First of all, due to a glitch in the system, Howard’s
about the philosophy behind Themes in Office 2007 got posted very late
yesterday. It’s well worth the read, so if you didn’t catch it yesterday, you
it out today.
The team has been enjoying the
interesting discussion around keyboard accelerators in Office. If nothing
else, the various ideas posted and the ensuing discussion exhibit how
complicated even seemingly simple design decisions can become when many people
are affected by and care about the outcome.
Something that came up as a point of interest in the comments was the
difference between keyboard shortcuts and accelerators in Windows. I thought I’d
take a few words today to talk about the difference between them.
Simon in the comments explained it quite well, so I’ll start with his
- Keyboard shortcuts: these are the individual keystrokes (or combination
of keys pressed simultaneously) used to access commands. They appear to the
right of the menu item. For example, to access Undo using a shortcut, you
- Keyboard accelerators: these are the little underscores on menus and
menu items. They are used to navigate menus. For example, to access Undo
using accelerators, press Alt, then E, then U – three separate keystrokes.
Both of these explanations work for a program based on menus and toolbars.
In a Ribbon-based app, keyboard shortcuts remain the same as they were in
Keyboard accelerators, on the other hand, have evolved into KeyTips in the
Office 2007 model. The trigger key is still ALT, like with accelerators, and the
idea of pressing subsequent letters to “navigate” the UI is still present. The
major differences of KeyTips are:
- Every control gets a key (even unlabeled ones–something impossible with
- We can assign keys not in the label of the control. This is because we
have, in rare cases, as many as 50 controls available at once. Interestingly, certain
international versions of Office have done this for years by putting the accelerator in
parenthesis after the command name like this: Command Name (X)
But the user experience of KeyTips should be pretty similar to
accelerators–press ALT, and follow the keys on your screen to get to the
command you want. Memorize and repeat for efficient access.
I look forward to walking you through the improved Office 2007 keyboard model
closer to Beta 2.