Beauty and the Geek

Today I present guest writer Brad Weed, Product Design Manager of the Office Design Group. He leads the team of designers responsible for the new Office 2007 skins I introduced yesterday.

Today's Guest Writer: Brad Weed

Coming off the season finale, it seemed appropriate to lead with Beauty and the Geek to talk about the update to the new UI. Not because Josh is a museum critic or that Brittany likes the part of books that have pictures, but because those awkward exchanges and blank stares look so familiar to me.

It's that moment when a developer and a designer realize there was a reason they went to school on opposite ends of campus. "How could that dork be so smart but still need Garanimals to get dressed?" "How'd that designer get a job at Microsoft when they couldn't bubble sort their way out of a paper bag?" And with that you're probably already asking yourself, "Does Microsoft really have designers?"

We do. I started here as a designer many moons ago and now lead a team of user experience designers and researchers that are infinitely more talented than I could ever dream of being. We're the interaction design experts that Steven mention in his blog back in December.

As designers, we are pretty... geeky. We have some pretty developers too... pretty designy that is. Actually, the developer and designer relationship in Office is nothing like Beauty and the Geek at all. Maybe it's the mutual admiration of their respective craft. Maybe it's the recognition of how far the industry has to go toward bringing the beauty out of the geek. Maybe it's a shared acknowledgment that beautiful products go beyond the skin.

Somehow, some way, we've managed to establish and grow a pretty meaningful relationship over the years. It's a bond that has culminated in our most attractive release of Office ever. As it turns out, you can't have high design without deep engineering. That's right--you can't have beauty without the geek.

This is how we were able to make some pretty big design changes to the new UI fairly late in the development cycle. Let me walk you through a few of the bigger changes.

Blue is still the new gray

This is the first thing you'll probably notice. After living with gray for awhile we (and many of you) felt like that was just a tad too retro. Here's a major shift in our user interface with a color scheme that dates back to skinny ties and stirrup pants (although, mark my words, stirrup pants will be on the runway in the '07 spring collections.)

We went to blue to provide a little more continuity with the last release while also blending with the XP surroundings. We'll have an answer when the surroundings switch to Vista. A darker answer. If you end up hating one or both of the schemes, you're part of the 1/3 that also hate it. If you love one or both, you're part of the 1/3 that also love it. If really you don't care, you're part of the 1/3 that don't care. I predict the same division with the stirrup pants revival as well.

Tabs: The menus of the new millennium

You'll notice that, unlike in Beta 1, there are no more of the strange hybrid button-tabs to navigate the Ribbon.

That whole experiment was largely my fault. You see, my name is Brad and I have a tab problem. I was really hopeful that we could innovate in this area. Tabs just seem so... 90's.

But with a lot of therapy, countless sketches, prototypes and Beta 1, I've accepted a tab for what it is--a tab. There's no denying the usability win. There's no better way to draw a connection between the selected item and its related contents. I guess that's why they're so ubiquitous! Best of all, it's a little island of familiarity in a turbulent sea of UI change.

I hold hope that there's another mechanism out there that pushes us beyond the now conventional tab, just as the Ribbon pushed us beyond the conventional menu. I guess if it took 20 years to challenge old-school menus it will take at least another five or 10 years to challenge the tab. For now, I really like where we ended up.

Are we there yet?

How did we end up here anyway? As you might imagine, and as you've already read in Jensen's numerous entries, the process for arriving at the final design is arduous. There are so many factors to consider. I like to divide them into the basic principles of any product design: useful, usable, desirable and feasible. Jensen's covered in pretty great detail the utility, usability and utility aspects of the new UI, so we thought it would be good to talk about the desirability aspects. I'm sure there will be more in feasibility as well at another date.

Desirable products are more than just eye candy. There's something sublimely beautiful about a product that is useful and usable without even getting into aesthetics. (If you want to learn more about that realm of product design, pick up most any book by Henry Petrosky.) By this account of desirability, Office has done very well in the past. We have a rich heritage in shipping useful and usable products, and that's a beautiful thing.

But there's increasing attention being paid to aesthetics in product design these days and this release of Office is testimony to that. We have a long tradition in Office of maintaining an aesthetic that aligns with our utilitarian heritage. Part of that was derived from the available technologies. There was only so much you can do with 16 colors--four of which were black, white, gray, and grayer. Over the years we've been conservative (to say the least) in introducing more color and animation into our product. Either it didn't fit into the theme of a given release, or we just weren't that comfortable letting go our utilitarian past. Things have changed now and here we are. A bold new look.

PowerPoint 2007 - Click to enlarge picture

Going Dark in Office 2007 - Click to enlarge picture

All of our visual design decisions were made to both distance ourselves from our old utilitarian aesthetic while ensuring the visuals were helping make the product as usable as possible. These are difficult tradeoffs. Take, for example, the placement of the chunk labels. We moved them to the bottom to distance them visually from the tab labels. While this move was motivated largely by aesthetics, there were wins for tab readability as well. The connection between the selected tab and the contents of the tab are not obscured by a label and the chunk labels are not competing for attention with the tab labels. What results is a visual design that appears a little cleaner and a bit easier to read. (Again, 1/3 of you will agree, 1/3 will not and the rest of you don't care--but if you do care, take solace in the fact that we did do actual eye tracking studies and tons of yummy usability research.)

Before and After - Click to enlarge picture

Other things we changed were to bring the design more in line with some of our brand tenets while also providing more continuity from the last release. For example, the orange glow when you hover the controls. It's less obvious in Office 2003, but believe it or not that subtle orange rollover glow sparked the orange gradient glow that is a major part of the Office brand today. It gets trumpeted a bit more in this release with a richer glass material, bigger controls, and richer gradient (thanks in large part to some great technical achievements from our dev team).

Glowing glass is actually a big part of what holds our visual design together. We wanted to show the 'power within' Office by illuminating the glass controls from behind. This is most evident in the rollover state of the tabs (especially in the black theme), but virtually every control in the new UI has this element. Here again, we're also giving a nod to Vista where glass is a dominant part of their visual design. We're becoming increasingly aware of the importance of unifying elements of our design with our brand and with other products from Microsoft. There's still a lot of work to do here, but this release marks a huge step in the right direction.

When you get your hands on the real deal, you'll also notice some really nice rollover animations. They appear on the controls as they always have (albeit with a lot more finesse), but they also appear when you roll over a chunk. This allowed us to knock back the 'chunkiness' of the chunks until you actually intend to interact with the controls in the chunk. This means when you're working in the app, you don't have these big globs of chunks screaming for your attention. After all, we all have important things to get done in these apps. Why have UI screaming for attention? Well, ok. It's screaming more than in the past. But contrary to popular belief, the overall size of the new Ribbon is just about as tall as two toolbars stacked. And unlike toolbars, you have all that you need in that one place. We're very mindful of real-estate concerns and are doing our best to give you as much room to work as possible.

This attitude shows we're still rooted in some form of utilitarianism. We fundamentally believe there's just not a lot of room for gratuitous graphics and animation when you're building productivity tools. Sure some of our icons are bigger, but only because we believe some controls deserve a bit more attention that others. Despite the virtues of utilitarianism, there's always room to make utilitarian design just a tad more approachable and comfortable. Look at office chairs. Office chairs today aim to be utilitarian, comfortable and visually appealing at the same time. But that wasn't always the case. In the industrial age office chairs were to be uncomfortable so that workers wouldn't get too lazy. Crazy talk. But it wasn't that long ago that I recall similar things being said about our own UI. Just the introduction of colored icons in the early 90's was considered heretical by devout utilitarians.

Word 2.0, Word 6.0 - Click to view full pictures

Just look how far we've come.

Well that's just a quick skinny on the 'skin.' It's funny how skin gets diminished to visual fluff when skin is actually the biggest and one of the more complex organs of the human body. Have you ever tried to change your skin? It's hard.

Well, it's not that much easier with Office. We have an amazingly talented set of designers that spend inordinate amounts of time camped out with passionate developers devising clever ways to pull off these beautiful visual designs. And every decision intended to make the product more desirable impacts the usability and utility of the product in some crazy unpredictable way. This only complicates the process, yielding even bigger collaborations.

Without forcing a big group hug, let me just say we couldn't have pull off this amazing advance in design without great designers working hand in hand with great engineers. And as the show often reveals, the beauties and the geeks really do have more in common than they'd like to admit. The beauty of our geeks is they geek out on beauty.

As a design team, we could be so lucky.

Comments (82)

  1. Jonatan says:

    Thanks for a very interesting post!

  2. Word Makes Me Cry says:

    That’s great and all but have you fixed all the formatting bugs in Word yet?  If not, when are you going to?

  3. Steve says:

    I agree, really interesting post.  Truthfully I hadn’t expected such a huge change from Beta 1 to Beta 1 TR in the UI.  The new skins and UX are even better!

  4. mnerec says:

    So does it run without a skin if you run Windows XP in Classic mode?

  5. Ryan says:

    Thanks for your post, Brad–always nice to hear the mindset behind the decisions.  

    After thinking about this overnight (hopefully that is not as sad as it sounds!), I realized something that may pose a problem–how do you access the "old" upper-left application button that gives you the Restore, Move, Size, Minimize, Maximize, and Close options?  For me, it is important that I be able to access this functionality via the keyboard because I work on a dual-monitor setup at work, but a single display at home.  When I connect to my locked work computer via RDP, many of the applications I need to access are not visible, and the only way to move them onto the screen via the keyboard is by using those shortcut keys (albeit blindly; this is also a drawback of Remote Desktop, but at least I have a workaround).  

    I also have a concern for our company that the upper-left Office button is not easily discoverable.  I’m sure after the first time, they will get that, but it doesn’t really look "clickable" at first glance (of the screenshots).  Unfortunately, there are always users that are impossible to get into a training class, and I worry about the reaction of those users when they can’t figure out where to find typical File-menu operations, not to mention the sanity of our help desk who will be tasked with trying to explain "that button in the upper left… ok, it doesn’t look like a button at first, but it’s the one with the Office logo… Oh, um, the Office logo has four colors and looks like…" etc. etc.  

    Also, while I like the black over the blue, I thought the flat gray w/gradient looked quite slick–is there any chance we will be offered that as an option?  

    Don’t get me wrong, though–I think the UI concepts are fantastic, and I think it will be a win for customers.  I think your team has done a splendid job.  That said, I’m getting a bit nervous until I can start testing it myself, because I really need to know how it’s going to fit our environment (legal)–how well will it play with others (granted, I know that third-party apps will probably need updates), how easily is it customizable, are our legal secretaries going to kill us, etc…. 🙂

  6. Showing the two Ribbon designs together shows the changes between the two nicely. The new one definitely seems cleaner and more refined. Be interesting to read about the QAT and how it can be customized.

  7. What an unusual series of posts–well-written and informative.  The lazy Groove bloggers should take a cue from you guys.  The Office button is excellent and well integrated in to the rest of the changes to the UI, which is now actually pleasant to look at.  Those who won’t discover that it’s clickable were ill-trained from thw start.  The first thing you do in any new app or upgrade is to run the mouse cursor over everyrhing to see what’s there.  Design for those of us who are forward looking and pleased with innovation, not for the old dogs who can’t learn new tricks.

  8. Brad,

    Are all the colors that make up the ribbon taken from the computer’s visual style, or do somehow invent new ones?

    For example, which visual style element did you use as the template for the background of the ribbon, and which one did you use to denote the selected tab?



  9. KiwiBlue says:

    Wrt to Office button: is there an "Click here" arrow flying over titlebar when you start the app for the first time – a’la Win95 ? 🙂

  10. Adam says:

    Hmmmmm…..interesting screenshot comparing "before" and "after", with the "before" shot being completely blurred and generally shown in the worst possible light, and the "after" shot being as clean as a whistle. I know you guys want to say "look how shiny it all is", but really – do you have to resort to that? (And what’s with using jpgs for screenshots? Surely png or even gif would be better for that sort of thing)

    But my main point is:

    <i>the new Ribbon is just about as tall as two toolbars stacked.</i>

    Jensen was called on this yesterday, with a 37 pixel difference in his measurements compared to someone else, and the screenshots look like it’s just not true as well.

    The ribbon has two rows of buttons that don’t look an awful lot smaller than toolbar buttons from previous versions of office, with a bit of vertical padding above the top row and below the bottom row. And then the section footings add a bit more.

    If I get a copy of word, put a load of toolbars on it, and put that next to the screenshot you’ve posted, lining the menu bar in office up with the ribbon-tab-bar in the screenshot, the bottom of the ribbon comes halfway down the fourth toolbar.

    Having multiple people say the same thing over and over again doesn’t make it true.

  11. Neal C says:

    Inspired by Adam’s comment, I decided to look for myself.  I lined up an instance of Excel next to the Excel screenshot above, and sure enough, the Ribbon looks equivalent to about three and a half stacked toolbars.  It’s not a big issue to me personally, running at 1152×864, but some of my users here insist on running at 800×600.

    On the other hand, my gut instinct leads me to believe they won’t notice much, especially when they realize how much easier the Ribbon is to work with.  Or I’ll just force them into 1024×768 and insist they try it for a week before complaining 🙂

  12. BradC says:

    For those of us who won’t be able to play with this till Beta 2, it would be great to see some animated videos of the new version of the interface. It sounds like the "hover" effect is an important part of the experience, and you mentioned specifically the emphasis of the group labels when you browse across the ribbon tabs.

    A couple more questions:

    You didn’t state it explicitly, but it sounds like Office 2007 will have two available skins, but will not be "skinnable", per se (by the end user). Is that correct? Are you doing this in a way where YOU could release different (downloadable) skins in the future? Or would it require a new build (service pack)?

    Great job, by the way. I especially think that moving the group labels to the bottom is the right choice.

  13. Kevin Ulland says:

    Is it possible to "attach" the file menu to the Office icon?

    Just like the tabs are now more visually attached to their ribbons, I think the floating file menu needs to be more visually attached to the office logo.

    Something like this?

  14. Ben R. says:

    I’m really concerned about discoverability of the Office button. Frankly, it looks like a decorative element and not at all like a usable part of the UI.

    If you were to show me a screenshot and I hadn’t been reading Jensen’s blog, I would assume that the Office button was either a) a logo and nothing more, or b) a link to Office Online (a la web browsers’ traditional big menubar icons, like the Netscape "N", the IE flag or globe, etc.)

    Anyway, I really appreciate the tremendous efforts your team is making; the black theme looks excellent, and aside from the Office button, the new look seems elegant and compact. Congratulations!

  15. Roland says:

    What a great essay!

    Jensen and his guys are the true poets of the blogosphere!

    Congratulations to you all!

  16. Today in Harris’ weblog, Brad Weed, Product Design Manager of the Office Design Group, explains why

  17. Aaron says:

    I guess I tend to be a very "clicky" type of person, because I always click and right click on things to see what their reactions are– especially if it’s a new product. I’m very inquisitive that way. I can see how some people would fail to notice the Office button, although I notice in Vista the "Start" menu has also been reduced to being the "Windows" button…. so I think a lot of users will become accustomed to that as they start upgrading.

    I feel a need to point out that the people complaining about the menu size probably are comparing different resolutions in their "tests"… since the images are sized to about 1024*768, I hope they are setting their displays to 1024*768 for comparison, and not 1152 or 1280+.

  18. This morning at the CeBIT conference in Germany, we revealed the new visuals for the Office 2007 user…

  19. Guido says:

    Aaron: The absolute height of toolbars is exactly the same regardless of the resolution. It doesn’t matter what resolution the screenshots are taken at, as long as they are viewed at 100%, 1:1.

    And I confirm that the ribbon equals the space of 1 menu bar + 3 toolbars (i.e. almost 4 toolbars without the Menu bar)

  20. Ross says:

    I like the ribbon, and I think it will be good, but I am having a hard time believing it is only about two toolbars in height. It looks bigger, and so I opened up an office 2003 app, and compared it to the screen shot. not including the tabs or the chunk lables I get just shy of 3 toolbars, add the chunklables and almost 3.5, add the tabs and its about menutoolbars and 3.5 toolbars alltogether. Now I did eventually find a way to make it seem as if the ribbon, not counting the tabs, is just larger than two toolbars, and that is by turning on the "large  icon" option for toolbars. But what percenmtage of people have that turned on?

    Could you please post a screen shots comparing the 2003 toolbars and 2007 ribon with markups indicating how you came to your conclusions about size?  

    By the way I think 2007 is turning out great and I am looking forward to the final version.

    Keep up the good work.

  21. Carlos Bohórquez says:

    Testing at 1024 x 768, I just checked and yes….the new ribbon occupies the same space of almost 3.5 ‘old’ toolbars. The new ribbon is really great, and I don’t have any problem with its size, but hey, if it ocuppies more space…accept it!

  22. jensenh says:


    I’ll publish screenshots sometime next week, but in common pratice it does equal about 2 toolbars of space + the menu bar.  (I assume you’re calling this "3 toolbars.")

    There are some other places in which we’re getting some space back, and I’ll mention that as well.

  23. Brad Weed says:

    Dear Word Makes Me Cry:

    I’d offer a tissue if I could.  I’ve gone through a box myself.  I can’t give a definitive answer to your question, but I’m sure our friend Joe ( could offer some words of encouragement.  The good news is my team is working really hard with the folks in Word on nailing down some really amazing formatting styles.  They’ll makes us all look good.

    Brad Weed

  24. Brad Weed says:

    Dear mnerec:

    Thanks for the question.  You’ll get to choose which Office theme you want to run on XP from within Office.  Jensen talks a little more about that here:

  25. Brad Weed says:

    Dear Dejan:

    The visual styles that you see in the ribbon are all home brewed by the designers and then hand crafted by the developers.  Each control requires it’s own set of parameters to pull off the intended effect.

  26. Brad Weed says:

    Dear KiwiBlue,

    Kiwi Blue.  Now that’s the blue we need!  Thanks for the inspiration.

    Jensen and I are crafting more details about the new File menu.  Stay tuned.

  27. Brad Weed says:

    Dear BradC,

    I hear ya!  It’s hard to talk about hover effects without showing them.  It’s like playing charades.  We’re working on better ways to show all this cool new stuff that goes beyond static screenshots.

    Yes, you’ll be able to choose with Office theme you want from within Office.

  28. Carlos Bohórquez says:

    Hi Jensen, thanks for answering and thanks for this outstanding blog! Here’s an image comparing the latest Ribbon vs. menu/toolbars.

    So the complete Ribbon (the tabs on top + the command ‘chunks’) occupies the same vertical space as the Menu bar + 3.5 old Office toolbars. Well, that’s what I see!

    PD. I know its Office XP and its in spanish…but it’s quite close in size to the Office 2003 in english I have at home.

  29. Patrick says:

    I share some of the same concerns as Neal C. I appreciate the Ribbon development but at 3.5 toolbars, I think it’s way too much screen real estate. I’ve been able to make do with 2 toolbars in every Office app but carefully selecting most used functions. Will there be legacy options in Office 12 for people who wish to stick with old-school dumb icons sans Ribbon?

  30. jensenh says:


    In Word, what we look at is total % of screen real-estate available for the document.

    We’ve made the Ruler autohide and we’ve gotten rid of the unnecassry horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the window, and this gives you back the vertical space so that you end up with about 2 toolbars worth of space taken up by the new UI.

    You are right if you just measure the toolbars part of the screen vs. the Ribbon you get the calculation you did.  But this is a case where we’re really looking at "how much document is on the screen."

  31. jensenh says:


    As I’ve described many times, you can collapse the Ribbon if you want and build your Quick Access Toolbar just like you would have in previous versions.

    Fewer than 2% of Office 2003 users have performed even a single customization, but for those of you who know what every 16×16 icon in the product does, you can get to an extremely slim profile.

  32. mentas says:

    The problem of this update is the flat and the too blue color.

    Need more shadows… The Beta1 gray/(blue dark), color gradient and shadows look batter.

    This update is too flat!

    Good Work!

  33. Joseph R. Jones says:

    I’m curious – what is the criteria for an application getting the ribbon UI (i.e. Word,  Excel, PowerPoint) vs the old-school menus and toolbars (i.e. Outlook, OneNote, etc.)?

  34. Philip J. Rayment says:

    I’m also concerned about the apparent limits to customisation.  In my Normal template (in Word) I have added over 40 buttons, including 19 that run macros.  No doubt with the new version I could eliminate *some* of these, but not too many I would think.  And I have others in other templates that I often use.

    I also find it useful at times to have a floating toolbar near where I’m working instead of having to go to the top of the screen all the time.

  35. Srivatsn says:

    I actually liked those button-styled tabs. The conventional tabs make it look so much like these new AJAXy websites that are popping up at a dime a dozen everyday.

  36. Jote says:

    I don’t quite like the idea of the title bar text jumping back and forth whenever you activate a contextual tab (looking at the screenshots, it centers between QAT and contextual tab).

    Also, what if one has lots of stuff on the QAT, what happens to the title-bar text?

    Wouldn’t it be more convenient to left-align the text?

  37. Mario Goebbels says:

    So, are the pastel blue and the black one the only themes? Are there more? Are there color mixers to allow us to customize?

  38. I (still) have my reservations about seeing an overload of blue, although I totally agree with the new tabs and moving the text to the bottom – it makes the changes much nicer.

    I hope the version on Windows Vista will take advantage of the Aero Glass colour styles people select – it would be weird if Office didn’t follow the styles (er, like Office XP and Windows XP…)

  39. nojetlag says:

    Somehow this blue reminds me of this typical baby blue. The first impression when I saw the redesigned UI was shock. I wonder if I get used to it, for the moment I prefer the beta 1 much more (at least the color choice, the conditional formating in excel was an eye candy, not so dull as it seems to be now :()

  40. grommet says:

    Please post a video of new interface in action!

  41. Alex says:

    Stop hiding behind thirds … before was MUCH better.

  42. bruno johanson says:

    this new ribbon is ugly. the fact MS forces us to use blue or black and nothing else seems to be the new way MS or the UI teams tries to force us into things and in the typical way of "like this and no other way". Its a sad thing. Making along cute story to tell us we are the 1/3 that might not like it and well to bad.. is not the way to treat customers. Leave us some way of changing these colors. (and yes the first version was much better and less painfull on the eyes) the ribbon is a good idea but the new color schemes are jsut plain UGLY. Stop forcing us into things (just like the IE7 toolbar that we cant move anymore). If MS spends really millions of dollars on UI design the this is a waste of alot of money and if MS spends millions of dollars on marketing how come then that MS has decided to totally ignore the customer ?

  43. Keff says:

    Ouch! I really, REALLY loved that cool texture around the page in word, I don’t want to go back to plain color,please…

    And I’m glad you’re thinking of graphic designers who like to avoid colors in UI so that they don’t see yellow when the look at grey after staring at blue menu.

    PS: the top left corner is ABSOLUTELY UGLY and i HATE it.

  44. Chris McEvoy says:

    Brad, I’m sure that you meant Petroski, not Petrosky. And I still think his history of the pencil is one of the best books I have ever read about engineering.

  45. Andy says:

    Well, to be honest, the blue is a bit overwhelming, but the black skin looks gorgeous!

    I’m mirroring most comments on this forum here, but why don’t you add a skin mixer? Let people truly customize their Office UI and colors? What’s wrong with that? Is it because you KNOW your colors are ugly, so you’re making customers stick with it so they can suffer like you do? Or do you honestly think everyone will like only blue and black? Some people prefer green. Some prefer grey. Some prefer pink. Some even prefer brown. Let them choose, it’s THEIR Office that they coughed up, like $300-$500 on.

    Otherwise, it’s looking good.

    Oh, and another suggestion? Abolish the current Office icon. Create a new, better one. The current logo is pretty… Office.

  46. Andy says:

    BTW… why let 1/3 of your customers suffer if they don’t like it? Why not please EVERYONE? To achieve this…add a skin mixer, please.

  47. PatriotB says:

    "We’re becoming increasingly aware of the importance of unifying elements of our design with our brand and with other products from Microsoft."

    You’re moving farther and farther away from unification.  Heck, you’re custom drawing your own flippin title bars!

    If there’s so much unification needed (which there is), then I seriously suggest you take some of the Office UI staff and move them over to the Windows UI team.  Make some of these new widgets, skinning capabilities, UI concepts, available at the OS level.  Help drive the UI of the entire platform forward.  Right now you’re not doing anyone any good by doing your own thing.

  48. George says:

    Sorry, when exactly did they apparently say you could only choose blue or black themes?

  49. Sebhelyesfarku says:

    I’m tired of blue espically since everybody copies from OS X.

  50. CS says:

    A little thought that just came up to me: What happens in the new UI, if I press <ALT>+<SPACE>? In previous UIs (including beta1) a menu would pop up in the upper left corner, giving me OS window options like resize, minimize, maximize, change window size, move and maybe some others.

    So: does this menu still come up in the new UI?

    By the way: this menu can also be accessed by left clicking the tiny .doc symbol (as said, at least in previous versions) or right-clicking the title bar (but maybe by skinning the title bar you also overrode this behaiour).

    PS: UI looks amazing. Are there going to be more than two (blue and black, though I prefer the latter) skins, maybe even a function to adopt the OS colours (as in 2003).

    PPS: could you post a screenshot of word 2007 running on WinVista with Glass effects enabled (or aero or whatever it’s called)? I’d like to see if the different skinning approaches look good together.

  51. Max Howell says:

    The image that shows the beta and final looks makes it very clear to me that the blue look is less usable.

    It is much harder to see the distinction between chunks, and even to see the distinctions between different toolbuttons/controls.

    The color difference between the ribben tabs and the chunk titles made the tools stand out and the distinction between the two sections clear.

    The file button was I think a better choice than the office button since everyone knows what a file menu will probably have in it, and everyone knows that a file menu has stuff in it, while as previously said by another poster, this button doesn’t seem to clear in purpose.

    I want to emphasise that I think what the Office 12 team have done is incredible, I really think you’ve done some new and good usability work. However I think the beta would be easier to use, yet still was pretty.

    However, I haven’t used it, and long ago realised that you can’t judge software by screenshots, so I look forward to my beta CD on MSDN.

  52. Mike Dixon says:

    You would think that as much as Microsoft spends on research that they would know that blue is one of the colors that is hardest on the eyes.

    Hey Office guys, the whole purpose of Windows is to have everyting work the same way in all apps. Where’s My ALT-F-X ?

    P.S. Fat chance on getting the Office guys over to the platform. When I worked at MS the office guys would not share any code with the visual studio guys. The VS guys had to write their own toolbar code from scratch. It was like it was two separate companies.

  53. As was to be expected, the publishing of new Office 2007 screenshots last Thursday brought along a scary…

  54. Brad Weed says:

    Dear Chris McEvoy:

    Yikes!  How embarrassing.  You’re right.  Petroski.  Thanks for the correction. I suggest also reading The Evolution of Useful Things.  You’ll never look at chopsticks and forks the same way again!

  55. Brad Weed says:

    Dear Jote:

    You zeroed in on a meaty topic – where to place the title text.  You’ve identified two of the biggest conundrums – contextual tabs and the QAT.  We have the text ‘jump around’ in order to preserve the full string as much as possible.  We only want to crop it off as a last resort.  If it’s left aligned AND you have a really long QAT the text will gets squeezed between the QAT and the Contextual Tabs – eventually getting truncated.  You’ll see this behavior best illustrated when you resize the window.  As you’ve ascertained, these are tough things to trade off.  Thanks for noticing and thanks for the feedback.

  56. Brad Weed says:

    Dear Mario Goebbels:

    Yes, these two color schemes are the only two we’re offering.  And no, we’re not providing color mixers to make your own.  These schemes are hand crafted in a way that actually make it kind of tough to tweak on the fly.  We also want to preserve the design continuity and integrity between our product design, Office brand and surrounding Windows environment.

  57. In a comment to my final post on gel buttons, the orginality and creativity of my design was, shall we…

  58. Brad Weed says:

    Dear Alex,

    Hmmm.  I forgot to account for those who like the current scheme.  Dare I divide everyone into quarters?  Boy, this is a slipperly slope.  Not that we took any cues from this book at all, but if you find the topic of assigning numbers to aesthetics interesting check out Painting by Numbers: Komar and Melamid’s Scientific Guide to Art by Komar and Melamid.  And if you have trouble finding humor in statistics, I suggest reading Paul Allen Paulos ( (no relation to Paul Gardener Allen).

  59. Brad Weed says:

    Dear Bruno Johanson:

    Wow, and here we thought giving users a choice between two different schemes was a good thing.  It saddens me that you think we’re ignoring people in our pursuit of good design.  I’ve never worked with a group of people who have cared more.  In fact, this blog and all the other blogs from Office product folks is testimony to our efforts to share, listen and learn.  Your opinion is proof that we still have a long way to go in demonstrating this.  Sorry to be so disappointing.

  60. Brad Weed says:

    Dear CS,

    Glad you like it!  Hey, we’re both big Alt-Space geeks.  I live by that everday.  You can imagine there’s quite a population of keyboard users around here. 🙂  It is still there!

    Only two color schemes and we’re working on more images, animations and videos of the UI – including some on Vista.  Stay tuned.

  61. Applemaniac says:

    Do you use Mac OS X at home instead of M$?

    Pies looks veryyyyyyyyy Apple iWork Style…

    But maybe Apple is a bad M$ copier, here…

  62. Rob Jones says:


    Did you use to work at Wavefont a looong time ago? If you did, drop me a line: renderboy  at   hotmail  dot com . I worked as an intern testing the Personal Visualizer if that rings a bell….

    Rob Jones

  63. Francis says:

    This "bold new look" reminds me of the 1996 Ford Taurus: swoopy, cost a fortune to design, and bombed (relatively speaking.)

    Why is it that the iPod has such a clean design while the MacOS is a kaleidoscope of alpha channel trasparency, alternating stripes of gray, and crystalline glows? The screenshots I have seen of Office 12 lean too much towards the latter.

    My suggestion: do away with (or at least give users an easy way to turn off) all this glowing, shading, "glass" distraction.

    We have an aging population–and with people working longer–an aging workforce. Microsoft should take a cue from, say, Honda or Toyota.  The UI, like the dashboard, should be simple legible, and get you where you want to go [today].

    I like the black skin (though not the fact that it is an inflexible skin) for its high contrast. Still, the gradients behind the toolbar, e.g., remind me of the background patterns that distracted/detracted from Internet Explorer 3’s toolbar.

  64. GregM says:


    "Wow, and here we thought giving users a choice between two different schemes was a good thing."

    Two choices is nothing compared to what the OS and previous versions provided: any color you want from the 24-bit color space.

    "These schemes are hand crafted in a way that actually make it kind of tough to tweak on the fly.  We also want to preserve the design continuity and integrity between our product design, Office brand and surrounding Windows environment."

    If you want to preserve the design continuity and integrity between your product design and the surrounding Windows environment, then you need to honor the Windows color settings.  Limiting the choices to "blue or black" just doesn’t cut it.

    It would be a shame to ruin a product with such great potential by forcing your color preferences down people’s throats.

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