evolution at work


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines evolution as ‘a process of change in a certain direction’. Software evolves, too. You can see some of the evolution of software when you compare one release of software to the next. The software that you see in the wild is the product of a series of evolutionary steps that are usually only seen in the lab. Let’s pull back the curtain and explore some of those evolutionary steps in the lab.

One of our ‘certain directions’ for Office 2008 was to make it easier for our users to make great-looking documents. There are two facets of this decision: better tools for doing so, and easier access to the existing tools and the new tools. You’ll see a lot of posts here in Mac Mojo that talk about the better tools. I want to talk about easier access to them. One of our major changes for Office 2008 is that we have made some significant user interface changes to meet the goal of easier access.

Those of you who are in mixed environments probably know that the Windows Office team has done a complete overhall of their user interface in Office 2007 for Windows. We have a great relationship with the Windows Office team. In Office 2008, as with all of our other releases, we closely followed their work so that we could leverage the appropriate pieces of it for our Mac users. One of their major goals for Office 12 was a laudable one: they wanted to improve the discoverability of features so that you could find the features that were already in there. A feature can be the coolest feature in the world, but its usefulness is degraded if no-one can find it. To solve this problem, they threw out everything in their existing UI and started from scratch. But even revolution has an evolutionary aspect to it, at least in software development. As they were doing early usability testing on what eventually evolved into the Ribbon, one of the most compelling results was that their users liked seeing graphical representations of actions because it helped them visualise what they were about to do.

We looked at their solution, and we were very interested in the user feedback about the graphical representation of actions. However, we decided that we couldn’t simply throw out our interface right now. Our UI has evolved down a different path than that of the Windows Office UI, even before the Ribbon came about. One major difference is our Formatting Palette. For many users, it is both well-liked and well-understood. Losing that would have a huge impact to users who are already comfortable and productive with it.

Aside from the Formatting Palette, we had another reason that we couldn’t throw out our interface wholesale. Mac users have strong expectations about their user interface. We’re often told by our users that they definitely want us to look Mac-like. The Mac UI one of the strengths of the platform: once you learn how to do something in one application, you can be reasonably assured that this lesson will apply to other applications too. Mac users expect a menu bar at the top of their screen with an Apple menu, an app menu, then File and all the rest of them, finishing up with the Help menu. We could have just left the Apple and app menu in place, and ignored the rest of it. Not only is this a waste of screen real estate, it breaks the user’s mental model. But the Ribbon does some great things, and we want to capitalise on their innovation while still ensuring that we keep a Mac-like experience.

We decided to evolve our UI for Office 2008, while keeping in mind the revolution found in the Ribbon. We came up with what we now call the Elements Gallery. It and the toolbars are embedded into the application window. The decision to not try to replicate the Ribbon made some other decisions quickly fall into place for us. One major decision that came about almost immediately was that, unlike the Ribbon in Windows Office, we would not try to put every feature into our Elements Gallery.

In our first design, we only included some of Word’s Document Parts (headers, footers, cover letters, bibliographies, etc). Early usability testing showed that users really liked the idea, and asked whether it would be in the other applications as well. In response to this feedback, our design evolved into something which would be more broadly applicable across our suite. Since we didn’t put all of our functionality in the Elements Gallery, users requested that we have a minimised mode so that they could hide it when they weren’t using it. Our design evolved again.

Throughout the evolution of our design, usability tests were essential to the changes. Last September, there was an interview in APC Magazine that happened in the middle of one of those usability tests. In that interview, APC quoted one of our product managers, who said:

We had what we thought was going to be this perfect UI solution, and the first time we put it in the labs, no-one understood it! It was so different they were completely confused! We just finished up another round of usability testing on the new UI yesterday, and the program manager said the difference is like night and day.

That’s software evolution at work. In the previous test that she was talking about, we had missed the mark. In that usability test, none of our usability test participants could complete all of the tasks successfully. In my analysis of those results, I thought that we could fix all of the problems pretty easily. We quickly made some minor tweaks to our UI. My team went back into the usability lab, and presto! it worked! As that product manager said, the difference was like night and day, and all because our design evolved a little bit. We were pleased to find that our basic idea was solid, we just needed to make a few small changes to improve it.

I’ve talked a lot about the Elements Gallery, but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So let me show you an example of the Elements Gallery at work. I’m putting the final touches on a presentation in PowerPoint right now. Here’s the Elements Gallery showing me slide transitions:



PowerPoint 2008 Elements Gallery - slide transitions

Right now, we’re putting the finishing touches on the Elements Gallery, as well as the rest of Office 2008. It’s almost time to let our software out into the wild. You can see the Elements Gallery and other new Office 2008 features in action on our Office 2008 sneak peek website.

(Edited to fix the picture. Sorry, I linked to the wrong version of it! This is the 600-pixel wide version. Click on the picture to see the full 1000-pixel version. I didn’t want to include the really wide one here so that I wouldn’t make you scroll left-to-right in your web browser window.)

Comments (92)

  1. Where can you learn more about Office 2008?

  2. brian says:

    way to start your post with "the dictionary defines ____ as ____". even high school teachers discourage that one.

  3. Carroll Wills says:

    Took a look at the new site and Elements Gallery. Very nicely done, IMHO. Our office has switched to Office 2007 and while I think their idea was good, their execution wasn’t — the Office ’07 UI gives me a headache — too many choices.

    Based on the sneak peek, it looks like the Office 2008 interface does exactly what you say it does — takes their idea and makes it useable. Unlike Office 2007 (and, in certain cases, Pages), this will be useful out of the box for me and my kids. And I appreciate keeping the Formatting Palette — one of my favorite features of Office 2004.

    I am impressed. If you’d just stop beating around the bush on Exchange compatibility/support for Entourage and give everyone the reassurance they’re looking for on that score, I think you’d find that most of the jeers will turn into cheers.

  4. none says:

    Seriously, does anybody really care about anything but Exchange support?

  5. Brian says:

    Hi guys. Long time Mac Office user and I am wondering why all the pics of the interface that have been posted have been such low quality. Even the shot in this post is impossible to see. And the movies on the new site (which looks really cool) are fuzzy and scaled down. Jensen was posting some really great, clear picks of the Ribbon long before Office 2007 shipped.

    Are you going to post pictures that give us a clear view of what the new UI looks like??

  6. R. Mansfield says:

    I agree that the pictures are too hard to see–both the one in this post and the ones on the Mac Office 2008 site. It’s as if you’re allowing us to have a peek, but at the same time telling us, “Don’t look too closely.” Honestly, I can’t read any of the text in the menus and all the images are extremely low quality.

    And contrary to a previous commenter, I am interested in much more than Exchange (in fact, I don’t care about Exchange capability other than knowing it will make Mac Office, and thereby Macs more accepted on Windows networks).

  7. nadyne says:

    Sorry, I linked to the wrong version of my screenshot!  I’ve fixed it screenshot now.  You can also click on the screenshot to see the full original one.  The full original one is 1000 pixels wide, so I didn’t want to include it in my post for those people who don’t have their browser window set that wide.

  8. Brian says:

    Thanks Nadyne. That is much better. Post more screenshots!! 🙂

  9. John Baxter says:

    Well, I don’t care at all about Exchange support, since there isn’t an Exchange server anywhere around.

    But I do understand that others do care.

  10. CK says:

    To the person commenting caring only about Exchange support:

    I use office daily, and having it be more usable and mac-like is fantastic. I agree that the cross-platform and exchange-server interaction should matchup with the windows side; however, there’s no reason to do the same tasks in a much slicker and intuitive way.

    Nadyne, when you asked about OneNote a while ago, were you guys implying it may make its way into Office 08?

    -C

  11. Kevin Pilasky says:

    It’s actually looking better than Office 2004 does! Congrats.

    Keep in mind that you should use native elements for the interface. Leopard already ships when Office 2008 comes out, so it’ll better look nice in that setting (darker theme, different buttons > no aqua etc).

  12. No one of consequence says:

    Who’s this impostor saying it would be wrong to throw out a UI that’s well-known and well-understood, and replace it with something completely different and totally incompatible?

    You can’t be a *real* Microsoft employee.

  13. Randy Rowles says:

    Its great to see the new site up and running, but from a support standpoint we need to get our hands on the product. I was told of a beta program several months ago – where is it?

  14. paul says:

    I just want it to work. And I’d like to see Entourage improve as an Exchange client, no more caching of files. Also, no more "temporary" or "work" files while Word documents are open, those invisible files are just building up on our servers.

  15. Dale says:

    Without full exchange support Office 2008 is a waste of time. We don’t care about the ribbon, we don’t care about art in Office (that is what real design programs are for). We care about being able to read email, respond to invitations, have our cal. sync in the same way they would on a Windows client with no compromises.

    Everything else is window dressing.

  16. David C. says:

    Thank you for the narrow images.  I’m reading this on an iBook, where the screen is 1024×768.  A 1000-pixel-wide image, indented to fit this blog’s template would definitely not have been appreciated.

    WRT the main thrust of your article, I am very curious to see what Office 2008 will look like.  I have not been very impressed with Vista’s UI – most of the non-trivial stuff I learned from Windows 3.0 through XP is now useless, creating a huge learning curve.  I’m hoping the Mac BU has more common sense than to do that to Microsoft’s Mac users.

  17. Jake says:

    > Seriously, does anybody really care about anything but Exchange support?

    Yes.  Anyone exchanging files with PC users cares about Word and Excel.  And those of us who get forwarded e-mail attachments of Outlook mails and can’t open them because the file format is different than Entourage care about things beyond Exchange support in Entourage.

    I’ve been a vocal critic here on the forum about this development process, but now that info is being released, maybe we can just evaluate each new nugget of info as a standalone issue without turning each blog entry into a swipe about Exchange.

    Personally, I appreciate knowing the thought process behind the UI that has been posted here.

  18. eff says:

    Letseehere … a tab bar where the tab, along with its respective content pane, changes color once it’s been clicked – so far, so good.

    Visually and from a POV of interaction, it’s got nothing whatsoever in common with the toolbar above the tabs, but we’ll let that one rest for now. 🙂

    Back to the tabs – so I click a tab, it (tab) and the respective content pane change color and I’m presented with the interactive elements therein … which is yet another tab bar, albeit "in a pill shape" (*). When I click one of them pills however – or that’s what it looks like from the screenshot – the design convention you just established (= "change button/background color when clicked") is being abandoned and I mererly see a different set of clickable elements (= buttons with "transition" icons) with each pill I click?

    I really, really don’t mean to sound inappropriate, but … an entire team, including ui-design- and usability specialists work on an interface for months and this is what they come up with?

    Wow, just wow.

    Again, I honestly mean to come across as overly rude but I most certainly am flabbergasted, almost beyond words.

    (* – Btw, did you guys notice that this tiny screenshot alone already shows at least six different varieties of buttons? <insertexplodingheadsmileyhere>)

  19. josh zana says:

    http://www.macoffice2008.com/ doesn’t work in firefox 2 on windows.  The flash content just never shows anything and stays black.

  20. Mark says:

    Earlier reports suggested that Mac Office would no longer support Visual Basic.  I’m concerned because my understanding is that EndNote uses VBA to accomplish its tasks within Word.

    In short, is this version of Office still compatible with EndNote, and if not, will you present a workaround or perhaps a time table until a newer version of EndNote will become compatible?

    Thanks,

    Mark

  21. As the person who lead the Product Planning efforts for the version of Mac Office that is currently on the market (Office 2004), I’m very excited to see the MacBU’s progress on the next release. The Elements Gallery highlighted in

  22. John Monarch says:

    How about OneNote?

  23. Scott Rose says:

    Hey, here’s an idea. Instead of giving us worthless new features like MyDay, why don’t you guys actually work on actually putting Microsoft Entourage on par with Microsoft Outlook in terms of features, interface, and integration… or fixing the over 200 bugs that we have reported over the last 8 years in Microsoft Word & Entourage that are still not fixed to this day? You guys are a disgrace.

  24. Graham says:

    It’s heartening to see all the care going in to this. I’ve seen enough to know that the Mac people at Microsoft are dedicated and really want to do the best thing. Microsoft’s interfaces are never as good as Adobe’s, but still, they’ve come along, and the designers do understand the culture they’re designing for.

    But there’s no question of my business upgrading to Office 2008 without visual Basic support; the decision made in previous releases of Word to allow that code to rot, and to use an unmaintainably difficult implementation, and to be so variant from the Windows code it supposedly shadowed, looks to me like the classic example of the decision which – trivial at the time it was made – signs the long-term death warrant of the software. I don’t much care about the interface, though I like seeing quality work done, and I’m sure it will be. What’s really important is the fundamentals. Better scriptability, not worse. Backward compatibility, not abandonment. Better Unicode support, better regular expression support in find and replace, more reliable breaking of footnotes across pages, faster everything, etc., not better icons.

    I would honestly prefer a re-release of Word 2004 with nothing changed except bug-fixing to the actual release which is coming, simply because I worry that so much power is being lost. But I entirely understand that there’s little the Mac Word team can do about this, and that they certainly would fix things up if it were in their power to do so.

  25. Sebastian Lewis says:

    So how will Entourage look?  Will it have any new features beyond better Exchange support and My Day?  Will I be able to buy it without buying the rest of Office?

    I’m curious because Mail in Tiger is a bit um.. buggy to say the least, completely unusable for keyboard navigation, and I can’t take advantage of my Widescreen monitor because there is no Column View!  At this point I’m ready to give up on a decent Mail client because I refuse to touch the crap Mozilla pushed out or uses crap that Mozilla pushed out after my problems with Thunderbird before I bought a Macbook so that rules out at least 2 recent Mail apps (Project Penelope/Eudora Beta and one that uses Gecko wrapped in Cocoa like Camino) who’s UIs don’t look all that great and Mailsmith is just out because of the lack of IMAP.

    Oh and since I’m not an Office 2004 user, does the built in Address Book and Calendar integrate with Address Book.app and iCal.app?

    Sebastian

  26. pathetic reject says:

    (Scene…a conference room in Redmond)

    Project Manager: Okay, so lets throw out some ideas for the next Entourage release.

    Developer 1: How about a Dashboard widget that shows you your calendar and tasks and such?

    PM: Good…good…but think more Microsoft, less Apple.

    Developer 2: Well, we could port the Windows Vista Gadget engine to the Mac, and create an Entourage Gadget for it….

    PM: I like it! It’s non-standard, AND it’ll suck up more system resources that way!

    D 1: Yeah, but then we’d be introducing more cross-platform compatibility. You’d be able to run the same gadgets on the Mac as on Vista!

    D 2. Good point. We only now got around to breaking VBA compatibility. We have to keep things as incompatible as possible.

    D 1. Okay then. How about we do a floating widget-thing, but have it run as its own app…It’s still non-standard, and it still sucks up additional resources!

    PM: Excellent! That’s The Microsoft Way! Now lets get to work, team!

  27. "I have not been very impressed with Vista’s UI – most of the non-trivial stuff I learned from Windows 3.0 through XP is now useless, creating a huge learning curve.  I’m hoping the Mac BU has more common sense than to do that to Microsoft’s Mac users."

    What you just said David C. does not make any sense all. If you used Win3x through XP you transitioned comfortably through three UI changes on the Windows platform. Windows 95’s Explorer was a drastic departure from Win3x Program Manager. XP introduced a more friendly UI with a 2 Pane Start Menu. XP to Vista has no learning curve. The changes are in fact more user friendly and makes using Vista a snap. Integrated meta search in the start menu. Simplified hierarchical All Programs makes access to files and programs a finger tip away.

    For someone who has been using Windows since 3.0, thats before me, you should be so computer/Windows savvy that learning some changes in a much easier version a breeze. Don’t bash a product if you have never used it. Steve Jobs rebuked people like you at Macworld 97. If you like the Mac because of AQUA, its look and approach to doing things, say so, but don’t bash Microsoft because its Windows and its not this and its not that.

    As for the person talking about too much Exchange Support request. If you worked in a heterogeneous environment consisting of Windows and Mac OS X running Outlook/Entourage, you would take back that comment. I think if the product calls itself Microsoft Office, it should work just like Microsoft Office in every way, compatibility, ease of use and feature parity. Thats why we want top notch support for Entourage 2008 with Exchange Server.

    Anyway, I am looking forward to Office 2008. Will there be a similar feature to Office Fluents Contextual Tools that appears when you add features to a document such as a Table, Shape or Picture? What about the Mini-Toolbar in Office 2007 apps, will that be a feature in Office 2008 apps?

    Thanks

  28. RussT says:

    I work in a mixed environment (XP/OSX), and to me the most important thing is 100% compatibility and feature parity between Windows Office 2007 and Mac Office 2008. Honestly, I’d love to have the identical program available on both platforms with absolutely no difference between the two. Kinda like how Firefox is. As it stands now, I have to learn both Suites because they work and look so differently from each other. Who cares about making Office 2008 "Mac like" to me, that just means harder and more to learn.

  29. eff says:

    *grin* I figured my previous comment would be "moderated" into dev/null   🙂

    Just to illustrate the point I was trying to make with said earlier comment, I have taken the liberty to highlight 3 of the problem areas visible in the screenshot you posted.

    1. "Too many layers"; Beveled interfaces get convoluted fast – add one too many layers of 3D elements and your formerly fabulous interface suddenly looks way too busy. Always helpful to imagine: "What would my work look like if it were a physical/three-dimensional product"; see "http://www.efflog.org/_images/powerpoint-08_ui01.jpg&quot;

    2. "Too many different kinds of interactive elements"; there’s almost a dozen varieties of "clickable" elements in the screenshots you posted – all of them with a different visual appearance and very little hierarchical information; see "http://www.efflog.org/_images/powerpoint-08_ui02.jpg&quot;

    3. "Too many different colors"; The number of colors used in the screenshot is sure to contribute considerably to a users’ confusion – very little informational hierarchy, as in "what’s active/clickable", etc.; see "http://www.efflog.org/_images/powerpoint-08_ui03.jpg&quot;

    And the points above don’t even take into consideration addtl. problem areas such as "layout/information zones" ("What is where, and why?") and text usage (primarily in regards to font sizes/colors)

    Just putting "my money where my keyboard was/is". And yes, no need to publish this comment, either   🙂

    Cheers,

    eff

  30. Charles says:

    First, let me say keep up the good work.  

    Is there any reason NOT to move your element gallery to the right or left side of the document window, and have it be a vertical rather than horizontal space?

    When I saw the ribbon in Office ’07 I was very disappointed it didn’t more resemble Office ’04 with format palettes.  With today’s wide-screen monitors, there is much more "extra" real-estate to the right and left of the document than above or below it.  This makes the above and below real-estate even more valuable for the document.  The format palettes made good use of the extra space to the right, and the ribbon takes away valuable space from above the document.  So far your element gallery also takes way valuable space from above the document (even if it is collapsable).

  31. Daniel says:

    The new ui uses so much vertical real estate. Virtually all of us have wide screens–why not give an option to put the menus on the side? Instead, you can only see a few lines of text, and a lot of gray screen on the side…

  32. srohde says:

    The office2008 "file save" toolbar icon is so outdated.  It still looks like a ZIP disk.  If you’ve used or even just seen a ZIP disk in the past three years, please raise your hand!

  33. nerradv says:

    Can anyone else get the movies to play on the sneak peek site? I can understand if the site is getting hammered but seriously…doesn’t reflect very well for a mac developer….

  34. Schwieb says:

    Daniel, the new UI is in a collapsed state by default, so it really doesn’t take up very much vertical space at all.  (20 vertical pixels or so in collapsed mode, I’d guess.)

  35. T Molnar says:

    I finally switched over to Melle the Redlex company word processor.

    It handles, .doc, rtf, txt etc…

    I am EXTREMELY happy with this word processor.

    I do long documents, academic work no need for VB script etc. or entourage

    Bookends is the reference software that can be used with  Melle.

    So long Word and Endnote….I won’t miss you!

    Melle is wonderfully fast and efficient

  36. peruchito says:

    YOU SIRs ARE TOO LATE.

    iWork rocked. i don’t plan to ever buy office 08. just quit. all previous office releases ran like garbage anyways. my expectations were slim even before iWork.

    FYI, PC version of office is crap too. but at least you guys are better than that. congrats

  37. nadyne says:

    pathetic reject – (It’s hard to type that!  I feel like I’m insulting you!)  The Entourage team is in Mountain View, California, not Redmond.  So you’ve at least got the location wrong there. 😉  But Andy told me that he’s planning to write a post about My Day, so you can learn more about our design decisions there.  For now, suffice it to say that we did consider having it be a widget, but we had a lot of feedback that having it accessible on the desktop is very important.

  38. we are pulled in many directions at once

  39. peruchito, you are free to have your opinions of course, but base them on relevant truth and facts. iWork is great for users writing letters, 10 page docs, creating basic spreadsheets. But even Apple admits iWork ’08 is not a replacement for Microsoft Office on the Mac. Especially if you are doing heavy sharing and exchange with Word docs and Excel sheets with complex formatting. I admit, Keynote is an amazing product and rivals PowerPoint on the Mac and PC, the effects in it just leave you glued to the projector or screen. The past reviews of the latest versions of iWork I have read; especially one on eWeek was not so over recommending throwing out MS Office. We need to get out of the cult mentality when it comes the Mac. I like constructive criticism, bashing products is so 1996. I love Vista, I use it everyday. I also like OS X, I think its a great modern operating system with a visually interesting UI. We need to under Apple and Microsoft have both been in the OS business more than 20 years now, they must have great products by now. This superiority platform complex is too immature. I like software, I like great software, the look and feel, the variety and flavors, PC and Mac. Lets try to appreciate and accept that.

  40. Office for Mac says:

    Thanks to those reporting issues with the Office 2008 Sneak Peek site. The site is seeing high levels of visitors resulting in intermittent performance issues. We’re working to address this as quickly as possible. Thank you!

  41. Ben says:

    http://www.macoffice2008.com/ is trying to load http://localhost/crossdomain.xml (which errors, at least on Safari 3.0.3)

    …um, is this supposed to be http://www.macoffice2008.com/crossdomain.xml ? (valid XML concerning the "cross-domain-policy", which probably sounds more important than it is)

    Also, ew flash.

  42. Impatient says:

    Please finish Office for Mac 2008 soon!  I can’t wait.

  43. CDC says:

    Where is the evolution of MSN Messenger?  WE NEED MSN MESSENGER FEATURES!

  44. Kevin Soderburg says:

    What about the Mini-Toolbar in Word 2007?

    PLEASE include the mini-toolbar so its at least a little similar to Office 2007 for Windows.

  45. Posted my thoughts, and a link back to here — thanks Nadyne.

  46. Ralph says:

    When designing the elements gallery , you obviously neither thought about Apple’s HIG nor about the fact that most mac users have widescreen displays these days…

    Have you ever looked at OmniGraffle? Your “elements gallery” (as shown on the demo website) WOULD BE a great example for a floating palette that lets you drag the objects from it directly into the document. Now THAT would be mac-like… and there’s no need to break the HIG for this. Come on, make that “ribbon-esque” thing at least an option to have it in a floating palette and get out of my document workspace. That way, it could stay visible without getting in the way. At least make it an option, pretty please!!!

    And btw: while you’re at it, please tell your localizers to fix the German application menu – it’s not “Beenden <Application name>” but vice versa. Thanks for listening.

  47. Bob says:

    This looks like a really great product. Damn the detractors. There must have been a huge amount of work gone in here. This is an essential suite for me and I can’t wait to use this.

    When are you ever going to show us Entourage. The today widget looks neat but I would really appreciate seeing the new Entourage interface and features. My work and social starts and ends in that product and it’s the one that everybody is waiting for…

    Keep up the great work guys!

  48. Developer SDK for Mac Office 2008 says:

    What’s about developer SDK for Mac Office 2008? For example, spelling (grammar) in Word or creation of plug-ins for Entourage.

  49. Steffen Hellendrier says:

    Talking about "Mac users expect a menu bar…": Past Office-Versions had their toolbars directly under the menu bar and not in the document window. Is it possible to have Office 2004 style toolbars in Office 2008?

    The thing with new toolbar is that it takes so much screen estate if you have to work with multiple documents. Plus you can’t scale a window narrower than the toolbar without loosing direct access to certain icons. Take for example Photoshop where you can have multiple small document windows, but you are still able to access every function on the toolbar.

    iWork and Acrobat have the new toolbar style. And after working with them for months now, I have to say: Their toolbars are not good at all.

    I would be happy, if MacOffice 2008 had the option to use old-style toolbars.

  50. James Kenwood says:

    Glad to hear you are working on the performance issues of the Sneak Peek site, but can you also post some larger versions of the Flash movies?  It’s almost worthless at the moment as you can not see in detail what is happening.

    Also just reiterating previous comments, please please just tells us what Exchange support the new Office will provide. New widgets (or Gadgets 😉 ) are all well and good but right now we just want to know will it work with Exchange!

  51. Sebastian Lewis said about Apple Mail: "I can’t take advantage of my Widescreen monitor because there is no Column View!".

    Actually that’s not true; there is a plugin to add that: http://harnly.net/software/letterbox/

    I switched from Entourage to Mail some time ago mainly because Mail is a couple of orders of magnitude faster, has much, much better searching, better HTML rendering, uses less memory, integrates with iCal and address book, uses non-proprietary storage (SQLite) and more.

    I wish Microsoft well for the new version of Mac Office – better software is always welcome, no matter who it’s from.

  52. Andy says:

    srohde said "The office2008 "file save" toolbar icon is so outdated.  It still looks like a ZIP disk."

    Funny, looks like a 3.5" Floppy disk to me. It’s an ICON!

  53. Fred West says:

    A floppy disk icon to represent saving?  In 2008?  A floppy?

    You will need to explain to some of your younger users what a floppy disk was.  It’s been 10 years now since the Mac last had a floppy.

  54. Andy K says:

    “Seriously, does anybody really care about anything but Exchange support?”

    Yes, many of us care about other features, but Exchange support tends to either be the most important or at least the most indicative of the issue at large: true cross-compatibility between the Windows and Mac versions.

    Apart from the applications totally lacking (Visio, Project, and Access which is my personal peeve), it’s the Entourage/Outlook differences that seem to be the main sticking point.

    I’m an Open/NeoOffice user, but I find that Word & Excel 2004 kick support for the MS-native formats out of the water. DOCX compatibility would be rather nice, but at least it’s pretty much compatible with the Office 2003 versions.

    But Entourage 2004 is not on a par with Outlook 2003. So requests for full Exchange support in Office 2008 are (in my case, anyway) basically a plea for that one  Mac Office component to be compatible with the *former* Windows equivalent.

    Plus the “My Day” thing doesn’t seem too bad to me. It seems like an improved equivalent of the Today Screen, one thing I have found lacking in Entourage 2004.

  55. hohenja says:

    I can imagine that working for Microsoft in a development team that supports the competing OS platform is more difficult than just working for Microsoft in Office/Windows/Servers teams.  I know you may never say it’s true, but I suspect the powers that be keep your group from developing a 100% ass-kicking version of Entourage that blows Outlook out of the water.  

    They don’t want the competition, it will distract potential purchasers of Vista and Office 2007 when they see they have real options to consider an OS other than Vista.  If suddenly Office 2008 grew wings and soared ENTIRELY on-par with Office 2007, the MacBU would suddenly become a target.

    Why won’t the MacBU just post a high-level features list of Entourage on the Mojo blog?  Is it because not much has changed, or you don’t want to spoil the surprise of an Mac-feel based Outlook equivalent tool?

    James Hohenthaner

  56. ZuDfunck says:

    As a Mac switcher in 2005 I don’t think I could of made such a platform change without Mac 2004 for mac.

    I really needed the utility I knew and loved in making the transition to the Mac.

    Thanks for that and I hope Mac 2008 will make my life that much easier, to have the best Office Apps and the Best computer ever made!

    Thanks dudes!

  57. Linux Fanboy says:

    Why pay for Microsoft Office when you can get the same thing with a better support community for FREE.  Check out http://www.neooffice.org/ for NeoOffice (OpenOffice for Mac) a free office suite that does everything Microsoft’s version will do and more.  It even supports the new XML format that Office 2007 uses (docx, etc).  Anyways, just thought I would let you know about alternative software out there so you can save some bucks and support companies with a more ethical business history.

    Peace!

  58. Phillip Roncoroni says:

    "Thanks to those reporting issues with the Office 2008 Sneak Peek site. The site is seeing high levels of visitors resulting in intermittent performance issues. We’re working to address this as quickly as possible. Thank you!"

    Microsoft proper can’t even give the MacBU enough resources to keep a website running properly? Pathetic.

  59. Stephen says:

    I love user-interfaces that try to rethink things. I have been very impressed with office 2007’s ribbon, and I am glad that you are looking to make dramatic changes to office 2008 as well.

    The thing I fail to understand is why interface changes requires the creation of custom widgets. Looking at the screenshot there, I noticed that the zoom widget in the toolbar was nonstandard. Sure, it may look a tad more attractive than the standard widget now, but what about in leopard when apple changes all of the widgets to be more consistent. Using non standard widgets sacrifices consistency with the operating system in exchange for a temporary and usually minor improvement in aesthetics.

    I also hope you’re using a real NSToolbar there too. I’ve dealt with making NSToolbar before and I know they’re a pain… but the end advantage of having toolbars consistent with every other app in the OS far outweighs  the few hours in programming you’d save by wrapping your own solution.

  60. SteveS says:

    I completely agree with RussT. I also use Office 2004 (Mac) at home and Office 2007 (Windows) at work.

    I had high hopes that MacBU would take the awesome work the O12 team did on the Ribbon, and “take it to 11”, but what did you do? This looks like you had $1000 to spend building the product and you found a couple of interns in India to do it.

    I am *so* disappointed, and will *not* be upgrading.

    The worst thing for me – this is really the end of an era. I’ve been using Word and Excel on the Mac since 1985. Word/Excel on the Mac used to be where MS experimented with new features without upsetting their Windows base too much, but it looks like the pendulum is firmly the other way now.

    I just got iWork 08 and it looks like that is going to be my new Office suite. If I have to learn two totally different ways to work, I’m happier when one of them only costs me $80.

  61. I have an off-topic question. Is activation or some form of OGA (like with the current Windows version) going to be in Office 2008 for Mac? Activation is the primary reason I left Windows behind and made the switch to OS X. I didn’t like the presumption that I was a would-be criminal that needed to be kept honest — go figure.

  62. Genemaster says:

    When I see M$ unable to deliver a working web site (stop the crap about high levels of visitors as an excuse to your incompetence), does anyone seriously think they care about the Mac platform and that the next version of Office will be better?

    Pathetic reject is right, their only goal is to make Office for mac as much incompatible as possible!

    Don’t even mention the docx,xlsx,pptx format crap and inability to deliver a converter in a timely manner

    Tthey are not even able to deliver a version of MSN messenger for mac with audio/video support, goal achieved again!

    TG, Office alternatives are coming…and not only on the mac!

  63. Digital Artist says:

    Let’s please get FULL Exchange compatibility with Entourage. And my multi-location company is starting to implement SharePoint. Any chance that Macs will ever get full functionality in SharePoint, or do we have to buy Dells just for that?

  64. Brian says:

    Well I think that it looks good. But please give us a PUBLIC BETA!

    It worked out so well for windows users, they had a chance to test software and adapt to the new UI.

    Please consider it, otherwise please keep up the good work. Alot of people can be really mean, but don’t let it get to you.

  65. mctoast says:

    I would like to know if the Offic: Mac team has worked with Adobe to ensure that the Adobe plug-in for Office that allows you to create PDF fiiles from word documents will be compatible with Office:Mac 2008?

  66. Sneak Peek says:

    Is there supposed to be sound on these flash movies?

  67. Adam says:

    where is messenger for mac 7

  68. Kevin says:

    The Ribbon is only a replacement for a badly designed menu bar. Mac users have been using the menu bar for years – yes, that is because most Mac application developers put thought into where the menu commands go and the titles of each menu.

    Windows menus have been a hodge-podge of commands poorly categorized and poorly ordered. Worse yet, Windows and Office had those changing menus where the most used commands would move to the top. One of the biggest advantages of menus is exploiting muscle memory and MS destroyed that. Consistent and well thought-out placement of menus beats a screen space wasting “ribbon” any day.

  69. john says:

    I highly recommend NeoOffice to those looking for a free alternative to Office or even iWork for that matter.  It will support docx formats and take care of all basic Office suite needs.

  70. Schwieb says:

    Steffen Hellendrier, you can indeed ‘unembed’ toolbars in Office 2008, if you prefer how they looked in 2004.  Just go to the "View/Customize Toolbars and Menus…" menu item, and uncheck  a checkbox in the dialog that comes up.

  71. Enterprise Mac User says:

    I am so sick of people wanting a Mac UI on Office ’08. If you want a Mac UI – get a non Microsoft office suite. One of the reasons why people switch to Macs is to get away from Microsoft. Some of these users I assume to be Mac only geeks and never ever used Windows versions of Office. I hate  Apple’s software (well not hate, but dislike) because its too simplistic or whatever. The Office 08 should’ve been ported from the Office 07 and have the same, exact interface from Windows. Putting Cooca or the NSToolbar (or permanent menubar, which is sooooo outdated) is an offense towards business or enterprise users. Its very 10 year old style of interface.

    *To the Entourage users: If you never used Outlook on Windows, you are missing out on lots of things – even without the Exchange access. Entourage looks very crappy, no overview (Outlook Today), no memo layout printout no native .PST support (if you come from the Windows Outlook), issues in syncing my Palm PDA, IMAP just sucks, no read receipts, can’t change the button layout and so on. Lots of the "professional email junkies" as quoted by a user in a previous post, want to use Outlook because they want a similar interface as their other professional people use. Also the Outlook look-and-feel also brings people to want to use it. (Like I) And if you make Entourage look like Mail, Thunderbird with the crappy NSToolbar, Cooca interface, 3 column view (which I can’t stand to bloody hell), I might still keep my Outlook on my Windows partition on my MacBook.

    Another thing that bugs me to death: I should have the right to save a template anywhere on my Mac that should create a new document rather than opening it as if I want to edit it. Windows does this with no problem and its much easier to have it where I want it not where the Office wants me to put it. OpenOffice.org can do this with no problem, this should be looked at.

    Microsoft’s Mac Division should make it much more professional, cross platform, native Exchange and a native Outlook featureset. Apple and other software companies can make their own office suite chic if they want to.

  72. Andy K says:

    One incredibly positive thing I notices on the Sneak Peek website is that, in addition to the new Ribbon-like Elements Gallery, the traditional "[appname], File, Edit, View, etc…" menu still exists at the top of the screen.

    As an Office 2007 user at work, I cannot get to grips with the Ribbon as the primary interface. For some things it works well, but I hate that I had to use a third-party add-in to restore the traditional menus and buttons.

    Thankyou MacBU for having a panel in addition to the classic interface, not instead of it. 🙂

  73. Schwieb says:

    I’ve been corrected — it seems that you cannot unembed the standard toolbar.  Sorry Steffen…

  74. Rob says:

    I’m sure business users are excited about a new version of Office.  But, as someone with more modest word processing and spreadsheet needs, I couldn’t care less about Office 2008.  After watching a few of the videos on the site, I’m almost dizzy from the number of palettes and buttons and tabs, etc.  It’s so bloated that I don’t even care to try it.  And "My Day" is *seriously* ugly.  Seriously.

    I won’t buy this version.  I ditched Office about a year ago in favor of NeoOffice.  While the NeoOffice UI needs some serious polish, it’s a very usable product.  And the price was right!  When iWork 08 was released, I picked up a copy and am 100% satisfied.  It does everything I need.  The UI is intuitive.  And for under $100, you can’t beat it.

    Sorry, Microsoft, you lost me here.

  75. sherjo says:

    Thank you to all the web traffic cops who pointed out the mass jam over on the Sneak Peek site. Yes, the early performance was pretty painful, regardless of your browser. Our apologies – the bottom line is the site was inundated with users, and even though we had dedicated servers for hosting, the site just wasn’t able to handle all of the worldwide traffic.

    We’ve spent the morning working with our host provider and they have added more servers to fix the problem; the performace is much better, and we’ll continue monitoring to make sure things stay smooth as we roll out more on the site.

    If you gave up yesterday, check it out today.

  76. Chris Grande says:

    Seems the Entourage UI has slipped out a tiny bit, you can see it open up for a spilt second at the end of the My Day video. Looks like they have thankfully cleaned it up.

  77. Steffen Hellendrier says:

    Sad thing that I can’t "free" the toolbars 🙁 It’s so much more efficent to have the bars right under the menu in full screen-width.

  78. Markus says:

    Stop using a floppy disk as save icon. Use a hard disk icon instead.

    And add ODF support.

  79. Markus says:

    I watched your Publishing View presenation the last few minutes and moving images within the text looks really, really slow.

  80. Marsnet says:

    Well, working on interface is a quite nice thing … but from a user point of view you should spend more time to allow a  REAL compatibility between Office PC and Office Mac, especially with respect to images management. I am sure you could do something about that ….

  81. Tim says:

    So where are the screenshots for Entourage?  Seems that this is the program to get the most complaints for PROPER Exchange support and yet, nothing on visuals.

  82. Eric T. says:

    Regarding Exchange support, the biggest plea from me would be integrating NOTES and TASKS.  I use a BlackBerry nearly non-stop via Exchange 2003.  With Outlook 2007, I can sync my tasks and notes, but these are not available in Entourage.

    Don’t leave my cross-platform (and BlackBerry) data types in the ether.  Please please please support TASKS and NOTES to sync with Exchange!

    Thanks!!

  83. Mac Mojo says:

    With each release of Office we are offered the opportunity to introduce feature improvements and exciting

  84. Terrin says:

    I think Mac users care the most about feature compatibility across platforms. It is nice to have Office be “Mac like”, but not at the expense of feature compatibility. For instance, losing Macros support is a deal breaker for me, and all Mac users should be highly angry over this as it keeps Macs out of enterprise.

    The MacBU would be better served to just give us Mac users the exact same thing as the Windows users have. That is not to say the MacBu hasn’t added some nice Mac features, but this should never be at the expense of maintaining compatibility.

  85. Colin says:

    Can someone tell me whether office 2008 has a similar equation editor function as office 2007?

  86. UC says:

    I hate you guys. WHY OH WHY?? Why cant Office 08 have a decent UI.

    I hate the Office 2004 Formatting Palette so much, and seeing the earlier screenshots of Office 08 I was very glad. I was hoping that Office 2004 Formatting Palette was just a one off design error.

    But now you guys bring it back. Why?? It is a waste of desktop space, coz you cant resize the Word Window Fully. It just stays there. If supposing you do resize the Word Window fully, the Formatting Palette disappears beneath.

    Then you goto View and Formatting Palette. Also it is even more inconvenient to Open each drawer and find the option you want. It takes atleast 20 Clicks and squinting to try to figure where the option I want is. Eg: Background Color.

    In Office 2007, there are 6-7Tabs and big Icons. I can actually use Office so much faster.

    SO Please give an option to choose from a Office 2007 style Ribbon and the traditional Office Palette.

    And dont give me a Bullshit answer about Mac UI and what users expect. I respect their POV’s and just want you to give an option for both interfaces.

    PS: I currently have Office 2003 Installed in Crossover and use that instead of 2004. Dont even get me started on Pages. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

  87. Alan says:

    I couldn’t agree more with UC and with Enterprise Mac User.  

    I’m quite impressed with the Office 2007 interface and was hoping we’d get a more-or-less direct port for Office 2008.  But apparently I’m one of the few people on Earth who actually likes the Ribbon.

    At least we have options these days, with Fusion and Parallels.  But I use Office apps more frequently than anything else, so it seems kind of pointless to be running them in a virtual machine.  Perhaps the Mac BU is deliberately crippling Office 2008 to drive us to Windows for good!  😉

  88. Guntis says:

    I like new UI. It’s way better than Office 2004. And I’m not sure that Office 2007 UI would look good on Mac, so I agree here with Office developers.

    It’s bad that I cannot untie toolbar form the document window – if I work with 2 or 3 documents side by side on my 24" monitor – why do I need the same buttons on top of each document, and see only a few of them, because windows are not very wide? Can you please still add option to place separate toolbar and Elements Gallery at the top of the screen (below the menu bar) and document windows could be without it?

  89. > Seriously, does anybody really care about anything but Exchange support?

    Yes. Okay, I do care a lot about Exchange support. But the deal-breaker is robust support for right-to-left Unicode, specifically Hebrew. If Office ’08 doesn’t offer this, I just won’t use it. I’ll stick with Mellel or Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheet, and Mail/iCal for e-mail and calendaring. Much about Office is appealing, but it’s insane that the $29 Mellel runs rings around Word’s currently nonexistent Unicode support.

  90. Ishan Bhattacharya says:

    I would dearly love to try out a beta using the latest Leopard release. I use Office 2004 probably 6-8 hours a day, and it runs like molasses on Leopard; its PPC origins become rather obvious. A public beta would be not only fun to try, but might help to reduce the number of bugs when released. Just my 2 cents…

  91. As I’ve discussed earlier on Mac Mojo , software evolves . My Day is no different in that respect. We

Skip to main content