Things of Beauty

One of our goals for the Office 2007 user interface was to make it easier to create beautiful output.

In many circumstances, you are judged by the quality of the output you create. And software that helps you create beautiful output makes you look smart and feel good.

Many of the features of the new UI, including the Ribbon, galleries, and Live Preview, were designed together to create an environment in which you can discover and easily use the power of Office's formatting capabilities. Add to this the new Office 2007 graphics engine, and suddenly in a few clicks, you can create beautiful-looking output without learning to be a Photoshop expert.

Every kind of object in Office 2007 (table, chart, picture, drawing, etc.) has an overall gallery on its first contextual tab which allows you to set the overall style for the object.

Every object has a gallery of overall styles available

Although you can continue tweaking and formatting to get highly customized results, the default choices are designed to be beautiful right out-of-the-box; with one click you can achieve graphics designer-quality results.

From time to time I've shown some of these styles on my blog—a chart or two, a SmartArt diagram, or a table, for instance. We've been working on the contents of these galleries quite a bit since Beta 2, and in the upcoming Beta 2 Technical Refresh you will notice improved styles in many areas.

The one place we probably spent the most time was in updating the Picture Styles gallery. Pictures are among the most frequently inserted objects into an Office document or e-mail message, and so we wanted to have a set of pictures styles which were really beautiful and broadly useful. The placeholder content in Beta 2 was fine, but we didn't think they were as good as they could be.

So, over the course of a few months, people across a number of teams (including my team, the OfficeArt team, the Office Design Group, and other interested parties) worked together to create a new set of breathtaking picture styles for Office.

You'll see the full set of twenty-eight styles debut in the Beta 2 Technical Refresh. They showcase much of what you can do with the new graphics engine—inner shadows, outer shadows, reflections, 3D rotation, soft edges, bevels, and much more—to create a set of beautiful general-purpose styles. In the ease-of-use category: each of them can be applied with a single click and previewed just by hovering over them.

To give you a taste of what to expect, here are nine of the styles applied to some of the default pictures shipped in Windows Vista RC1:

Nine of the twenty-eight picture styles that will debut in Beta 2 TR.
(Click to enlarge - 1.4 MB)

Note: In your own documents, I don't recommend putting nine different styles directly next to one other. 🙂

The new picture styles can be used whenever you insert or select a picture in Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Excel.

By the way, the best place to learn about the graphics and themes capabilities of Office 2007 is the PowerPoint and OfficeArt blog.

Comments (32)
  1. Centaur says:

    In case of e-mail, adding gratuitous graphics (i. e. pictures that are not actual content of the message) is not exactly the way to look smart. In fact, it is downright rude. A frequent newbie blunder is to attach a background image with an HTML message (which is an annoyance in and of itself, unless the formatting is important).

  2. John Doe says:

    In the case of e-mail, adding gratuitous HTML is not exactly the way to look smart. In fact, it is downright rude. A frequent newbie blunder is to send an HTML message.

  3. Daniel says:

    For what it’s worth you should know that HTML email is ubiquitous inside to MS.  I came to MS from grad school where we were all plain text, pine, mh, etc.  Inside MS graphics & html are utterly accepted.  I’ll guess that there’s a lot more conventions than the two (extremes possible) of MS and grad school that I’ve experienced.

  4. Tally says:

    How about telling us something we want to know: when is the tech refresh coming?

  5. I’ve been reading your blog (RSS’d, of course) for some time now.  Thanx for the updates, BTW.

    What strikes me most about Office 2007 is how much thought is going into making it.  From all that you mentioned, it seems to be the definitive version of Office.  Whatever will [the collective] you think of next?!

    The reason I’m compelled to visit your actual blog is to ask a simple question: Did previous versions of Office go through such intense thought process?  If yes, what were the limitations before that [the collective] you could not deliver Office 2007 back in, say, 2003?

    Keep up the good work, Mr. Harris.


  6. Aaron M. Hall says:


    I agree with AI above me… It is amazing the level of detail that is going into Office 2007. Much of the Office team needs to be cloned and hired to work on the Windows development team, because right now, Vista is in serious need of your collective talents! "Blue" UI with a Black Start menu?! Seriously, what are they thinking?

    Anyway, ranting aside, you and the Office crew are doing spectacular work, no matter how resilient to change people are being. It is greatly appreciated that you are all so responsive to user feedback! 🙂


    Aaron M. Hall

  7. Ed W says:

    Agree with AI and others, that the Office 2007 development seems good; although it leaves OneNote and Outlook out in the cold … shame; these should be central capabilities.

    With regards the Beta 2 Tech Refresh, please please tell us when we get it!!

    With regards Pictures: can we please be allowed to add our own to the gallery?  I like the outside shadow on its own and used it recently in my MSc Thesis: smart, simple, and allowed diagrams to be subtlely but professionally bordered (a look a bit akin to the white and clean look, like a new kitchen, before they dirtied it with gratuitous and horrid blue headings, especially with live messenger).

    As others have said; the Office 2007 team needs to get the other teams ( and Vista) to visit and learn from you!

  8. SL says:

    Prior to using the Office 2007 beta, I’ve always wondered why Office 2003/4 (and before) produced such horrible, horrible charts/tables/images.  Office 2007 is vastly improved, and dare I say it, the features are more accessible than Apple’s equally good (but less customisable) iWork features.  I think Microsoft has a winning feature here — and this is something that should be advertised and promoted – it is very good.

  9. Anthony Brien says:

    Neat article. I can’t figure out how you created the turtle or whale picture shadow. It looks like the picture’s lower right corner is lifted up, but I can’t seem to reproduce it in the latest beta.

  10. PatriotB says:

    Aaron & Ed — Actually, Windows should now be benefitting from some of Office’s experiences and ideas.  Steven Sinfosky moved from the Office division to Windows, currently the "senior vice president for the Windows and Windows Live engineering group" (

    And, though it wasn’t widely publicized, Julie Larson-Green, who ran "the team that did the research that led to the came up with and designed the new Office 12 user interface" (remember her video on Channel 9? has moved to Windows as well.  She is now the "corporate vice president of program management for the Windows Experience" (

    So hopefully there will be some good things coming Windows’ way (post-Vista) with these new changes.

  11. Johan Bakken says:

    All those styles/effects your showing us here in this post, Mr. Harris, are way too characteristic. Just like most Photoshop filters, they take too much attention and makes the output look very much like the user has been fiddling with effects.

    This is very similar to the clip art that we’ve all grown so attached to with Office over the years. They have too much personality, and therefore makes the users who make use of these look like amateurs. Like they’re just learning the software and that they don’t know the advantages of limiting the use of effects and filters. There are many companies here in Norway, where I live, that use Office clip art in their logos. Here’s a bus-company for instance:

    At the same time, I’m sure that this is exactly what most Office-users want. But that doesn’t mean that it’s what’s best for them, their presentations or their output.

    My wish for Office 2007 is that you keep the obvious effects and clip art to a minimum.

  12. I’ve been using this very feature today to create nicer looking images of videos I’ve added to a Powerpoint presentation, very nice! 🙂

    However I was having big problems getting videos working in Powerpoint. In the end it seemed to be caused by having the videos I embedded having a full path to them that was too long.

    I was surprised this limitation would still exist in the newest version of Powerpoint 🙁

  13. Thomas Tallyce says:

    Why is it being called "Beta 2 Technical Refresh". What’s wrong with "Beta 3"?

    I thought the IE team’s crazy beta numbering was bad …

  14. Stooovie says:

    Styles 6 and 7 are really beautiful in their subtlety. Good work!

  15. Nick says:

    While I’m looking forward to seeing the final release of Office 2007, I wonder about some of these styles and images. I’m not as vehemently against HTML email as others, but I do find it annoying when useless images are attached to an email.

    The other thing that comes to mind is something akin to the Resume Wizard in current versions of Office. When you have millions of people using a product, pretty soon the bundled templates, styles, images, and color schemes get old and annoying. While the images you posted really are great, and might make a nice desktop background, I think they will soon be over-used and quickly come to be seen as old and cliched.

    I look forward to new functionality in Office and Vista, and don’t care so much about the pretty pictures. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say this, so don’t forget about us pragmatic types 🙂

  16. Saurabh says:

    Wow… i guess i should start educating the customer about office 2007 now… and do we have any way one can order a free trial cd ..if yes then we can provide tht link to all the customers we get to speak with and that is the way they can try it…


    Microsoft Customer Central

  17. Adam says:

    Thomas : You forgot to mention Vista’s crazy beta numbering which has called "Beta 3" "RC1".

    Maybe they just have something against "Beta 3"?

    (Maybe there’s a jinx on "Beta 3"s like MS has with "version 4"s and they’re trying to avoid it. DOS 4 sucked. To ward off the evil spirits, they not only skipped version 4, but also 3 and 5 for Word which went from v2 to v6. NT4 took advantage of this banked karma and broke the jinx temporarily by being good on release, but fell into the trap again with NT4 Service Pack 4 – I guess that was really tempting fate.)

  18. I have found the new graphic features in PowerPoint to be a tremndous help for saving time while creating visually attractive slides that used to mean lots of time spent using photoshop.

    Thanks for the great work

  19. Bryan says:

    Heh. Style #3 looks like one of those Despair, Inc. posters (

    Title: Journeys

    Caption: Sometimes "take a long walk off a short pier" is meant literally.

  20. Ute Simon says:

    I like those new picture looks! Carefully used, they will improve many presentations.

    There’s one problem in current Office versions: If you use a big photo as a fill for an AutoShape, it will not be compressed by the built-in compression tool. Can pictures using these new styles be compressed? There are too many people in my office using poster-size photos in PowerPoint slides in cases they only need stamp-size, thus having file size explode.


  21. follow-up on Johan’s comment about Office Clip-art being used as logos in Norway: <a href="">Here‘s another one</a>.

  22. Ed W says:

    Any news on whether we’re going to be able to add to our Galleries?  I now commonly use a centred shadow, rather than bottom-right shadow, in order to bring images out of a document: in particular, with images that were diagrams that I cut and moved using windows-S via OneNote.  The result is fantastic, and I’ve used it recently in my MSc Thesis (yes … I dared to write my Thesis on Beta Software – and both enjoyed the risk and benefited from the capabilities).

  23. Matt says:

    You can learn so much from this blog, before even using Office 2007.

    One note: Access 2007 is VERY different.  I definitely didn’t expect such a dramatic–overhaul.  Was this something that was requested by Access newbies, or Access gurus?

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