Don’t Forget To Check Your Filters

Yesterday, a few of us spent the day until almost 10pm locked in a conference room meticulously reviewing all the tabs in the Ribbon. We've done these all-day marathon sessions a few times during the product cycle, and I find them to be extremely draining. By the end of the day, my head was just swimming with controls and labels and Ribbon scaling--and we only finished reviewing about half of the total tabs.

At this juncture, we're far enough along with the design that we're focused on trying to make sure that every detail is correct: every label as clear as it can be, every punctuation mark in the right place. We looked at the scaling of every tab at horizontal resolutions from 2400 pixels down to 200 pixels across and everything between, considering the ramifications of the scaling designs for all of the languages for which we ship a version of Office. We looked at consistency across every tab in the different apps, making sure that we're as consistent as possible in how the UI works and looks.

Going through this somewhat excruciating process reminded me of a few smaller features that I meant to write about long ago but haven't gotten around to yet.

Last fall, I wrote a series of posts introducing the gallery control in Office 2007. We use the gallery all over the place in the new UI to show visual representations of everything from simple formatting styles to the results advanced features will have on your document.

One of the unique capabilities of the gallery that I haven't shown or discussed yet is called the "gallery filter."

Simply put, when there are a large set of items in a gallery which can be well-categorized into several groups, we provide the ability to filter the list of items in the gallery directly from the gallery itself.

For instance, Word 2007 includes a new feature for inserting and formatting rich mathematical equations and symbols into a document. You start by clicking Equations on the Insert tab to add a new math region into the document.

When you insert the math region, the Equation Tools contextual tabs appear to provide the tools for designing the equation.

One of the primary components of this tab is a Symbols gallery which helps you insert mathematical symbols from a list of hundreds of the most commonly used ones. A gallery with so many items would be larger than could fit on most monitors and would be unwieldy to navigate.

To help solve this problem, the Symbols gallery uses the built-in capabilities of the gallery to split the contents into several manageable sections. You can then use the filter dropdown at the top of the gallery to navigate between the sets of symbols.

Here's how it looks:

The Symbols gallery in the Equation Tools contextual tabs.

Drop down the Symbols gallery to choose a symbol from the current category
(Click to view full picture)

Click the filter at the top of the gallery to choose a different category of symbols

The gallery changes to show the symbols for the category you picked
(Click to view full picture)

While most galleries don't require the filter, its addition to a few key galleries has greatly enhanced their usability and efficiency characteristics.

Comments (15)

  1. Steve B says:

    Are equations in Office still handled by Design Science’s MathType control, or are they now handled natively – maybe based on TeX or MathML?  Being an engineer who frequently has to create documents with equations, I would be very interested to hear about any new equation-related features or capabilities in Office 2007.

  2. Ben R. says:

    I’ll second Steve’s request for more information about equations. I work for a major publisher, and we’ve developed a pretty good workflow incorporating MathType (the full version) and VBA for our math workbooks.

    We are routinely frustrated by Word bugs, though, like

    I wish the Word blog weren’t dead, or I could ask these questions there instead of veering off-topic here…

  3. s_tec says:

    Are you sure that your math categorizations are correct? Last I checked, integrals, radicals, and summations were unary operators, not binary operators.

  4. keeron says:

    Is this a feature available to users (who add their own UI via custom UI XML or add-in). For example, if I had a gallery with say 20 groups/labeled containers and wanted to get this "grouping/filtering" capability, can I?

    If yes, this would be even more awesome!

  5. Eli says:

    I hope the quadratic equation was fixed since beta 1. It had the ‘-b’ term outside the fraction!

  6. jensenh says:

    It never occurred to me that you guys would show up with math questions!

    Seriously, I barely got through trig; I’m the wrong person to answer anything math-related. 🙂

    The Word team built the equations features in Office 2007–I’ll see if I can get someone to pop over and answer the questions.

  7. BryanF says:

    This is cool, but is there an inking story as well? I know wordprocessing isn’t the kind of thing one normally does with a stylus, but for equations, it really would be easier if we could just write them down. There’s a power-toy that’s included in the Tablet PC Education Pack that does this, but the results are stored as pictures, which really isn’t acceptable in a lot of cases. Ideally, I’d love to have the math content stored as MathML.

  8. lexp says:

    Will there be any way to convert nowadays Word Equations to new Office2007 equations?

  9. Jeff C says:

    This looks like a great solution. I like how there are subheadings within each filter group to further divide up the gallery items into logical groupings. It looks like it will be easy to quickly scan for specific symbols. Nice work!

  10. Mikael L says:

    I would also be interested to hear more about how math are handled in the new Office. The poor support for math in Office is really a showstopper for a large group of people, both in entering the math and in displaying it.

    Although the click-on-symbol approach is very convenient for occasional users, many math-writers know exactly what they want, and how it should be presented. For math, (La)TeX really is the most relevant place too look for ideas, since it is the tool to use for writing serious math in the scientific community.

    One example where TeX excels over Office is the support for creating your own notation. Always entering all of the steps in sequence gets very boring  after some uses. Also, one often wants to experiment with different ways of presenting this logical construct in the document, by changing it from one place. In (La)TeX, this is done by defining new commands, which, in the process of entering the math, works _exactly_ as the built-in commands. Is there a light-weight way in Office to accomplish this?

    As for the typographical quality of the output, I surely hope that you have done something about it. Math written in Office is often very easy to spot, because of the lack of quality.

    Note: I have not tried any third-party solution, since I mainly write in (La)TeX. I’m mostly interested in how you are handling this issue.

  11. I would also like to know if there would be a way to type in the equations in a TeX style, without clicking through the symbols. I have many lectures involving math notation and wanting to do electronic notes I was compelled to use … *ducks* OpenOffice Math. It’s so much faster to type in all that by hand.

    Greets to all Laplace Transform fans

    X_a(s) = int from {-infinity} to {infinity} x_a(t)e^{st} dt


  12. thorsan says:

    is this math functionality included in the beta 2 release?

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