Many moons ago, I mentioned that one of the impetuses behind the new Office 2007 user interface was the realization that a large percentage of feature requests phoned in to product support were actually features already in the product. It was just that people didn’t know how or where to find them. Hence, the Ribbon with its command labels and more transparent feature organization.
We realized that once people found new features, we would have to design a way to communicate what they’re for and how to use them. Super Tooltips were born of this goal.
But the same design challenge holds true not just for features, but for program options as well. Back in the day doing homework in college, oh so many times I wished I could tell Excel to use a different default font or to cajole Word into storing my documents on my desktop by default.
As with the feature set of Office, so too have we totally redesigned the Options interface in Office 2007 to present a more logical organization, and to put the most sought-after settings in one place.
But we were still left with a problem: no matter how good the Options organization is, it is still hard to communicate what an option does in just a few words. The option you might want to change is right there in front of you, but you can’t figure out what it does.
The solution? Just as in the Ribbon, the new Options dialog box supports Super Tooltips. Many options sport a little question mark icon next to them, indicating that more information is available. Hovering over this item provides a description of what the option does and why you might want to use it.
Super Tooltips have proven to be one of the most popular features in early betas of Office 2007. Extending them to the Options dialog will help more people find and use that elusive option they’re looking for.