Are We There Yet?


People have speculated rampantly about how closely Office 2007 Beta 2 will reflect the final product. I’ve read everything from “nothing will change between now and the final release” all the way to “a lot will likely change between now and general availability.”


Reality lies on a plane somewhere between these extremes.


First, some perspective: We started planning Office “12” (which later became known as the 2007 Office system) in earnest towards the latter half of August 2003. By the time we ship this version, we will have worked on it for over three years. The physics of software development dictate that there’s no way we’ll be making large-scale architectural changes during this last 15% of the product cycle. Not, at least, if we expect to ship the product later this year as we intend.


So, if you’ve been holding out hope that we’re going to be replacing the Ribbon with a ray-traced speech-enabled version of Clipppy–or any other major change of overall direction for that matter–I’m sorry to say it won’t be happening.


The UI concepts we put in place have been vetted over several years, over thousands of tests with 10,000’s of people across the globe. We wouldn’t have made this investment if we weren’t convinced that the new UI was the right thing for people who use Office.


Back to the original question: does Beta 2 reflect the final product?


In many ways, yes. The general interaction model of the Ribbon, the mechanisms by which we lay out and scale the tabs, and the kinds of controls we expose are likely to remain the same. We’re likely finished building galleries for features and finished hooking up Live Preview. The interaction design of the Mini Toolbar, and the general look and feel of the Office menu and Options dialog boxes are very similar to how they will be in the final product. In a sense, if you squint, most things already feel similar to how they will feel in RTM.


This doesn’t mean that we’re not open to feedback… keep in mind that Beta 2 is actually the fourth pre-release build of Office 2007 we’ve given out to testers over a series of years, and we’ve made an incredible number of changes based on feedback in that time. Literally hundreds of major improvements have been made, most of them directly from the feedback people have sent and the real-world research being conducted.


From the beginning, we wanted to make Office 2007 really reflect “UI version 3.0”, and we knew the only way we could do that was to get it in people’s hands early and to iterate, iterate, iterate based on what they told us.


Now for the big question: What things in the UI will be changing after Beta 2?


Here are four examples of the scope of changes that will occur between now and RTM.


Visuals and Fit and Finish


Beta 2 doesn’t quite reflect our final visual design. We have added an additional color scheme to go along with the blue and black of Beta 2. We’ve changed the upper-left corner (or the “Northwest corner” as we like to say) based on feedback to make it work a little better and to look great with Vista’s glass frame. Hundreds of new icons and other visual tweaks will have been made by the time you get the final product. This is really the time when we do a lot of fit-and-finish work–making sure the pixels are perfect all around.


Ribbon Content


I mentioned that the Ribbon interaction design won’t be changing much, but we have made a lot of improvements to the content within the Ribbon. Our XML-based architecture makes it relatively easy to move buttons between tabs and to change the scaling of the UI, and we’ve been hard at work taking all of the feedback we’re getting from Beta 2 and turning it into an improved design. I’m especially excited about improvements made to PowerPoint, but I bet we’ve made close to 1000 individual changes to Ribbon content since Beta 2 (many of them minor, of course.)


Finishing Features


There are a couple of places where we’ve done additional work to make scenarios feel complete. In the area of keyboarding, for instance, we’ve added affordances to allow power users to better use the Ribbon in its collapsed state. We continue to enhance the usability of the Office Menu, including adding many of the frequently-used save formats directly to the Save flyout. For the first time, I think we have the right design here.


Among other things, we’ve also added back the ability to close the window by double-clicking in the upper-left hand corner (you Windows 3.1 lovers!)


Performance


We’re spending a huge percentage of our team on performance, both in lowering memory requirements and in taking up less CPU time to make the UI respond faster. We continue to make strides build over build and milestone over milestone, and we’ll keep measuring and optimizing until the end.


Everything Else


While these are four big areas in which we’ve made improvements, they’re not representative of all the work we’re doing in the UI, nor certainly of all the other teams in Office working just as hard as we are. We continue to work on getting the details right for all aspects of the product, making sure it’s ready for the showroom floor. And there are a few flourishes still to come: One of my favorite things coming up is an updated Picture Styles gallery–some of the styles are just jaw-dropping. And new product icons, of course…


In short: don’t expect the core concepts to change, but we’re working hard on sweating the details. You will see many improvements in the time ahead.

Comments (107)

  1. John Topley says:

    How do you double-click the upper left-hand corner when there isn’t one?! Or do you mean double-clicking the Office Button closes the window?

  2. John Topley says:

    How do you double-click the upper left-hand corner when there is no corner?! Or do you mean that double-clicking the Office Button closes the window?

  3. Troy Hepfner says:

    Can you expand on how key tips will work when the ribbon is collapsed?  You mentioned that in this post and in a previous keyboard post, but you’ve never explained it.  Thanks!

  4. Adam says:

    In addition to John’s comment – I can see how double-clicking the northwest corner to close the application kind of makes sense when you don’t normally click there anyway, but the northwest corner is now the "file" menu.

    So double-clicking the file menu closes the app? What if you double-click by accident? Considering this is somewhere where you’d normally click a fair amount anyway, isn’t this a recipe for disaster? Especially as you can close the app by _single_-clicking the upper-_right_ hand corner anyway. Given that the upper-right "x" close button wasn’t even available in Windows 3.1, I can see how a double-click shortcut to close the app was useful then. But now?!?

    *confused*

  5. Matt says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing the double click left corner to close back!

    I use this all the time, and I really missed it in the builds I’ve used so far.

  6. Can you share screenshots of the updates to the PPT ribbon with us? I am highly interested in it! Thanks

  7. There are two ways to modify a style right now — one is easy and new and the other is hard and old. The easy way is basically modifying the formatting in place, and then right-clicking on the style to update it to selection. It’s new because it’s now much easier to change the formatting in place — the ribbon is just as convenient as the properties dialog was in Lotus Smartsuite.

    The hard way is to right-click on the style, select Modify, and then go through each of the many formatting dialogs to find the right option. The split between Format Font and Format Paragraph is especially annoying. You need to add an easy way to switch between your eight formatting dialogs — Font, Paragraph, Tabs, Border, etc — while one of them is open.

    I recommend taking the bottom left dropdown from the Modify Style dialog and placing it in the same corner in each of them. That will increase consistency and eliminate one of the perennial annoyances of Office.

  8. LDR says:

    "We have added an additional color scheme to go along with the blue and black of Beta 2."

    Please say it is a grey theme so my document will be the focus and not the tool.

  9. Neal C. says:

    To toss in another opinion on the "upper left double-click to close" thing…I’ve been having problems with my mouse at home.  I’ll be replacing it soon, but in the meantime, it likes to double-click randomly when I’ve only clicked once.  That would be a royal PITA, and it’s not a problem with any other application, because Office is the only one where the upper-left corner is (essentially) the "File" menu instead of the context menu icon.

    Overall, though, I’m torn.  On the one hand, interface standards (and sticking to them) are generally a good thing.  On the other hand, I don’t see how double-clicking the upper-left corner is any easier than single-clicking the upper-right.

  10. Matt says:

    "Among other things, we’ve also added back the ability to close the window by double-clicking in the upper-left hand corner (you Windows 3.1 lovers!)"

    Great to hear! That has been bugging me in the some of the newer microsoft apps (Windows Live Messenger, Windows Media PLayer 11).

    Thanks!

  11. Andrew says:

    One place where the ability to close the window by double-clicking the upper-left corner comes in very handy is when you’re running multiple monitors.  With a single monitor, it’s very easy to close a window using the X button by just throwing your mouse into the upper-right corner of the screen and clicking – I’d imagine that most of us do that unconsciously.  If you have another monitor to the right of your primary, though, that action will put your cursor somewhere on the secondary screen.  I’ve been using two monitors for so long now that the "slam mouse to upper-right and click" behavior has been almost completely replaced by "slam mouse to upper-left and double-click"

    I’m glad to see this change.

  12. Andre says:

    "Our XML-based architecture makes it relatively easy to move buttons between tabs and to change the scaling of the UI"

    Jensen, could you or someone else please show how I can place the Help-Button on the Ribbon using RibbonX? Either I’ve overlooked the tag or the XML used internally is different from RibbonX.

    Also all types of buttons have an image and size attribute, but how can I provide a large as well as a small image?

  13. Rick says:

    LDR: You want a gray theme?!  As opposed to the dark gray one we already have?  No, please, let’s leave ugly/drab behind and let it be subtly colorful.

    Jensen: Please tell us you’ve fixed the strange skinning problems (like the Min/Max/Close button weirdness) and most of all give us back a title bar which has a color dictated by the OS and not the app. It drives me mad in XP seeing all Office apps having a pastel blue title bar active or not. I never know if a given Office app is active. It’s supposed to be dark blue with Luna.

  14. Aaron M. Hall says:

    A) THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! for bringing back the double click in the left corner!!! I knew you guys rocked!

    @Those who wonder– it’s habit more than anything, but for some of us, I use a dual-monitor setup, and the upper-right corner is too close to the screen change. When I try to mouse up there quickly I always miss the stop point and go to the next monitor. When I mouse to the left, however, there is a forced stop. So a very quick gesture and double-click accomplishes what a slow, precise movement and single-click accomplish.

    B) I’m also curious what the new color scheme is… I’ve got bets on gray/silver for those traditional people who prefer it, but I admit that I don’t find either current color distracting at all. I wouldn’t mind seeing something like Orange either to match the new Office web site…

  15. LGFN says:

    Will there be a way to customize the ribbon using the UI as in previous versions, and not the RibbonX?

  16. Philipp Spalting says:

    Are you going to replace the old designs of "WordArt"? It would really be nevessary to have something more modern to go along with the new "Styles"

  17. LGFN says:

    Philipp:

    I agree %100 to you!

  18. "Please say it is a grey theme so my document will be the focus and not the tool."

    AMEN. I find the beta quite painful to use.

  19. Andre:

    the idMso for the Help button is "OfficeAssistant". You should be able to use that idMso to get it on the ribbon. I found the idMso by going into Options, Customization, selecting Commands Not In The Ribbon, and going to help. The tooltip shows in parenthesis the idMso.

    The internal XML is definitely different from RibbonX.

    For loading the images. See http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/ms406046.aspx#office12customizingribbonuifordevelopers_loadingimages

    Basically you have to specify in your RibbonX whether a button is going to be large or small and then specify in the image attribute of the button the appropriate string for the large or small button. The MS example uses the filename in the image attribute, but what you use is really up to you.

    LGFN: I would love to see user customization, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I am working on an add-in to give users that functionality back. It’s not done yet, but you can see some screenshots and a discussion on it on my blog: http://pschmid.net/blog/2006/05/31/13

  20. Andrew Calvo says:

    Can you tell us why Outlook 2007 is the only product that does not have the new ribbon?? It’s GREATLY missed! All the other office products have the ribbon, (including some features within Outlook 2007!) except for Outlook. Im sure its probably too late at this stage.. but please! Count my vote for the Ribbon in Outlook!

  21. Patrick Schmid says:

    Andrew:

    Outlook actually has 10+ ribbons (each ribbon for each Outlook item is different) and those required a lot of work by Microsoft (more than any other application, if I recall a post from Jensen correctly). Basically they didn’t have any resources left to also do the Outlook main window.

  22. Anas Hashmi says:

    I complained about one feature that has been annoying me very much.  I want to close a subwindow in big window (Ctrl+F4) by clicking the x button on the top right corner.  

    Wait a second! There is no x button!!!!

  23. Typography says:

    Typography from "Word Options", where is it?

  24. Andre says:

    @Patrick: Thanks for your reply, but I wasn’t looking for the Help id, my question was how can I put the Help button – or a button next to the Help button – on the Ribbon using RibbonX.

    And for the button image, I can only specify one image, either a large or a small one. If I specify a large one Office resizes the image if necessary. But if you look on the chart icons in Excel for example there are different large and small images. So why can’t I specify a large as well as a small image using RibbonX?

    So internally the markup has to be different from RibbonX.

  25. Patrick Schmid says:

    Typography: Options, Typography should be displayed if you have an Asian language installed in Windows.

    Andre:

    You can’t alter anything next to the help button. The following code will create a new tab Help with a group Help and place the Help button in it:

    <customUI xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/office/2006/01/customui"&gt;

    <ribbon>

    <tabs>

    <tab id="Help" label="Help">

    <group id="HelpGroup" label="Help">

    <button idMso="OfficeAssistant" />

    </group>

    </tab>

    </tabs>

    </ribbon>

    </customUI>

    In order to use any Microsoft button, you need to know it’s idMso, and then you can use it with <button idMso="…" />

    You can specify a large or small image, but it is up to you to do so. You specify the size in two different ways: Either you specify a static size attribute or you specify a getSize callback. When you use a static attribute, you can set the image attribute to the filename for the appropriate size. Office will then call your loadImage callback and give you the string you entered as the image attribute. If you use getSize, then you need to know internally whether to return the small or large image when loadImage is called. You could e.g. specify as image attribute the id of the control, but maintain internally whether you have to return a small or large image when that particular string is given to you via the loadImage callback. That shouldn’t be a problem, because you need to know internally anyhow what size to return with getSize.

    Does this make sense?

  26. Ben R. says:

    I too would love to see a subtler, quiet gray.

    I thought the black would be perfect, but it’s so dark it’s actually distracting. Although it is very attractive in other respects.

    And I’m delighted to hear that performance is still being improved. I’m running Beta 2 on an X-series Thinkpad with a 1.1 GHz processor and an iPod-size hard drive (no, really–it’s 1.8" and really, really slow). Currently, performance is acceptable, but I’d love to see some improvements!

  27. Wictor Wilen says:


    Jensen Harris, the Office 2007 User Interface guru, writes about what will happen to Office 2007

  28. LDR says:

    Rick: Yes, I want a gray theme.  What we have is a black theme that needlessly distracts from the document and lacks distinction between interface elements (such as the title bar as you mentioned).  Subtle is good.  The black theme would actually work if all the really dark elements were brightened a shade or two.  Colorful icons that convey meaning are helpful, but distracting background colors serve no useful purpose.

    Anas Hashmi: If you’re talking about Excel, the close subwindow button is still there.  It took me a while before I realized that they removed the application close x and replaced it with the document close x.  This makes the MDI Excel work just a little bit more like an SDI application without being one.  It would be nice if Excel were brought out of the dark ages of MDI instead of getting token SDI modifications.   This would especially be nice for viewing multiple Excel documents on different monitors.

  29. LDR says:

    Ben R.: Based on the screenshots, I too thought the black theme would work for me.  Then I downloaded the Beta.

  30. Andre says:

    @Patrick: Thanks again, actually I’ve implemented my own RibbonX parser (based on MSXML and a 3rd party Ribbon control) to build my UI.

    The problem I run into was that I coulnd’t put the help button on the Ribbon using valid RibbonX.

    The image size was the other problem because the Ribbon control decides when to use a smaller image and either resizes the large one or – if present – use the small one.

  31. Patrick Schmid says:

    Andre,

    I am curious what you are working on that you had to write your own RibbonX parser and use a 3rd party ribbon control?

  32. Andre says:

    Jensen, is it possible that Excel 2007 redirects the msimg32.dll -> AlphaBlend function from gdi32.dll -> gdiAlphaBlend to its own implementation?

    For some reason the AlphaBlend function is much faster when Excel is running.

  33. Andrew Calvo says:

    Patrick: Your right! I just searched for and found his post in Jan 06 (i started reading this in March) and lo-and-behold.. There is my answer.

    Thanks for bringing the fact that there is a previous post to light.

  34. Patrick Schmid says:

    You are welcome. I read all his posts…

  35. Thanks for adding in the ability to close by double-clicking on the NorthWest corner.  I just submitted that by the feedback frowny face icon yesterday.  🙂

    As for things not changing much between now and launch, all I can say is thank you.  We’re getting closer and closer and I haven’t heard the phrase "option for a legacy UI mode" in a very long time.  That’s a good sign.

  36. steveg says:

    Haha, in Word try turning on Outline numbering by altering styles (you know, "1.2.3 My Heading"). Kept me entertained for half an hour.

    Part of the transition pain I’ve been experiencing is because I typically ignore toolbars to explore an interface; to date toolbars have always been a subset of available commands.

    Oh, fun exercise #2. Open help and use only the keyboard to change search text several times.

  37. nabeel says:

    the ribbon resizeable would be great, it takes up so much more real estate than i want it to. i think thats my only complaint.

    also, if i copy and paste a chart from excel into word, and then print it, the chart never shows up.

  38. TC says:

    I agree with some of the other people here… please tell us the additional color scheme is a light gray/sandy color that looks like the strong majority of applications out there.

    Also, as Rick correctly pointed out, the title bars on Windows XP need to be standard color.

    While I’m at it… once again, what’s up with the centered title? No Windows program does this, ever. Please move it to the left. It’d also be nice if you decided whether it’s "Microsoft Word" or "Microsoft Office Word" and then made that consistent.

  39. Richard Swift says:

    In general I love the ribbon and have been following its evolution closely.

    However, going from 2 click to get to the General File Properties in Office 2003 to a massive 6 in 2007 is driving me crazy and I can’t seem to add much to the QAT that helps.

  40. Jan Kucera says:

    Andrew:

    Not only Outlook does not have the Ribbon. I don’t know if the team just didn’t have the time, if it will be done in the feature, but realize whether it will do the work.

    Firstly when I saw the Publisher doesn’t have Ribbon I was quite sad, but during the work I do in it almost every day I’ve realized that it would slow me down a lot in this application.

    I definitely love Ribbon and I think it absolutely rocks :] however the same way I think that tasks which are being done in Publisher much more need all icons to be prepared to use than contextual changes of the UI. Simply because there are just a lot of them which are applicable all the time, irrespective of the context.

    Probably Jensen could write something about deciding which applications are going to have Ribbons (in case it is not only the question of time)

  41. Julia says:

    Is this the proper forum to question whether/when Publisher will be updated to have the same kind of ribbon as the rest of office. It  still seems to be the same old same old…

  42. Mario Goebbels says:

    Third color scheme? Are we going to see screenshots of that before B2TR?

  43. Patrick Schmid says:

    Jan and Julia,

    Jensen has already talked about which programs get the Ribbon in 2007 and which don’t. The list is Access, Excel, Outlook (except the main window), PowerPoint and Word. Publisher won’t get it in 2007. MS picked the most used applications and started with those, if I remember what Jensen  posted correclty.

  44. teambanana says:

    Am I the only person that finds it a little jarring when a ‘standard’ dialogue/message box pops up over office 2007 (especially the ribbons based apps?)

    I tend to run most programs maximised so the office apps don’t look out of place on my desktop because they’re all that I can see, but then you get a really nasty colour scheme clash when a dialogue box opens. (xp’s green luna does not go with the office 2007 blue theme!)

    Actually, I might switch office to black and xp to silver and see if that’s any better…

  45. goTeam says:

    Jensen,

    Can we get a little bit more info on that teaser about PowerPoint? Would love to know what some of the changes are.

  46. Styleguy says:

    Thanks for all your interesting and useful posts, Jensen. I love the new UI, except for one thing: there does not seem to be a way to always and automatically show what style is applied to the currently selected text. I use styles extensively and always had the style selection dropdown on my main toolbar. Am I missing something, or could this be fixed if I’m not?

  47. Harsh Bolia says:

    Jensen,

    Changing the color scheme in Powerpoint is making the current slide hidden behind the grey Vista color…

  48. Jerry C says:

    What about STYLES and Templates?

    It is way harder to use my styles in the new layout.  Even when I finally found a way to display a list of styles on the right, it does not work as smoothly as it does in 2003.

    Am I going to have to find a new [program that continues the template/style feature?

    There seems to be no easy way to start a new document based on my set of well-defined-and-honed templates. Also, no way to attach a stored template to a currrent document as is possible in 2003.

  49. Harsh Bolia says:

    Jensen,

    On restoring down the powerpoint window all the Groups in existing Tabs get shrink to a dropdown but not the new Groups added either in existing Tabs or new Tabs…Is there any provision for this??

  50. John Topley says:

    "once again, what’s up with the centered title? No Windows program does this, ever."

    Hmmm, you’ve obviously never used Windows 3.x!

  51. GregM says:

    Hopefully this new theme will be one that uses the colors that the user told the operating system that applications should use, instead of forcing the application’s will upon the user as to which colors will be used.

  52. LDR says:

    GregM: Amen!

  53. TC says:

    "Hmmm, you’ve obviously never used Windows 3.x!"

    Actually I have… this must be Office 2007: 1992 edition

  54. Jan Kucera says:

    Patrick,

    I know which applications are going to have the Ribbons in 2007 (and this is big change to not include it in beta 2 applications).

    I was wondering, for reasons I mentioned, if this was only because of the time or if there are applications, which are not planned to use the Ribbon at all (as I would prefer in the case of Publisher).

  55. Patrick Schmid says:

    Hi Jan,

    from all I have heard during the beta, Publisher is scheduled to get the Ribbon eventually.

  56. I tried Office black theme, even on Vista. Talk about pain for my eyes! The document is white, but everything else is black. So to switch from the tool to document means a huge shift for my eyes :(. I guess we need some "dark" document formatting options (that still look white for other people since no one wants to get an email or Word doc with a black background :)).

    And please, will someone fix Excel’s windowing model? Why does it add multiple icons to the taskbar, but they all open only one window? You have to start two Excel processes to look at 2 spreadsheets side by side :S.

  57. Patrick Schmid says:

    Michael,

    try the following option: Office button, Excel Options, Personalize, Show all windows in the Taskbar.

  58. Jonathan Snook says:

    Keyboard shortcut in Outlook that I sorely miss is the ALT-S that I used to SAVE&CLOSE for editing contacts. I think there are some other items as well where ALT-S doesn’t work anymore.

  59. Matt says:

    I totally agree with Philipp Spalting. The WordArt in Word at the moment is horrendous and incredibly ugly. I need to give my headings Photoshop-like text effects, but without Photoshop. PowerPoint has it going on, but Word seems to be lacking.

  60. ringtone says:

    Excellent site you have! Awesome content. http://ringtone.greatnow.com/ Thank you.

  61. Tim says:

    Jensen, I wonder about the issue of icon scaling with high resolution displays – it seems that Office 2007 still scales icons when font scaling is set above 96dpi so that they appear blurry. Do you guys intend to fix this? If not what is the issue?

    Tony Schreiner posted about this in regards to Office 2003 back in 2004:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/tonyschr/archive/2004/03/23/94391.aspx

    He suggested that it came down to money and deadlines. But since you guys have put in so much effort in making everything look so nice for the new version it seems a shame that no solution has been developed. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

  62. cialis says:

    Pretty design and bleep content. http://cialis-news.blogspot.com/

    Very Impressive.

  63. Tomer Chachamu says:

    Styleguy:

    "There does not seem to be a way to always and automatically show what style is applied to the currently selected text. I use styles extensively and always had the style selection dropdown on my main toolbar. Am I missing something, or could this be fixed if I’m not?"

    Home tab > Styles group > Little button on the bottom-right. A styles mini-window should open. Tick "Show Preview" if your monitor is high-res enough. (You can dock this mini-window if you like.)

    Click on the middle button of the three at the bottom (the one with the magnifying glass). A style inspector mini-window should open. You can dock this one too, if you like.

    I don’t have the smilie-frownie tool installed, so I have to give this feedback here: the Style Inspector doesn’t respond properly to resizing – it just adds blank space at the bottom and right of the window. Disturbing. Also, however large I make it, it barely displays any information. "Plus: 20 pt, (Latin) Bold, Centered, After:  0 pt, Line spacing:  s…"

    I also have a Word document which doesn’t open in the new Word past the first page. (It contains lots of formulae). What do I do?

  64. Styleguy says:

    Hi Tomer,

    Thanks for the show styles tip. Unfortunately, this approach uses far more screen space than the old, simple dropdown box. My problem is that I use a lot of styles, many of which only differentiate themselves by their paragraph-level formatting which is only visible after the first line. So, what I had in previous versions of Word was a small, simple way to see what style was applied to the current text. Docking the current style inspector uses up a huge whack of screen space (similar to what the Styles task pane used to do).

    Thanks for the tip, though.

  65. Mike says:

    Patrick:  Do you have any idea why Microsoft is being so block-headed about user customization?  Do they really believe every Office user will want to do exactly the same thing, in exactly the same way, with exactly the same primary goals?  I am just flabbergasted by this.  What would be required to provide UI customization?  As I compare 2007 to XP (which we use at work) and 2003, I realize what a huge drawback it is to have no UI customization.  The constant clicking back & forth to get to the features *I* use – as opposed to the conglomeration of features other people who didn’t know how to customize Office used – is an enormous productivity loss.  

    I’m tempted to start a petition to *try* and get Microsoft to listen to the needs of users who are not represented by the ‘most likely size to fit all’ mentality.  Just because lots of people wear a large size blue shirt on Tuesdays, doesn’t mean it’s the right size, color or style for everyone.

  66. Patrick Schmid says:

    First, you need to realize that user customization be a new feature and not one that they can just keep from 2003, technically speaken. In order to provide it, the actual functionality would have to be written from scratch as the ribbon is a totally new UI to work with. So it costs resources to provide user customization. Even at Microsoft resources are limited and each team had to decide how to best allocate them. That is mostly a painful decision and involved a lot of compromises. For example, the Word team decided not to implement  the new Office 2007 graphing engine fully, but rather kept some of the Word 2003 engine. Therefore you have two different engines being used in Word and depending on what kind of shape/clipart you have, you have two different UIs. PPT and Excel though implemented the new engine fully.

    A lot of these kinds of decisions were, for the first time ever, driven by data, namely the usage data Microsoft collected with Office 2003 (MS refers to it as SQM, in the 2003 UI it’s called "Customer Improvement Program"). Jensen has some great posts on how they collected and used the data.

    When MS looked at the data, user customization was minimal: a very small percentage of all 400 million Office users worldwide bothered with customizing their UI. In absolute numbers, probably only a few million people customized it and of those only a few tens of thousands did any serious customization (more than 3 buttons). On the other hand, many people involuntarily “customized” their UI and ended up having trouble finding functionality or even having sufficient workspace for their document, spreadsheet or presentation. You can find links to related posts from Jensen at my corresponding blog post: http://pschmid.net/blog/2006/05/24/9″>http://pschmid.net/blog/2006/05/24/9

    Given that data, MS decided to allocate its resources to the user customization mostly used and we got the QAT.

    The problem with the data and the argument most commonly made is that many users turned these feature off and many didn’t even use 2003. This seems to be especially true for power users as I have yet to find one who didn’t switch off this "phone home" feature. Quite frankly, had I known about the data what I know now, I’d have made sure to switch the feature on at all times instead of making sure to switch it off.

    The last thing that figures into the whole story is a better approach to software design & engineering for Office 2007. Developers know the phenomenon that you start out with a great design and then you implement all the features your users want once they see the first pilot. The end result is a messed up design that is costly to extend and maintain. It also makes the code less safe. In previous versions, MS ended up doing exactly that when lots of requests from users came in during the beta phase. A while ago I saw a Channel 9 video on Vista’s kernel and quite frankly, the Windows kernel is a total mess and the software architecture team had to do a lot of work to clean it up somewhat for Vista. I don’t think Office was ever as bad as Windows, but for 2007 the Office team went with the approach that no major design changes will be implemented during the beta. Providing user customization at the requested level (multiple toolbars, floating toolbars, altering the ribbon) would be a major design change at this point in time. MS won’t do it and the earliest we might see an MS solution is with Office 14 (#13 is being skipped).

    Do you really need the kind of user customization MS is not providing? Yes, but one should always keep the following thing in mind: customization is not a way to avoid learning to use the new UI. It took me more than a month of working with Office 2007 (real life critical work) to get comfortable with the new UI. I have my issues where I am convinced that the UI could be improved and those are things that I am using my own add-in for to do.

    In terms of needing customization: I know that especially the Excel community is up in arms, because Excel power users seem to need a lot of features one click away at all times (more so than in all other Office apps). Heavy Word users (e.g. book authors) aren’t the happiest either. PPT users seem to be rather content, except for a few minor issues. Access and Outlook seem to be getting there though.

    Microsoft seem to have pushed user customization into the 3rd party domain, and I am more than happy to pick it up with my own add-in. I’ll release a beta version of it in the next few weeks. It will allow basic ribbon customization, namely allowing a user to put groups wherever he or she wants them. That add-in, I’ll provide for free at RTM, while one that allows more than that will cost something. If you want a preview of what the add-in will look like, take a look at my blog: http://pschmid.net

  67. Mike says:

    Patrick,  I’ve thought about the idea that customization is not a reason to avoid learning the UI.  The problem with this approach is that  I have to work around Office, rather than optimizing it to work for me – since customization for me is an ongoing thing, this means I’ll constantly be wasting time.  I don’t buy the notion that there’s no time left to enable a feature that’s, essentially, already there; if customization can be done through RibbonX, adding this option is possible.  I don’t want multiple or floating toolbars – I understand that would be a dramatic UI change – but being able to rearrange the Ribbon is already possible and is not a large design change (it’s really not a design change at all).  Unfortunately, what I fear Microsoft will run into is a HUGE backlash if Office 2007 is released without user customization.  Most current users are, like you, able to customize it through XML & other tools; power users such as myself, without much programming experience, and regular users are all of a sudden going to find themselves stuck in the mud.  As a trainer, I found that customization was one of feature that, once learned, was easy for users to grasp and want to use.  Take this away and you’re going to end up with a lot of angry users.

    Mike

  68. Patrick Schmid says:

    Mike, it’s unfortunately not as easy as it sounds. With RibbonX, you can only create a half-baked user customization tool. The why is a longer story and I’ll save it for a future post on my blog. As an add-in developer, I can get away with a half-baked solution, as long as the user is aware of its limitations. Microsoft on the other hand, can’t do that. A feature they provide has to work for all languages, all configurations, all the time. To do it right would be a major undertaking for Microsoft. I can’t fault them that they won’t do it now. It’s just too late in the beta cycle for any major change.

  69. Mike says:

    Then I think Office 2007 is going to be a big disappointment for Microsoft.  At this point, I’m not even sure I will upgrade when it comes out; I know my company will not.  I’ll continue to test it, so that may change, but I can see there are too many limitations of the ribbon.  Given Microsoft’s complete arrogance regarding the ribbon, and their refusal to listen, I wonder what the point of beta testing is.

  70. Mike says:

    Patrick: You might not fault them for refusing to listen to users, but I do.  If it means delaying the release, or spending more money to hire additional staff, then it needs to be done.  I think this will be a bigger disappointment than Windows ME.

  71. Patrick Schmid says:

    Mike: I have been on this topic since November. First came the screaming, then the severe head-shaking, then the reluctant acceptance of the facts. Now I am in the mode of thinking that I might be able to make a few bucks out of this serious shortcoming…

  72. Mike says:

    In Jensen’s recent post about the ‘spell check is complete’ dialog box, he makes the following astute statement:

    I guess the meta point here is that it’s hard to do interaction design by formula.

    Yet the Ribbon is based presicely around creating a UI by a precise formula (not accurate, given the data it’s based on is flawed).  The dialog box in question is an occassional occurance – spell check is important, but it happens only once in awhile during document creation.  The ribbon, on the other hand, is a constant reminder that the user is a tiny part of some formula where they are not expected to ever change.  Someone has calculated exactly what they will do, how they will do it, when they will do it, and how many steps (and in what order) it will take to them to do it.  

    Perhaps it’s not too late to reconsider the user as an individual, not simply a statistical mean, and restore customization back to Office 2007.

  73. Mike says:

    In reading some of the past blogs, I see people have brought up numerous examples of why customization is essential to productivity for months. They’ve also questioned Jensen in terms of the data, the ‘clean screen’, and creating a UI aimed at the lowest common denominator.  So where is the response to all of this?  We’re told this is all being considered, but as far as I can tell (from the complete lack of any response) it is not.  I’ve heard excuses why it’s impractical to provide user customization at this point, but I haven’t heard any reason why it’s impossible.  Doing things right often take more time & effort up front, but save a lot of time & frustration in the long run.  

  74. ringtone says:

    Thanks for nice and actual info’ Be the Best!

    http://ringtone-s.angelcities.com/

    Excellent site you have! Awesome content. Thank you

  75. <a href=’http://www.yahoo.com‘></a> http://www.insurance-top.com/auto/”>http://www.insurance-top.com/auto/ <a href=’http://www.insurance-top.com‘>auto insurance</a>. <a href="http://www.insurance-top.com ">Insurance car</a>: auto site insurance, car site insurance, The autos insurance company. [url]http://www.insurance-top.com/car/[/url] [link=http://www.insurance-top.com]insurance quote[/link] from site .

  76. http://www.insurance-top.com/company/”>http://www.insurance-top.com/company/ car site insurance. [URL=http://www.insurance-top.com]home insurance[/URL]: auto site insurance, car site insurance, The autos insurance company. [url=http://www.insurance-top.com]cars insurance[/url] from website .

  77. http://www.insurance-top.com/company/ car site insurance. auto site insurance, car site insurance, The autos insurance company. from website .

  78. http://www.ringtones-dir.com/get/”>http://www.ringtones-dir.com/get/ ringtones site. [URL=http://www.ringtones-dir.com]ringtones download[/URL]: ringtones site, Free nokia ringtones here, Download ringtones FREE. [url=http://www.ringtones-dir.com]samsung ringtones[/url] From website .

  79. http://www.ringtones-dir.com/get/ ringtones site. ringtones site, Free nokia ringtones here, Download ringtones FREE. From website .

  80. Thanks for nice and actual info’ Be the Best!

  81. Sparkie says:

    I hope I didn’t miss a post about this and I hope I’m commenting at the correct place.

    Will Outlook (and other apps like Office Picture Manager) get the ribbon?  It is inconsistant to have the ribbon in certain programs but not in others.  If this will be the case, can you please try to explain why the Office team is leaving Outlook with the old, ugly menu bar?

    Love your blog.  Keep up the good work.

  82. Mat says:

    Someone mentioned below:

    Alt-S: save and close (eg. Outlook items)

    Power users do this all the time.  Is there a replacement shortcut?

  83. Patrick Schmid says:

    Sparkie: Search for Outlook on this blog. There are a bunch of posts explaining the story.

    Mat: As far as I know, ALT-S is supposed to be in the final product.

  84. M. Schopman says:

    Is there space in the schedule to also change the interface of Microsoft Project 2007 with the new ribbon interface? Office nows seems a mix of multiple interfaces. Both good, but together they are inconsistent.

  85. Adahn says:

    I hope you do rename the "Home" tab back to "Write" (and "Sheet" and etc) by RTM 🙂

    Please!

  86. Neal says:

    How can you tell which office color theme is currently being used from VBA? There is an OfficeTheme class but it’s not referenced from anywhere and can you create one.

  87. Wictor Wilen says:

    The incredible Jensen Harris gives you all the details on how to use Fitt’s Law to improve the user

  88. This morning, we announced that starting tomorrow (Thursday, Septemeber 14)&amp;nbsp;you’ll be able to download…