    Jensen wrote:

    "Clicking away from the gallery was just an efficient and discoverable way of making it disappear."

    Why should the user have to "discover" that? Why not PROVIDE a way of closing the gallery. (Perhaps a red X in the top-right corner!)

    If a way of closing menus had been provided before, people would not have needed to click elsewhere to close them. As a power user, I still find it frustrating to have to find a "safe" spot to click to close menus.

  32. jensenh says:

    Well, this will mark the end of my comments on this particular issue.

    But I’m pretty surprised to read that there are people who would advocate putting close boxes on dropdown menus. Seems pretty heavyweight to me. Is it in the Edit menu? No. Go up to the Close box. Click it. Is it in the Format menu? No. Go up to the Close box. Click it. Sounds pretty frustrating to me.

    I think the system of clicking away from menus to dismiss them seems to be a pretty decent paradigm.


  33. John Waller says:

    >>>I think the system of clicking away from menus to dismiss them seems to be a pretty decent paradigm.

    I happen to agree.

    But as you’ve clearly stated time and again, Jensen, do your comprehensive User Feedback stats and user testing support your hunch that this is intuitive to most people? 🙂

  34. Adrian says:

    We all jokingly complain that computers do exactly what we tell them to do and not what we want.

    This click-absorbing feature (like auto-correct and extending mouse selections to entire words) is an attempt to make the program do what you meant rather than taking your mouse gestures too literally. This is a great thing if–and only if–it really does the *right* thing almost every single time.

    I don’t doubt that this feature (and many existing ones in Office) do exactly that for many, many users. The problem is that, for the rest of us, the behavior is counter-intuitive and frustration inducing. Not just sometimes, but every time. Unless those of us in the frustrated minority can disable these features, we become non-users.

    If one feature satisfies 98% of your users at the cost of disenfranchising 2%, that’s a huge success. But when you have a dozen features like that, you start to alienate a significant portion of the user base. Making these divisive behaviors optional becomes essential. My point in my earlier post was not to say that the feature was a bad idea. My intent, rather, was to emphasize how important it is that these mind-reading behaviors be optional.

    Personally, I’ve never successfully produced a document more than four pages with Microsoft Word before giving up in frustration–angry, cussing, screaming frustration. The model simply doesn’t work for me. Thank the FSM for alternatives.

  35. Lorenzo says:

    An absolutely great detail. Have you considered porting the change to the Windows focus model? I mean, it is a behaviour many applications can benefit!

    On the other side, a little request: How open/save dialogs will be in Office 12?

  36. Mike Alexander says:

    This whole post has been around how O12 will dismiss a gallery differently to "the standard Windows focus model".

    Well, here’s a weird one (this is what happens on my computer anyway):

    Open "My Computer"

    Switch to "Tile View" (not sure if this is required)

    Click on an item (like Local Disk (C:))

    Click on the "Help" menu

    Now click on another item (like My Documents)

    The focus moves to the second item

    Now try the same thing again, but use the "Favorites" menu instead of the "Help" menu

    The focus stays on the first item (i.e. the click is eaten)

    So it looks like the "Windows Focus Model" isn’t exactly predictable either

  37. David van Leerdam says:

    Hi Jensen,

    Looking at the Beta 1 screenshots of Office 2007 on Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows, I really love the improvements made in the process.

    One suggestion I have though, is to add a ‘Read more help’ hyperlink to the bottom of the Super Tooltips. It would open the general Help page about the feature the Super Tooltip is displayed for.

    Keep up the good work!

    Kind regards,

    David van Leerdam

  38. AJR says:

    Jensenh wrote:

    "Well, this will mark the end of my comments on this particular issue."

    oh ok now let’s see

    did you adress any of the constructive comments on this thread? no.

    Did you even care to answer to any counter critique of your methodology, your decision(s)? again no.

    did this blog start a conversation between you and those whom do not agree with you? no.

    this is not a blog. it’s an advertisement.

  39. ChrisC says:

    To "AJR" and others:

    Please be nice to Jensen. While I’m sure he’s mature enough to take whatever you can dish out, I (and others) would prefer you didn’t.

    He is writing stuff that I want to read, and I hope he keeps ‘happily’ doing it for months more before it begins to feel like a chore to him. (they’re more fun to read if they’re fun to write)

    Is Jensen a "marketing weasel", or is he *gasp* "advertising"?

    No. At least not in my opinion; he’s just a guy that’s both excited about and proud of what he and his team have done.

    Does Jense *sound* like he’s in sales?

    Sure, that’s what happens when you’re excited about something – used car salespeople emulate it.

    I hope that one day all y`all have that excitement in your life about something and can relate.

    AJR wrote:

    "did this blog start a conversation between you and those whom do not agree with you? no."

    I sure hope Jensen has better things to do than defend every blog post to every blog post poster. (what an awkward sentence 🙂

  40. John C. Kirk says:

    Ultimately, I think that there will always be a trade-off between ease of use and control. The particular example that’s bitten me in the past is "Smart Quotes" in Office. Try typing this:

    1/"the dog"

    You’ll find that the first double quote is actually a closing quote rather than an opening quote, which looks a bit weird. The workaround is to type:

    1/ "the dog"

    and then go back and delete the space afterwards.

    That’s annoying, but I recognise that this is an unusual situation. The alternative is to use something like LaTeX, where I have complete control over the document, e.g. having separate keys for opening quotes vs closing quotes. However, that is also a lot harder to use.

  41. Mike says:

    "WHY ?

    why do the want to make it go away? why did they open it in the first place? how can i prevent them from opening it if they don’t need it?

    Respectfully, sir, I wonder if these questions even sliped through your mind..

    (I think theses question would help thee widen your approach, not necessarily their answers , if any)"

    Did you even READ the article? The user CLICKED to open the gallery. You know, maybe to look at what was in it? Are you telling me you’ve never opened a menu and then wanted to dismiss it without doing an action? You have got to be kidding me.

  42. JohnS says:

    Much of my life is spent in editing documents and email. Like everyone else, I am annoyed when the application selects more text than I intend, but I work around it. So, I type a little more than I need to because Word (or an application that mimics it) decides to ignore my fine motor control.

    It frustrates me–most of the time. I am grateful that I can turn the feature off. But I know that for some of us, including me, it can occasionally save time, too.

    I am a "selection reader" (thank-you Jensen!) so I click my documents A LOT. Does an extra click here and there bother me? Not usually.

    If the extra click bothers you, perhaps you should pick up another of my habits. Hit the ESC key.

  43. JohnS says:

    I can’t wait to install Beta2. There’s a problem with Outlook 12 that is driving me crazy.

    When I start typing, the mouse pointer disappears.

    I have always disabled this feature from the Control Panel/Mouse applet, but it persists in Outlook alone. You can’t believe how much time I spend shaking the mouse (violently, often with cursing) to return the pointer to view.

    I have started to rely on "blind clicks" to return the mouse to normal function. There is nothing more terrifying.

    PLEASE tell me it has been fixed in a later build!

  44. Bernt says:

    Alexandre-Jean, reading one Jef Raskin’s book (however amazing and eye-opening it might generally be) does not a good UI designer make. Jef made some terrific points, but they were just one side of the coin. I find Jensen’s approach much more balanced and more realistic.

    JohnS, out of curiosity, why would you need a mouse pointer when you’re typing?

  45. Stephen McLaren says:

    "Yet, the behavior is been in the product since way before Beta 1 and I’ve yet to hear a complaint on it." – Jensen Harris

    To all the ‘power users’ in the comments who have been complaining that they’d notice it please read and take note! Do you think that Beta 1 has only gone to non-Power users or do you think that Microsoft might just possibly maybe have let someone who uses Word a lot (both in terms of time on product and functions used) and actively solicited feedback from them?

    It could be Brad Corbin is right and Power users are doing their automatic clicking somewhere it doesn’t matter to close down galleries that they don’t want. But surely that makes this a really good design! Power users are instantly familiar with it and new users can do close a gallery without changing focus.

    I also find it interesting that everyone seems to be picking a favourite Microsoft product to pick holes with its UI. Bad or un-intuitive UI is not limited to Microsoft. My personal favourite is Lotus Notes. It has the most annoying habit (in my mind) of making the curser ‘stick’ to the caret when typing test i.e. when you type the curser automatically moves with the caret <em>except</em> when moving the caret using the arrow keys or deleting. Definately un-intuitive and the curser moving without me moving the mouse is <em>soooo</em> annoying. I just move the curser somewhere out of Notes to stop it moving.

    All that being said(!) Word (and to a certain extent) just drives me nuts with its seemly odd behaviour….

  46. JohnS says:

    @Bernt – to answer your question, I don’t need the pointer when I type. I need it when I _edit_.

    Point and click will always be the fastest way to move the cursor around the document. If I can’t find the mouse pointer, I can’t place the cursor where it needs to go next.

    Did I mention that the "hide pointer" feature of Outlook 12 doesn’t respect my global Mouse setting? I truly don’t care if the mouse pointer hangs around while I type!

    (On the other hand, a mouse pointer that MOVED when I typed…!? Yuck.)

  47. itsadok says:

    (Just in case someone has enough patience to read all the way down here)

    To the commenters who used the "steering wheel" analogy: modern cars actually *don’t* respect the driver’s "instructions" – in some conditions the wheels will turn and the engine will accelerate to match the drivers *intentions* rather than his instructions.


    To John C. Kirk: before resorting to LaTeX, did you know you can force Word to use opening or closing quotes?

    Just press Ctrl+` or Ctrl+’ before entering the quote, and Word will insert an opening or closing quote, respectively.

    To the frustrated text selectors: Alt+Selection will allow you to perform more percise selections, although you can’t use this method across lines.

  48. JohnCKirk says:

    itsadok – thank you, I wasn’t aware of that, but it’s a useful option.

  49. Phylyp says:

    itsadok: Neat tip. Thanks.

  50. Max Howell says:

    Generally you should be praised for this bit of research and implementation.

    Although I will use it as an example of why it was perhaps unwise to ever allow menus to be opened by just clicking them (rather than clicking-and holding them) in the first place.

    With click-and-hold escaping from the menu is easy, you just release the mouse button.

    With click-away you have to click something else, which makes the operation a nervous one for the user.

    Your solution above is sensible and well researched, but I think at least 10% of the time the user will feel that the click shouldn’t have been ignored and be confused.

    Click-hold menus may have been a solution, but that depends on user-testing, maybe the average Windows user couldn’t get used to them.

    I agree click-and-hold menus are not perfect and have some accessability issues, but they are better for 80% at least, and it’s an easy global Office option.

    I’d be interested on your thoughts sir.

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