Silver Bullet

I couple of months ago I mentioned that we were working on a third color scheme for Office 2007, as well as continuing to tweak the visuals of the so-called "northwest" corner of the apps (the upper-left corner.)

I was planning on waiting until we finalized the visuals before posting pictures and more information, but some not-quite-finished screenshots leaked out on the Microsoft Design site last week. So, I thought, I might as well get in the action and leak some not-quite-finished screenshots myself.

So, without further ado… the new Office 2007 color scheme is called "Silver." Here's a picture of it running on top of a recent build of Windows Vista:

Silver color scheme on Windows Vista
(Click to enlarge and view full picture)

This color scheme was designed to provide a very neutral canvas on which to do your work. It draws your eye to the document and doesn't include some of the more decorative aspects of the other two color schemes, such as the architectural elements behind the document. And most importantly for a neutral canvas, Silver isn't infused or saturated with color, so that the design of your document stands out.

So, the final list of color schemes is: Blue, Silver, and Black. You can change between any of them from Options in any of the new UI programs included in Office 2007. Hopefully most people will be able to find at least one color scheme which suits their taste.

Comparison of the three color schemes running on Windows XP

In these screenshots you can also see some of the updated design work we've done around the upper-left corner of the application frame. This is an area in which we're still actively working, so these screenshots don't represent a totally finalized visual design. But you can see the direction we're headed… for instance, a lot of you gave feedback that you didn't like the curved upper-left corner in Beta 2, so we reworked it. We changed the visuals of the Quick Access Toolbar to make it look more distinctly like it's a toolbar and a separate entity within the title bar. On Vista, you can see the Quick Access Toolbar is drawn entirely on Aero Glass.

In a few weeks, we'll have finalized the visual designs and then I'll post a more detailed article with finished screenshots.

But, in the meantime, I thought you might like to see a work-in-progress of what we've been up in the visual design department over the last few months.

Comments (106)

  1. netfreak says:


    Great, as it always is. So will this theme be available in Beta2TR and when will we be able to use it.

    You have also said, that the theme can be changed in every Office program, does this mean that now I can have word in Blue, Outlook in Silver and Excel in Black or is it one theme for all the office applications?

    Doing a great work. Can’t get enough of the Office 2007

  2. Orion Adrian says:

    Seriously I like the old NW corner that was different than the rest. I think people would have come around to it. I think it’s best not to make artistic decisions based on committee or based on what the general public wants — functional yes, artistic no.

    Remember this is also a very limited subset of the audience of people who will be using this product and, as you’ve said, not representative of the greater public. Trust the artists: they know what they’re doing.

  3. Ben R. says:

    Beautiful. I love neutral, subtle designs like that.

    And I’m glad the Quick Access Toolbar looks more like a toolbar. When I showed Word 2007 to someone, he didn’t even realize the QAT was part of the program–he assumed for the first few minutes that it was some sort of floating shareware app at the top of the screen.

    I would, however, like to see EVEN MORE of a visual indication that the Office Button is an actual button and not just the product logo. Maybe make the "well" in which it sits even deeper? Not sure if I’m explaining myself well here, but this is one potential stumbling block in the new design: will people realize that’s where you go to create a new document, choose Save As… etc.

  4. Ben R. says:

    One more question: Jensen, why did the team decide to put the Office logo on the button in the NW corner and not each individual app’s logo?

    Putting the individual app’s logo might help make it more immediately obvious to the user which Office app he or she is looking at when rapidly flipping between different programs (a pretty common thing for me to do, and probably for others).

  5. Jensen Harris talks about some tweaking they’ve done with the Office 2007 UI – in particular the upper

  6. Cryo says:


    I never was quite a fan of the black style after trying it in practice, but silver is looking really nice!

    I like the new look of the NW corner, but I hope you’ll come up with a better transition  betwheen the window border and the inside.

    The way it is right now looks very unnatural and WIP.

  7. Now if it was obvious that the big round thing in the top left corner was actually a menu that did something and wasn’t just pretty it would be great.

    Once you know it’s there and what it does, it’s fine, but it’s about as discoverable as Word 1.0… you guys really need to make it obvious that it’s a button otherwise people are going to go "where the hell did save as go?"

  8. Cryo says:

    That is, referring to the space around the Office button. Sorry for double posting. 😉

  9. Andrew Shebanow says:

    On XP, all the changes are quite nice, but I agree with Cryo that the new NW corner looks terrible in Aero: the transition between the glass and non-glass areas is way too jarring and ugly.

  10. prismejon says:

    I love the silver theme, well done!

    But I am too curious about the discoverability of the NW Office Button. How did users react to it in the usability lab? Did it take long before they found it? I sneak-installed the latest Office beta on my wife’s laptop and she was a little confused about the Office button. Her first reaction when she opened Word was that she wondered how to print. I told her to click the Office-logo, and she replied: "Can I click that?". I definitely think it should have some more click-me-for-functionality affordance. Like I said, I’m very interested in hearing how your test-subjects did.



  11. SWB says:

    Very nice; thank you! If I can’t have an Office UI that follows my system theme or the ability to customize colors at will, you’re at least headed in the right direction with the new silver theme.

    However, as shown in your screenshot, the silver theme still has an overall blue tint. It’s subtle, but quite noticable.  I would really prefer that the silver theme be truly neutral.  Here’s an illustration of what I’m talking about:

    The center screenshot is the current silver theme.  On the left, I’ve bumped the saturation to make the overall blue tint more obvious.  On the right is the silver theme I’d like to see: the grays are totally neutral, not bluish gray.

    See also the comment I made to a previous blog posting regarding the trouble with non-neutral UIs in a design environment:

  12. Dan Dautrich says:

    So an improved version of the Beta 1 color scheme emerges, but we lose the distinctive curve near the Office button–we can’t have everything, I guess.  I’m at least happy to have my favorite color scheme back, and that’s more important than a few transparent pixels! =)

  13. John Topley says:

    So how do you bring up the system menu? Double-click the Office Button?

  14. Mark Mitchell says:

    That’s a button? I thought it was just some sort of decoration, like in the top righthand corner of IE. Well, now that I know I will probably get used to it.

    Maybe you need to put in a flying banner like the Win95 team did: Fresh installs had a flying banner that said "Click here" pointing at the Start menu. That way people realised where to go.

  15. Francis says:

    I am delighted to see that swoopy gradient in the page background gone. The design looks much cleaner and more professional now!

    Three points:

    1. SWB is right. Please make gray gray. Your "Fabrikam Journal" is a case in point why a bluish gray is bad. The title LOOKS gray in the context of the screen shot but actually would print somewhere between slate blue and zaffre.

    2. The Office button is a good idea–large, visible, and easy to click (being located in the corner of the screen.) However, I think that the word "File" or, as Ben says, the application/document icon is clearer than the Office logo (which resembles a stunted Apple key symbol.)

    3. The Recent Documents section of the Office menu could be improved. Files that are open should be marked as such, either by color/text/an icon or by adding a second list under the heading "Open Documents" (which would come after "Recent Documents".) Then users will know they can toggle to that window without muddling through View->Switch Windows.

    You could also mark files that are unsaved, as well as unsaved and unnamed files (e.g. Document2) under the heading "Open Documents." For keyboard shortcuts, you could use 09..01 (as in QAT buttons above 9.) There is plenty of space on the menu for this.

  16. Francis says:

    To wit:

    (file names and tooltips not updated)

  17. JeffFisher says:

    Excellent, but I would also like to see some more contrast in the colors used. Perhaps a 4th theme, or can these be added after release of the product? Is there a theme editor anywhere? Maybe it’s time for a Power Tool??

    Jensen: kudos to you and the entire Office team – not only for the fantastic upcoming release but also for the new standard of communication thru blogs and RSS.

    I’ve been an enthusiast user of Office 2007 since last October – having converted every one of my systems to it (and fauthfully submitted bugs). I’m looking forward to the next beta, TR, or CTP. A lot speeedier statup of Outlook and I promise I’ll be happy until the winter~!

  18. Some screen shots have been posted of tweaks made to the UI of Office 2007 as well as the addition of…

  19. Andre says:

    Instead of using a predefined set of color themes it should be possible to apply filters to the graphics used to make up the UI.

    And by default it should then use the system settings to adopt to the user settings.

    Also the Vista screenshot looks like the Ribbon has been painted with Paint.

  20. John says:

    In a Vista the Office button makes sense as it is. As it is like the Start Button, circle with logo. Though Start is distict in colour, while the office button blends in with the rest, except for the black theme.

    In XP, the user is not use to clicking on a circle with logo, but rather a button that has a little logo and the Word start, and so it may not be as ovious to the XP user, espically in the defualt theme for xp, where the button blends into the rest of the UI.

    So I would recomend making the button "pop out" from the rest of the UI a bit more in the silver and blue themes, and at least in XP have a "tool tip" pop up when rolled over that says  "Hey I’m the Office Button, I’m like the  button down there on the taskbar with the word Start, except I am for office" or "Hey you, click on me I’m the start and end of your documents!

    Or maybe something simpiler like "Start and Finish Button"

  21. Tim says:

    Looking at the screenshots I much prefer the silver over the current somewhat-cyan blue, or black options. But it does look a little like it has been generated by simply desaturating the blue theme a little. It would be nice if the user could control saturation and hue actually – I remember a previous version of Media Player allowed something like that. Kind of ironic given that it is much more important when creating documents that are to be printed than listening to music.

    As for the round corner – I guess it is too hard to make it square when maximized and round when not?

  22. Michael Fuller says:

    Orion Adrian wrote:

    > I think it’s best not to make

    > artistic decisions based on committee

    > or based on what the general public

    > wants — functional yes, artistic no.

    Yes, but this is not an artistic decision.  The choice of color schemes, contrasts, visual characteristics all have a direct impact on users’ ability to use the product.

    > Trust the artists: they know what

    > they’re doing.

    Hmmm.  In my experience, most artists and graphic designers have little idea what they are doing when it comes to web design and HCI issues.  I would default to NOT trusting the artists: most of them should stick to doing art, where they can do no harm. :-/

  23. Andrew Domaracki says:

    The Silver theme looks very professional.

    Personally, I really like it.

    Since we’re on the subject of changes to the product since Beta 2 – are beta testers going to receive an updated or interim build to test?

  24. Fred says:

    Hi Jensen,

    Having a neutral background is a big help with screen shots or recordings (such as Live Meeting webcast rebroadcasts, which tend to degrade from the original <g>).

    I may have missed it but I don’t recall that you have addressed in your blog 3 questions that have come up from time to time.

    1. On both Office 2003 and Office 2007 the reasons for not supporting Office apps inheriting a complete, selected Windows desktop color scheme?

    (except by choosing one [such as ‘Wheat’] via Accessibility’s High Contrast mode  in the Control Panel.

    I would suspect that there have been a few folks having spent some time trying to get that to work, thinking it should ) 🙂

    2. The Office 2007 ‘Large Icon’ choices (for dialogs other than the ribbon (i.e. in Help, etc) don’t seem to have been updated/smoothed, but for many older folks they’re important.

    For this same audience the ability to have a larger size QAT setting and/or to use the Windows Desktop Appearance icon sizing might be helpful.  The question is similar to the first, is it a technical or ???? reason for the Office apps to divorce themselves from the Windows settings and/or to not update the larger icons?

    3. There has been mention of a beta ‘refresh’?  Is that something that will also be a public download, an update or ????

    Thank you for several hours of interesting reading over the past few months.


  25. LIGC says:

    I like the new silver scheme, and the integration with Vista Aero is nice.  I personally liked the rounded edges, but I can get used to the rectangular ones.  I suppose integration with Vista Standard will look just like the integration with XP?

  26. Jensen, I love it, the Office Team really listened when it comes to the canvas. Less focus on the background canvas and more emphasis on the document page.

    But Office 2007 is so mistmatched, non ribbon based apps such as Publisher, Visio, InfoPath don’t share these themes, they are all black although the shadows on the drop down menus are awesome. Please update these apps so they have the Option under Tools to also utilize the the different colour schemes.

  27. marlon says:

    I want to add my agreement to SWB. Go with a true silver theme rather than silver with the blue theme.

  28. marlon says:

    Sorry…meant to say, ‘true silver theme rather than silver with a blue tint

  29. ramesh says:

    Hopefully there will be a scheme that has a smaller/narrower ribbon. I don’t think I am the only one who finds the current schemes too large and intrusive.

  30. miki says:

    I love the silver theme, like everyone else! It really does put the document first, then flashy nice-looking stravaganza buttons later 🙂

    Anyway, I was thinking, every new office version had a logo change. What is happening here? Is Office 2007 going to have the same marketing, same logos and everything else like the Office 2003? Looks like well have to wait and see.

  31. Richard Gadsden says:

    Will the NW corner button respond to clicks in the very NW corner, even though the curve is a bit away.  It would be great if it did, because then on a maximised window, the logo button would be a mile high and a mile wide – it would be in the very NW corner of the screen.

  32. Don says:

    Smaller ribbon is a must – waaaay too much screen real estate is wasted for serious business writers/users. It’s even worse in Excel. Even in ultra high res, the bars are intrusive and irritating. I always run with ONE line of menu and ONE line of icons, carefully chosen. Everything else is just a waste of space and a drain on the eye.

    While I like the approach you’ve taken, both the space and the retraiing of my users is an issue I will put off for a long time. Office 2K3 ain’t broken, so we’ll stick there; the cost of retraining is simply too high.

  33. tino says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I think the problem with the Quick Access Toolbar is the position and not the design. The Titlebar must be for the title.

    The new silver color theme looks great!

  34. Jack says:

    Don: just double-click to make the ribbon disappear. I use keyboard shortcuts so I don’t even see the ribbon most of the time. This way the Word 2007 UI hogs barely more screen area than Notepad.

  35. Don: "Smaller ribbon is a must – waaaay too much screen real estate is wasted for serious business writers/users."

    I agree, it’s way too big. I’m not impressed by the justification that it’s roughly the size of all the default toolbars, since I close all the toolbars on my Office apps.

    I did find, quite by accident, that if you CTRL-double-click on the text at the top of the ribbon, it will collapse. That frees up a significant amount of space.

  36. Ah, so it’s just a double-click to shrink the ribbon. Apologies.

  37. Kishan says:

    I LOVE the silver cilor scheme. Great work.

  38. Eric says:

    new color scheme looks great! pics do not show up in the post though:(

  39. praveen says:

    You guys seem to be doing some amazing work there. I really loved the themes.

  40. Ronald says:

    The UI would look more stunning if the bottom status bar of the window is blended into the glass window frame similar to Windows Media Player in Windows Vista.

  41. Willis says:

    Jensen, will you talk about the new application icons at some point?

  42. Une nouvelle qui suit un peu la future mise &#224; disposition d’un nouveau th&#233;me pour Vista sans a&#233;ro.


  43. Patrick Baumgartner says:

    Will there be any way to figure out what color scheme is being used through the Office object model?

    How do you support people who are building Office add-in that want to have the same look and feel as Office (instead of windows – for which the theme colors are currently available)

  44. Robert Hunter says:

    Geez, does the word CLUTTER mean anything to Microsoft?  GUI design as a form of torture?

  45. Jan Kucera says:

    I think the office logo in the NW corner is much better than the individual application logo, because that will look like the NW icon with system menu / close button.

    I have no troubles discovering that it is a button – because it get coloured on hover.

    I like the new QAT desing, especially in the black theme. And I have nothing against rounded corner, as well as I think that the new design, in black theme, have the office button much more smoothly integrated into the window design thatn we can se in the Beta 2.

    As far as the silver theme is mentioned, I see the blue tint in both the black and silver themes. I think that if people wanted silver theme, they wanted really neutral theme. If they are looking for blue tint, they have a blue theme for them. That way you could implement the custom color as a Live Messenger or Media Player has… but I think this three themes are enough and will be good, if the silver would loss the tint.

  46. A.T. says:

    I notice the floppy and undo/redo icons on the QAT are very different from the icons on the ribbon buttons. The ribbon icons look more sophisticated because of restrained use of color.

    I actually don’t like the QAT at all. It would have been better to incorporate the undo/redo and save buttons to the ribbon. Like someone said, the QAT looks like it was added on by a third-party utility or shareware.

  47. Chris C. says:


    I think it’s best not to make artistic decisions based on… what the general public wants

    … Trust the artists: they know what they’re doing.


    What an elitist pile of crap that opinion is.

    Where did "trust the artists" get Xerox? Right out of the computer business, that’s where. If Steve Jobs hadn’t been allowed to visit we would all still be using pencils and 3270’s.

    Glad you went back to the square NW corner.

      -Chris C.

    P.S.  Just to be clear:

    It is a worthy effort to "give some reign to people with artistic abilities" (especially in the UI area) – but after a short period you have to stop and evaluate what they’ve produced.

    To me, self proclaimed "artists" include those who fill a jar with urine, drop something in the urine, and then call it art.  (and the bastard got my tax money for it too)

    Heck I could do that, and what little artistic abilities I had, have atrophied 🙂

  48. No Green????  I love my olive green on XP, I am even using the Outlook 2003 theme for Firefox.  

    I am sad that there isn’t going to be a similar theme for Vista/Office 2007.

    Michael Plasmeier

  49. Matt says:

    My comments

    * I had no idea that the office logo was clickable (and is the access to the main menu??) until I read the comments in this post. That sounds really really nasty, it needs to be more obvious. The save/undo/redo icons up there are quite bizarre. You even state yourself in another article that people expect that sort of functionality to be *in the ribbon*, not in some weird place like the title bar where people just aren’t used to finding application specific tools.

    * Make the neutral themes neutral! Why go to the trouble of making neutral themes if they’re not, it’s bizarre.

    * What’s with the bright cyan highlight around the right and bottom edges of the silver theme screenshot? It looks totally ugly, like some kind of bug.

    PS. Although I don’t use Office that much, I do admire the effort and work that you’re doing to improve its usability. For all this current version’s foibles, I think it’s definitely an improvement on what I saw in Office last time I used it.

  50. Ute Simon says:

    In my opinion, the Silver Theme is too pale, I think, I will not choose it for daily use. But I think it’s great for screenshots, because it’s light-colored and neutral.

    Regarding the Office button: I think it is an illusion, that software can be used without any training (well, I am a trainer …). Office 2007 is way more intuitive than the previous versions. But business users will get and need some training, and there will be someone who tells them within the first five minutes, that they can click on the Office logo to open and save files. (And for those private users who don’t have an admin installing it for them: Print it on the box.) And for the next years, it will be clear for them to click the NW corner to get the "File" menu. I don’t see the need for lengthy discussions.

  51. What has happened in the&amp;nbsp;MOSS-land while I was away?

    I chuckled a bit when I saw that the third…

  52. LDR says:

    Silver looks pretty good.  Not ideal, but definitely a vast improvement over blue and black.

    I second Francis suggestion that the recent documents have a visual indication that the document is open and whether it is saved or not.

  53. Ian Sinke says:

    What’s the big deal with the Office button? Since the beginning of Windows the File menu has always been in the NW corner. I got the beta and figured it out first thing.


  54. Jensen Harris confirmed on his blog today that the before-mentioned icons from the Microsoft Design website

  55. Peter Cooper says:

    I love the new Office, but that NW button totally killed me the first time I used the beta too. I share the concerns of other commenters above.

    I thought.. "cool, no menus, obviously you open documents from Explorer / Desktop only like I do on OS X" and wrote off the existance of any File menu whatsoever.

    I happily went about my business until I found I really needed something from there (possibly New) and even then it took me a few tries to work out where it was (after going through the help!)

    It’s really not that obvious. Even if I’m 1 in 100 who found it hard to figure out, when you have 100 million people using Office…

  56. Joe Coplen says:

    1) I liked the old NW corner better.  I don’t know if the Office Button shrunk, but it seems smaller.  I liked the way the Quick Access Toolbar looked before.  With it being the same background as the titlebar, it’s kind of lost. The Office Button itself isn’t immediately discoverable.  I’m not trained to look for things like that in the corner where previously only the system menu appeared.  I can’t tell you how much time I wasted in Excel looking for a way to print that wasn’t "quick print".

    2) It took me several minutes of staring at the Office Button menu before I could find "Editor Options" to change the color scheme.  The only reason I kept looking is because someone assured me it was there.  Why isn’t this an option in the menu on the left?  What makes it so special that it deserves to be a button off by itself in a corner where there is otherwise nothing?  It would be nicer if we stuck to 1 style and put those button commands in the menu.

  57. Vic says:

    I have a version of Office 2007 which does not have the Silver theme. Whic version is this. Also, this downloaded version says that it will expire at the end of October. Will I get a warning? And, will I have an alternative to purchase other one, to continue using Office 2007?

  58. Maria T says:

    I love it!  but I would also love that you include some light pink…

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