March Madness


Today’s Guest Writer: Brad Weed


Brad Weed is the Product Design Manager of the Office Design Group.


For many of the UI changes we’ve previewed this month, March really has come in like a lion. And as you watch your favorite team get eliminated in the NCAA tournament from the comforts of your desk, you may also be lamenting the loss of the File menu. We’ve previewed some big changes in the Ribbon this month that Jensen has covered in considerable depth. But we haven’t touched much on what just may be the Cinderella story–the new File menu. I thought I’d spend a few pixels talking about how that change came about.


Filed Away
Poor file menu. Imagine what it must feel like to see all your friends get million dollar makeovers and you’re still stuck wearing your favorite pair of MC Hammer pants. So we stepped back and reconsidered what ‘file’ really means in this new world. If the Ribbon is all about a better arrangement of tools to create information, the file menu is all about the tools necessary to manage that information. Because managing this information is consistent between Office apps, we also realized the file menu was less about the individual app and more about the big ‘O’ – Office. This led us to the realization that the file menu is becoming the system component of the Office system more and more.


The last release of Office marked the beginning of seriously treating Office as something bigger than just a collection of apps: It now represents a system of programs, servers, and services that work together as an Office System. While this is central to the Office brand and a core tenant in our engineering philosophy, it can sometimes be a tough thing to communicate. So to help bring more synergy between our brand and the design of our products, we’re using the Office logo to represent some of the system aspects of Office.


Filing the Sharp Corners
It’s a big button, I know. You could fit twenty icons in that space with room left over for Clippy. I suppose the size alone is making it a bit of a lightening rod for criticism. We wanted a control that separated itself from the ribbon in general and the first tab in the ribbon specifically. Again, we really wanted to drive home this separation of tools used to make files and tools used to manage files. Creating a distinct and definitive control does that. A round control in the midst of a Euclidian tapestry can’t help but be distinctive. And to challenge Euclid just a tad more, we filed off the square corner of the window as well. There’s another reason for that that I can’t go into right now. Anyway, utilizing a big round button is a lesson learned from another big round definitive control from Microsoft.


Start Finishing
There’s no denying the similarities between our new Office button and the new Windows’ Start button in Vista. This is intentional for a number of reasons. First there’s the visual continuity between two major releases from Microsoft. While Office doesn’t require Vista, we’re trying to align as much of our products as realistically and practically possible. Then there’s the alignment of Office system related functionality with Window’s system functionality. If the Windows Start menu is the place you go to start something in Windows, the File menu is the place you go to start something in Office. Including, starting the process of finishing. That’s so weird, isn’t it? Start-Exit. Start-Shut Down. It’s a little like the ol’ Mac drag n’ drop interface for ejecting your floppy from the drive. Sure, that’s obvious… just drag your floppy to the trash can. Gulp. Talk about a leap of faith!



Vista Start Menu – Click to view full picture


Bridging the Gaffe
And yet, here we are asking our users to take a leap of faith with the new File menu. Like the ribbon, the new Office button takes a little getting used to. I know there’s a population of people that hate hearing that over and over again, but it’s the reality of the new. It’s like buying a new car and the head light switch has moved or changed. Even that takes a while to get used to. (On a related note, and to put things in perspective, most states require at least 30 hours of supervised driving before you’re deemed worthy of operating a vehicle… the kind of changes we’re talking about take considerably less time to master… even unsupervised.) We’ve all been trained to throw our cursor to the upper left corner of the screen and look for the word ‘File’. When that expectation is not met, there’s a brief mild panic and searching ensues. (This is what Don Norman calls the Gulf of Evaluation and Execution) We’ve observed people in our lab throw their cursor to the corner and experience this short lived apprehension with the new Office button. There they are, trapped in the gulf Norman talks about. But once people click, the gulf is diminished. Once it’s been clicked, the gulf is never to be seen again.



Defiling File
Still, getting rid of the File menu is a big deal. As big or bigger than getting rid of all the other menus. I used to think that File, Edit and View were the QWERTY keyboards of GUI. I thought they were so entrenched there was no way to displace them. Well, I’m wrong… again. Like the ribbon, we’ve altered the way of thinking about and dealing with a rich and deep feature set. And while it may be hard to think of the File menu as being feature rich and deep today, just look at our investments around sharing, storing and collaborating. Soon it will become clear just how rich the system component of Office is becoming. We’re really not trying to just ‘brand‘ the products by searing a symbol on it. We truly believe we’re providing a new foundation for future investments around the system aspect of the Office system and the symbol that best represents that core idea is our logo.


And, no, there isn’t some marketing person putting a gun to my head to write this stuff. I sincerely believe strengthening the association between functionality that unifies the Office system with the brand that promises it is a right and just thing to do. I’m a big believer that brand and product design are interdependent and artificially separating them is doing an injustice to the people paying good money for our products. The experience of using our products shapes the perception of our brand in ways other forms simply cannot and never will.


We, Microsoft, and we, the software industry, have a ways to go in this arena. This release of Office marks huge step in the right direction toward this ideal, but we have a long way to go. And we won’t know exactly how far to go or in what direction until we’ve shipped and are out there for a while. We’ve done, and continue to do, tons of research around these changes, but nothing compares to the real thing.


Maybe March has come in like a lion, maybe a lamb. There are some who really do see these changes as March Madness and those who long for more. You don’t have to look far to see both sides of this argument. But one thing is for sure, we are taking a calculated gamble with this release. But hey, you’ll never make it to the big dance if you play it safe.

Comments (85)

  1. Pete M says:

    Sounds very sensible and useful – but what do I say to users when supporting them and need them to click on that button if I can’t say "click the File menu" – Will it be "click the office button"??

    Pete

  2. Adrian says:

    Will Alt+F still invoke the File Menu?

  3. Stephen Bullen says:

    There are three things I don’t understand about that button, which it would be great for you to expand on:

    1. Why aren’t the things on that menu a tab? It seems to have the same logical chunk/item structure as the rest, just shown as popups/flyouts instead of chunks on a tab?

    2. If you wanted to get rid of File, how about "Office System"?

    3. What is the story for all the Access and Excel applications that take over the application UI – and will need to be able to either provide their own image or remove it altogether (and create their own File tab)?

  4. I disagree.  I haven’t experienced it, of course, so I’m speaking strictly based on your words and pictures here – but I think it’s bad.  Here’s why.

    The File menu (or File menu functionality) isn’t something that is particular to Office applications.  Nearly every application, even those that don’t come from Microsoft, works with files.  This is why File (and Edit) became so entrenched in the first place.  Rather than expressing a commonality of Office applications, they express a commonality of all applications, and as such they give users stability that grounds them and helps them find their way in new applications.  I realize I’m just expressing here the conventional wisdom that you’re trying to flout, but I don’t feel that you have done an adequate job of arguing against that wisdom.  There may be advantages to the new Office approach, but there are definitely disadvantages as well and you are giving them short shrift.

  5. This make sense for Open, Close, Save, Save as, Exit, and even Preferences and Exit.

    But it seems to me that commands that send or export belong elsewhere. Printing, saving a graphic as a tiff or jpeg, sending a Word outline to Powerpoint, creating an PDF file, saving a worksheet as a text file, emailing part of a document… These are not ‘system’ commands. They are not even ‘File’ commands as they often work on only one page (one slide,…) or a selection.

    If a button on the left side of the ribbon lets you do system/file stuff, then a button on the right ought to bring up a tab with sending/exporting/printing commands.

  6. Eike Hein says:

    My biggest gripe: Going by screenhots, I would have *never* expected that button to open a menu. I thought it was the window icon, because it is to the left of the window title bar. Enlarged for branding purposes.

    Please change the icon to something indicating that it is a useful item.

  7. Pete M says:

    In my experience most users don’t use anything other than Open, Save or Close in the File menu anyway because either those options are so entrenched in menus, or it is not clear to the user what those other functions will do.

    So, I think this will hopefully and finally bring more functionality to the average office user.

  8. Brian Mann says:

    It just doesn’t look like a button to me. I would never have guessed that it was clickable.

  9. Seems like a clean separation to me. Tabs provide controls to act upon a file (add, edit, format, etc.) and the button provides functions to do something with that file (save, print, email, etc.). As for the "bigness" thing, I don’t know since I haven’t used it yet.

  10. Brad Corbin says:

    Looks pretty good, and I appreciate the detail about the office button, finally.

    Overall, I like the separation between working "inside" the document (creating, changing, etc), and working "with" the document (saving, printing, etc.)

    Harvey’s comment about export/import:

    I would imagine that the ability to insert content from outside sources into your document IS located in the Insert tab of the ribbon. As for the other commands you mention (export, print a portion, email a section), you are right that not all of them deal with the "file" as a whole, but they are certainly all "meta" commands, not "content" commands.

    And removing the "file" label frees the designers up a bit and lets them put other appropriate "meta" commands here instead of burying them somewhere deep under Tools>Data Access>Export or something like that.

    Any comment on the announced delay for public Office 2007 availability?

  11. Brad Weed says:

    Pete M:

    Thanks for comments and questions.  We’re still working out the nomenclature.  Because as you pointed out, we need a clear and simple way to direct people to the file related functionality.  There are also accessibility issues related to that which need consideration as well.  We have a few alternatives we’re working through as I type.

    Thanks again.

  12. Brad Weed says:

    Adrian

    Alt F is the plan.

  13. Will it be possible to delete or rename a file you are working on? "Save as" isn’t the same as rename. While working on a document, one ought to be able to give it a better name. Or delete it entirely, without having to go to another program (Explorer), navigate to the right foler, fine the file, and then delete.

  14. Ben R. says:

    I really love the idea behind the Office button, but there seems to be one fatal flaw in the current design.

    Simply put: the Office button doesn’t look at all like a button!

    "New," "Open," etc. are such critical commands it would be horrible if they were not immediately discoverable by new users.

    Can you imagine the thousands of tech support calls? "I just got a new computer with Office 2007, but I can’t make a new file! What’s going on?"

    I know my parents, for example, would just ignore the Office button altogether. They would assume it was decoration and not a usable part of the UI at all. Then they would spend an hour wondering how to create a new document or open an existing one and finally call me.

    Another, smaller problem: when you open the menu, there is no visual connection between the button and the menu it opens.

    Again, I’m impressed with this idea, but the visual appearance will probably be a truly enormous stumbling block.

  15. Eliot Bridge says:

    "Tenant" and "tenet" are different words:

    http://onelook.com/?w=tenant&ls=a

    http://onelook.com/?w=tenet&ls=a

    "Lightning" and "lightening" are different words:

    http://onelook.com/?w=lightning&ls=a

    http://onelook.com/?w=lightening&ls=a

    I’m guessing that "Euclidian" was a desperate, doomed attempt at spelling "Euclidean".

    "Head light switch" was another funny one. I assume the space was inserted deliberately to ambiguate the phrase.

    The problem with making up your own special new meanings for words, is that people are left guessing at what you’re trying to communicate. If communication wasn’t among your goals here, I can’t imagine why you bothered.

    But I guess it’s more or less axiomatic that people who talk about "synergy" aren’t interested in communicating anything meaningful.

    Speaking of communication, I’m surprised that anybody at all in usability testing guessed that the round Office logo was a "live" control. It’s clear that considerable effort was devoted to making it look like purely decorative non-interactive space-wasting interface noise, like all the garbage in Windows Explorer in XP. Like a lot of what MS has started doing in recent years, the idea seems to be that the user is a captive audience and it’s time to have a little fun at his expense (mind you, the fun you’re all having with VB.NET at the expense of the poor stupid VB6 morons is absolutely delightful, so I shouldn’t be too critical when the joke’s on me instead).

    The Office logo thingy looks like the upper-right corner animation in web browsers, which users have long since learned never to touch.

    The important thing is that on a functionality level, Office will still be a grab-bag of practical jokes, because the team has spent all its time inventing new practical jokes for the UI, instead of fixing the product. Just like they’ve been doing for the past decade.

  16. Ross says:

    Thanks for informing us about the office button. It will take a bit of time to get use to but I do think this new UI will be great to use. I can hardly wait til I get a chance to start using it.

    For those use to Win XP  the button may not stand out and say "Hey click on me I am a button that brings up a menu" but I am sure most will figure that out. Those who use it on Vista should quickly draw the connection that you mentioned and showed above: Windows logo in circle= Start Menu, Office logo in circle= Office "Start" menu.

    It’s different from what we are currently use to, as is the ribbon, but it makes sense and I think will be great. Also no longer calling it "file" makes more sense as in many programs there are some commands in the file menu that "file" does not fit.  Thanks for the hard work and creating a better gui for this system of programs.

  17. Michael says:

    As far as "throw their cursor to the corner" – why did you lose the normal window controls in the upper left of a window – and to the same extent, why when maximized can we not just throw the cursor to the upper right and click to close.

    It has always been sort of no-brainer when I need to exit an app, either the dbl-click on the upper left or shooting the mouse up and to the right.

    Is functionality locked?

    Thanks.

  18. Brad Weed says:

    Stephan,

    1. The file menu is more about ‘starting’ activities that relate to the file that typically result in a series of semimodal operations.  The ribbon, on the other hand is optimized for modeless operations within the document.  I’m not sure that answers your question exactly, but that’s the rationale for the split.

    2. Office System is a new investment for us, so it’s probably too soon to drop the investment. But naturally we continue to monitor and measure its effectiveness as a brand.

    3. I suggest you jump over to Erik Rucker’s blog about Access he just posted.  He can give you a better answer. http://blogs.msdn.com/access/archive/2006/03/23/559111.aspx

  19. ej says:

    First off, thanks as always for posting updates to the thoughts and strategies behind the design as it’s being designed.

    Regarding the Office "button", I have to agree with those stating the discovery issues surrounding it.  Simply put, it does not look like a button.  The eye immediately tracks to the right of it or below it – mine does anyway 😉

    I also agree with an earlier comment regarding the separation of the "button" and its "menu."  They don’t appear to be connected.

    I am just a little surprised, I guess.  This is such a crucial menu in 99.9% of applications on the market.

  20. LDR says:

    I agree with Harvey Motulsky that rename and delete options should be added.  I also agree with Ben R. that the Office button doesn’t look at all like a button, nor does the  menu have a sufficient visual connection to the button.  Yes, users will learn to click it like a button, but why should they have to.  To quote a good book title, “Don’t Make Me Think!”.

    While your reasoning for replacing the File menu makes some sense, your replacement for it does not.  In addition to the reasons already mentioned, the button is too big.  It’s like an ad banner that screams for attention.  You said it yourself, “You could fit twenty icons in that space with room left over for Clippy”.  For the stated purpose of office unification, why work on true unification aspects than on superficial ones.  Putting an office logo on each application does not make them unified.

    Ok, so you don’t want a file menu, I might come around there, but at least make it smaller and look clickable.

  21. LDR says:

    You may have “filed off the square corner of the window”, for documents that are not maximized, but as soon as you maximize the document all you’ve done is create a edge between the button and the useless top left corner of the application.  Changing the application shape does not change the display devices shape (obviously).  I’ll postpone final thoughts until you reveal what you mean by “…another reason for that that I can’t go into right now.”

  22. Brad Weed says:

    Eliot,

    Thanks for making me a better writer.  I’m clearly not as clever as I think I am.  Or maybe I should blame Word for failing me.  That darn spell checker has made me lazy.

    And you’re right, again.  People are suspicious of "decorative non-interactive space-wasting interface noise".  But then again, people can be equally suspicious of utilitarian interactive space efficient interface noise as well.  I’m not shore wear that leafs us.

  23. Brad Weed says:

    Harvey,

    I struggle with these same short comings as do many expert users.  We’re getting better at these scenarios and other similar version management scenarios, but we have a ways to go.  We’ll be sure to pay particular close attention to these two scenarios you mention.

  24. Brad Weed says:

    Ben R,

    You’re dead on right.  These are the scenarios that we grapple with trying to settle on the right design…including providing the appropriate visual link to the actual menu.  All things you mention we’re tracking very closely so that we can be as confident with our final decision as we can.  Reading your concerns and the concerns of others really does make us dig deep.  Thanks for keeping us honest.

  25. Brad Weed says:

    Michael,

    Woohooo!  You’ve touched on a biggy.  What about the system control!  Boy that control has also gone through some transitions over the years.  Remember back in the Win1.0 and 3.0 days when it was an icon of a bar that was intened to look like very the space bar used to drop the menu? (alt+spacebar)  Look at it now!  Anyway, alt+spacebar drops down the menu in the current design, but the visual affordance is still being discussed.  Thanks for contributing to the ongoing internal discussion.

  26. Antony says:

    One of the ways in which the user experience regressed from Windows 3.1 to Windows XP is the Start menu. In Windows 3.1 you had 32×32 icons for each app in the Program Manager. To start an app you look for the familiar icon of the app. In Windows XP the icons in the Start menu are too small to be useful (except in the first level of the Start menu.) So instead of searching for the familiar icon, you have to search for words — the name of the application. So instead of being icon based (better) the program-starting UI became word based (worse.)

    Interestingly enough, Office 2007 is taking the opposite approach by being more icon based (i.e., ribbon) instead of word based (i.e., menu.) This is a bad idea because the icon of an app is easy to remember (because there is only one) but icons on the ribbon are hard to remember. For Office this may not be a huge issue because most Office icons are recognizable. The issue is that Office is going to establish the new look and feel of all Windows apps, including third party apps. Everyone is going to replace their easy-to-read menus with hard-to-recognize icons. The result will be a dramatic drop in usability of Windows applications. This is good news for Apple and Linux.

  27. James says:

    Did you really describe turning the File menu into a button as "providing a new foundation for future investments around the system aspect of the Office system"? Do you think the audience of this blog can really buy into such statements?

    Anyway, I hope that putting the button up there won’t interfere with keeping the task bar at the top of the screen on auto-hide.

  28. marcelo says:

    i believe this fundamental UI changes in Office have more to do with stop-the-office-software-commoditization reasons that graphical-user-interface-design ones

    so… what the final user likes or not will have minor impact in MS ( strategical ) product decisions

               marcelo

  29. Harvey:

    I don’t see any way you could conceivably rename or delete a file that you currently have open, but it is very easy to rename and delete files from any Explorer window, and this includes the File Open dialog in Word, Excel, and other apps.

    Since it’s generally a good idea to close and reopen a file periodically anyway (to reduce the buildup of temp files), it’s easy to do this when you have the file closed. I frequently rename Word documents as I get more information about their content.

  30. LesC says:

    Sorry, Brad, but I still think what you have done is wrong.

    Everything that Jensen has posted in this blog may have taken some getting used to, but in each case he has backed up the changes with reference to usability studies and logic.

    You have to remember that the number of people coming in cold to Windows applications is smaller and smaller. I’d expect most people who will see Office 2007/Vista will be at least vaguely familiar with some other version of Windows.

    This change (the big ugly office ‘button’) is all about market-speak rather than usability and if you "truly believe we’re providing a new foundation for future investments around the system aspect of the Office system and the symbol that best represents that core idea is our logo", then you really need to take a good long holiday.

    Sorry mate.

  31. DCMonkey says:

    Michael:

    Maybe Office 2007 doesn’t let you throw the mouse into the upper right to close, but Office 2003 on XP does. If Offie 2007, doesn’t then someone should file a bug.

    LDR:

    Note that even though the "start orb" on Vista is not visually against the lower left corner of the screen, mouse clicks there will still regeister upon it. I think this goes for the Aero close button as well.

    Hopefully the Office Button will do the same.

  32. Name says:

    Thank you so much for getting rid of the File Edit View craziness, where options are buried 5 levels deep or in the most unexpected places. Your tab/ribbon interface seems so much cleaner.  Hopefully the Windows Mail group as well as third party app authors will take the hint and get rid of their own File Editand third party apps will take a hint and get rid of theirs too.

  33. Brandon Bloom says:

    Rename! Rename! Rename!

    This feature is desperately needed, especially for Word documents. I can not tell you how often I change or tweak the title of something only to have be forced to utilize Explorer to make the file name match.

    Here is a wild idea:

    Why not provide a "rename" button that closes the file menu and shifts the focus to a text box superimposed over the title bar?

  34. Want to know what worries me?  After all this planning/work/anticipation, and after all the promises, corporate reaction to the new UI will be so negative (probably not rational mind you, just fear-based negativity), that we’ll see a compatibility mode hurriedly forced into the product at the last minute and most corporate users will get “Office 2007 Skinny” (or, “Office 2003++”).

    I know the purpose of these blogs has to be, at least in part, to curtail the possibility of such a revolt, but honestly I still consider it a distinct possibility especially when I hear people in our IT department say "we’re going to have to hire a bunch of trainers."

  35. josh says:

    Have we ever seen a screen shot or description of what happens when the window is maximized?  I’m a bit concerned about this myself, I even have my monitors staggered so I can hit the upper right corner on any monitor.  IMO it would be far more useful if the upper left corner opened the "file" menu instead of the application menu.

  36. steveg says:

    That other ubiquitous application, iTunes, has a round control on the far right. It’s an  eye. I don’t use iTunes very often, and I can never remember how to get to Browse mode — and, yep, The Eye even has "Browse" written under it.

    So Office folk, have a play with iTunes, and see what you think of it’s round button, and bring that into your considerations with Office.

    1) Office Button is on the more discoverable left (I presume it will be on the right for RTL languages?), iTunes button is on the far right.

    2) Caption, iTunes button has a caption, Office does not.

    Now my other point, and this is where I will use an fancy word: using the Office logo is masturbatory. A big self-indulgent something unprintable (if it helps, I’m Australian, which might guide towards the word I have in mind).

    The rest of AppLand copies Office’s UI when it upgrades, always have, and probably always will. WTH do you expect them to put in their little space? The office logo?

    And as others have pointed out, unless Vista is heading towards all apps having round File menus instead of File menus, you’re creating a separate interface for people to learn.

    It looks like an expert user-interface feature — once you know what it does you’re fine, but discovering it may not be easy to do. I haven’t seen it in real life, so I’m sitting on the fence with this point.

  37. Simon Murphy says:

    Brad

    I totally agree with you – but only on the point that its a big gamble. Of course you can mitigate the downside of that gamble by providing a compatibility (‘classic’) mode. Failure to do that is patently not a ‘calculated gamble’ its an unnecessary, unmanaged risk.

    The new UI doesn’t work for me at all, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I hope you have some strong research showing I am in a very small minority.

    People will discover what the blob does by clicking on it whilst thinking ‘how do I get rid of this’.

    Cheers

  38. juergen says:

    i would like to see tutorials with an animated mouse that takes users through complex, more difficult tasks. how to manage files more effectively? instead of reading through microsofts online tutorials take my mouse, add a voice and auto complete, then afterwards show me a written summary to remind me. that woudl accelerate my learnign of how to use the new office

  39. R Barrera says:

    For heaven’s sake, just code a popup about the button on launch, with a check box that says "don’t show this again," and every normal chimp will know it’s clickable.

  40. ^ ditto ^ says:

    I like it – it matches Vista’s one nicely and looks very nice overall

  41. Cedric says:

    I am *very* concerned by this change.  You might have addressed the Office family of products, but what will happen to the rest of the Windows programs?  Do they need to use the Windows icon as well or can they stick with "File"?  Either way, there will now be a discrepancy.

    This is going to introduce a huge rift in the Windows UI world.

  42. Guess Who says:

    Wait, that thingy up in the upper-left is the Office logo? When I go into Office 2003 and select the Office Logo assistant, it gives me a four-piece jigsaw puzzle.

    I also think that you should have ‘File’ underneath the logo.

    Just my two cents.

  43. mentas says:

    I start loving this new UI refresh! 🙂

    What about Word "object/shape formatting" still in old style?

    Jensen, new Office UI is going to be ported to WinForms [WinFX (.NET 3.0)]

    Tks

  44. Jay Freedman says:

    To Antony and "Name" and anyone else who thinks Office is somehow going to cause every third-party windows app to throw away menus and start using ribbons: It ain’t gonna happen.

    The reason for the ribbon, as Jensen has written many times, is that Office apps have grown so many functions that the menu structure has become huge and unsupportable. Only a handful of other apps have anywhere near that many functions (Photoshop comes to mind). For the average app that has at most a couple of dozen commands, even one ribbon tab would be overkill.

  45. mentas says:

    Ok.. but my app IAP are too simple and ribbons is getting useful over menu/toolbar.

    See:

    http://spaces.msn.com/mentas/blog/cns!A8D899E9B03A6E15!238.entry

  46. mentas says:

    A ribbon control/component for WinForm would be a great bet by Microsoft.

    Think about it…

    I’m waiting for a "Photoshop" and a "3D Studio Max" like program using ribbons.

  47. Brad Corbin says:

    Jensen has already said that the "compatability mode" for Office 2007 already exists: its called Office 2003. They’re taking the leap and not looking back.

    Its long, but is a very good watch: take a look at Jensen’s presentation to BaiChi at http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/archive/2006/01/03/508771.aspx

    For those who are complaining "oh my God, office apps will be so inconsistent, how will we ever cope???" The truth is the people have been using widely-different applications (called WEB SITES) very successfully for a long time. A good web site is good because it is well-designed, not because it is consistent with other well-known or popular sites. This experience shows us the USABILITY is the key, not necessarily CONSISTENCY.

  48. Name says:

    Jay:

    Hopefully app developers will at least get rid of the File Edit View menus.  If the app is not complex enough for ribbons, it should be simple enough for icons alone.  Emule is a good example of this.

  49. Rich says:

    I like the concept, although I echo the comments regarding the exectution – something other than the Office logo might be more helpful.

    That said, removing the word "File" is great.  Users deal with word documents, spreadsheets and presentations.  The idea of the User Interface for Office is to abstract away from the file concept.  Removing the File menu will help that aim.

    Would like to second a previous poster’s request for a Rename option.  Having to use Save As and delete the original is counter intuitive.

    Good work, guys.

  50. LDR says:

    Suzanne S. Barnhill:

    If you are deleting a file then you really don’t need it open anymore so the delete operation would simply close the file and delete it.  A rename action will take a little more work, but there are several ways this could be done.

    Yes, files can be renamed/deleted from the File Open dialog, but how intuitive is that?  Let’s see, I want to delete this file so obviously I need to close the file, start to open a file, find my file in the list and do a delete operation, then back out of the open operation.  This should be a one click operation with an optional confirmation dialog from within the application interface.

    “…generally a good idea to close and reopen a file periodically anyway (to reduce the buildup of temp files)…”  Sure an application may create temp files, but these should be cleaned up either as the application runs or when the document is closed.  Files should build up with runtime length only as they are necessary for the operations being done on the document and then cleaned up when the operation completes.  From a users perspective any other behavior would be tantamount having to close and reopen a book you are reading because you have read over 100 pages without closing it.

    DCMonkey:

    Yes, hopfully it will work like that, but if so then why not provide visual affordance of the fact?

    R Barrera:

    Yes, that might work if the normal chimp reads the dialog box.  (Most people don’t when they don’t expect it or assume they already know what it says.)  Even if they read it, this step would not be required if the design made the behavior obvious.  Save the training for advanced functionality and just make the button look like a button.

    It’s the same way with doors in public places.  If a door looks like it should be pushed or pulled and that matches the implementation then no label is required.  Poorly designed doors require labels.

  51. Sendell says:

    A little late but still…

    likes new office. Likes new ‘file’ menu concept. doesn’t like it’s size.

    "We wanted a control that separated itself from the ribbon in general and the first tab in the ribbon specifically"

    A smaller (1/2) round button didn’t do that? It’s not very clear in the screenshots, but it looks as large as the start button. Windows XP marketing made us believe ‘Start’ was special, different than all other. and therefore you give us a second one? Is it equally important? Do you hope other applications will use this concept too (not the ribbon)?

    your reply to Eliot:

    "And you’re right, again.  People are suspicious of "decorative non-interactive space-wasting interface noise". But then again, people can be equally suspicious of utilitarian interactive space efficient interface noise as well."

    That is not an explanation. It’s more like a (weak) excuse. You could make the button 2 times as large and that sentence would still be true.

    Still waiting for a real answer on the size…

    (+1 vote for rename)

  52. Brad Weed says:

    James

    Do I think this blog audience can really buy into the new File menu being a foundation for future investment?  It is kind of marketing speak isn’t it.  I do think this audience can already look at the last three releases and see our increased investments around document collaboration, sharing and management.  SharePoint is probably the most obvious, but there are others.  But then again, the investment are not that obvious when you look at the product.  That’s one of the reasons we’re drawing more attention to this control and the functionality within.

  53. Brad Weed says:

    LesC

    A good long holiday sounds really nice, actually.  Yes, Jensen is really good at talking about UI change in a logical and believable manner.  You can imagine the challenge I have in making my contributions to his blog!  I’m not a very good logistician, but here’s my take.  If we want to make a distinction between the tools used to create information and those used to manage information then we need to communicate that seperation in the UI.  That’s the logic. Now, as for usability…The question there is, "Can people use or learn to use this new UI?"  The answer is, yes.  Does it take some learning?  Yes. Just as with the rest of the new UI.  

  54. Brad Weed says:

    LesC

    A good long holiday sounds really nice, actually.  Yes, Jensen is really good at talking about UI change in a logical and believable manner.  You can imagine the challenge I have in making my contributions to his blog!  I’m not a very good logistician, but here’s my take.  If we want to make a distinction between the tools used to create information and those used to manage information then we need to communicate that seperation in the UI.  That’s the logic. Now, as for usability…The question there is, "Can people use or learn to use this new UI?"  The answer is, yes.  Does it take some learning?  Yes. Just as with the rest of the new UI.  

  55. Dharna says:

    Eliot:

    How sardonic. If you are going to be that pompous, at least be correct. “Euclidian” is an accepted spelling for “Euclidean”

    http://onelook.com/?w=euclidian&ls=a

    Surely someone so erudite could muster a more substantive critique. Or, is pretentious opining at someone else’s expense really that gratifying? If self-aggrandizement wasn’t among your goals here, I can’t imagine why *you* bothered.

  56. Matt Gauthier says:

    Who says you have to click the Office button to see the file menu? If people habitually move their mouse to the upper left corner then consider displaying the menu on hover and not require customers to click first. It’s big enough now that miscues should be rare.

  57. mattbg says:

    I hadn’t spent a lot of time in the beta, so that might be why, but until I read this post I didn’t even know that Office logo in the top-right was actually a button that did something; I thought it was just a narcissistic "this is Microsoft Office" logo 🙂

  58. mattbg says:

    In my last comment, I meant "top-left", not "top-right"

  59. Helen says:

    <blockquote>The question there is, "Can people use or learn to use this new UI?"  The answer is, yes.  Does it take some learning?  Yes. Just as with the rest of the new UI.</blockquote>

    No. The question is "Do the benefits of learning the new UI outweigh the costs, for the user?"

    People can be taught to use any kind of unintuitive, clumsy, painful UI. Yes. We’ve been doing it for years, after all.

    But is it worth it? What is the upside from the new UI?

    The upside from the Ribbon (as opposed to the previous system based on nested menus) has been explained and demonstrated in many posts here: improved discoverability, easier/faster access to the items that are relevant at the moment, more information about what each button does, etc.

    The upside from the Office button has not been explained satisfactorily yet, IMO. It really just looks like something that marketing came up with.

  60. Stevbe says:

    All the work to make a consistent, discoverable interface where everything follows the same rules … well everything except the most important functionality (create, save, etc.) I don’t see why you don’t just make this the first chunk.

    Steve

  61. Brad Weed says:

    Simon Murphy

    Nice to see someone agrees…kind of.  We think change is necessary and we manage the risk daily.  I’m confident you’re not alone in your disdain for the new UI.  And believe you are in the minority.  Thus far, we’re actually getting overwhelmingly positive responses to the change.  But, again, we still need to get it out in the real world and see what happens.  Perhaps you’re a part of a majority that we have yet to uncover.

  62. Brad Weed says:

    juergen

    The Office Online folks are constantly looking out for new ways to teach people new and better ways to use our products.  I’ll pass this idea on.  Thanks!

  63. Brad Weed says:

    R Barrera

    The ol’ ‘don’t show this again.’ trick.  I find those a bit annoying most of the time, but occasionally they’re useful.  From what we’ve seen this change is discoverable enough that we don’t need the popup.  We’ll keep an eye out, though.  And you’ve got me thinking on the chimp idea.  Maybe we’ll start with an abnormal chimp.  The normal ones are hard to come by.

  64. Brad Weed says:

    ^ ditto ^

    Ditto.  Glad you like it!

  65. Brad Weed says:

    Cedric

    Thanks for voicing the concern.  This has been a topic of conversation around here for a long time.  Especially with the Windows folks.  We obviously can’t control what other ISV’s do with their apps, but we hope they don’t mindlessly replace their file menu with their corporate logo.  Just as we don’t think the ribbon is necessarily the right solution for all apps, we don’t feel every file menu should become a logo.  But we’re also realistic enough to see that the Windows UI world is not immune to fads and the changes we’ve made run the risk of becoming a fad.  I’m reminded of when Excel shipped with a gray 3D UI and within a couple years Windows95 and the rest of Windows world was gray 3D.  It’s hard to imagine that caused uproar but it did.  Meanwhile, GUI alone was still blasphemous among the command line zealots.

  66. Brad Weed says:

    Sendall

    Sorry to make you wait.  I’ll try to summon the strength to give a better response to the size.  What dictated the size more than anything are aesthetics and physics.  It had to be big enough to be distinctive, but not so big that it was trying to occupy the same space as the QAT and the ribbon.  And we did make sure that it was going to work visually with the Vista start button. That may still sound weak, but I hope it helps.   By the way, I could see a control twice this size working but not without redesigning the whole ribbon.  Thanks for the suggestion!

  67. Brad Weed says:

    Dharna

    Thanks for running to my side.  It’s nice to see at least one of my errors is defensible.  Or is defendable a better word?  Either way, I really did blow it on the use of tenant.  Embarrassing.  Even my own team is beating me up about it!  It’s become a bit of a blog flog.

  68. Another excellent article on your blog(that I first found from a link on digg.com).  I’ve bookmarked your site.  Great stuff.  Thanks!



    Derek Hampton

    SouthBeachCasa

    http://www.southbeachcasa.com

  69. phuong says:

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  70. phuong says:

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  71. phuong says:

    Xin chao, Minh den tu HL, minh mong muon duoc lam quen voi tat ca cac ban. Thanks you

  72. phuong says:

    Xin chao, Minh den tu HL, minh mong muon duoc lam quen voi tat ca cac ban. Thanks you

  73. phuong says:

    Xin chao, Minh den tu HL, minh mong muon duoc lam quen voi tat ca cac ban. Thanks you

  74. James Wilson says:

    Hi Brad,

    I was just curious what the accessibility implications of this button is, lets say, if you were using speech recognition.

    Do you know have to say "Shiny Big Office Button Thingey -> Open"? 🙂

    James

  75. Nikolai Sonin says:

    I have been working with the beta of Office 2007 since November of 2005.

    When I moused over the Big Rouund Office Logo in the Left Corner the tool tip "file" popped up.

    </Sarcasam>

    Imagine that!!!!! a self documenting button that indicated that it works like every other button in the Office Universe.

    <Sarcasam>

    </Real User Opinion of Technical People>

    Either all of you technical people reading this blog think that as a user I am stupid, or you are all amazingly ignorant and misinformed about standard Office user behaviour.  When you get a new version of Office, ALWAYS mouse over everything that is new.  That way you will see all the TOOL TIPS and built in help that Microsoft has placed in the new version of the product to train you on the new elements of the interface.  Since Microsoft has been doing this since Office 95, I can only conclude two things.  Either technical people do not really USE office, or technical people as a whole are stupid.

    <Real User Opinion of Technical People>

    BTW: even stupid users like me know HTML and XML

    Nikolai Sonin

    A real Office User