OfficeArt Unleashed

You’ve been reading about our goal to make great looking documents easier in Office 2008, and this includes the document graphics you use to express ideas and emotions. The Art of Office is a reminder that picture formatting and drawing tools are well-established in the Office suite, but Office 2008 takes this to a new level. First, let’s take a look back.

A long, long time ago (before Office 97-98), Word, Excel, and PowerPoint each had their own individual drawing engines for creating graphics. Actually, if you go too far back you end up with just PowerPoint’s drawing engine, which was richer in many ways than what Word and Excel first derived, and ultimately became the model for the shared drawing engine in Office 97-98, code-named “Escher”.

Escher brought a detailed array of shapes, lines, WordArt, and formatting choices to the Office suite. It was powerful if you could master it, but it was also relentlessly easy to create boring presentations and diagrams. Default objects tended to be bland, and it could take several minutes of formatting objects to awaken the inner beauty of Escher. For Mac Office, our recent releases have made strides toward better document graphics with soft shadows and improved transparency, but the opportunity still remained for dramatic improvement: smarter defaults, richer formatting options, and a more powerful rendering engine.

Microsoft Office 2008 for the Mac, like its sibling Microsoft Office 2007 on Windows, introduces the new OfficeArt engine, called “Escher 2.0” internally. OfficeArt is a complete refresh of the Office drawing engine with the goal of making it easier and quicker to create modern, vibrant document graphics across Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It was important to use the same underlying engine as Office 2007 to provide compatibility for document objects and formatting options, though under the hood we employ Quartz and other Mac OS X technologies for rendering and some enhanced features.

Quick Styles and Effects

The “Quick Styles and Effects” panel in the Formatting Palette provides a hub of one-click formatting presets to style the OfficeArt graphics in your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Here you'll find one-stop shopping for soft shadows, glows, reflections, 3-D effects, and text transformations. Choose a Quick Style that applies a designer set of formatting choices together. Above, in a single click on a picture Quick Style, I have applied a white border, shadow, and 3-D rotation to a photo of my son for a nifty layout on a cover page.

Format Dialog

You can tweak additional detail in the Format dialog, with your changes updating graphics in the document as you make them, without leaving the dialog. 3-D rotation and formatting has been updated to provide true 3-D renderings, with optional bevels and contours. Text on OfficeArt objects has its own Format dialog with the same kind of power - add a gradient fill, reflection, or shadow to the text directly.

The OfficeArt formatting that you can put on shapes is also available for pictures, charts, and SmartArt. Your graphics can also adopt the document theme you’re working with, including fonts and color scheme, providing a unified look and feel. You’ll learn more about SmartArt and themes in Office 2008 in this blog as we continue the Sneak Peek.

With a few clicks, you'll add polished graphics to your document, or explore a little more and unleash your inner artist. OfficeArt is an amazing toolbox for communicating your ideas, and it’s a pretty good sandbox for playing with your ideas, too.

Comments (15)

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  1. Gareth says:

    Wow, this is so great that I’ll have to email all my friends at grad school and tell them about it… No wait, no Exchange support in the version that I can afford to buy so no emailing for me.

  2. Alan says:

    I’ve always found Word to be a surprisingly capable drawing tool…and I’ve always enjoyed people’s reactions: "You created that in Word?!?"  So I’m glad to hear about Escher 2.0.  Let’s see more of that promising Format Shape dialog box!

  3. Nice to see the feature parity being brought in, I have been playing these features in Office 2007 and they are just great. I want to see how PowerPoint 2008 in particular stacks up against Keynote in the effects department. But I love the new rich, lush graphics in PowerPoint 2007.

  4. JH says:

    Yeah but will you now be able to export office vector art to illustrator? At the moment it doesn’t seem to be possible. Is this to prevent piracy? I mean c’mon ; Microsoft has billions in the bank but is worried about people stealing clip art???

  5. MSD says:

    Looks good – question from my end is that will these effects be maintained when viewing in PowerPoint 2003 and 2007?

    As for Gareth, isn’t the pricing rather similar to the Windows release of Office regarding the bundling of Outlook?

  6. CW says:

    Okay, does anyone else think this looks like a blatant copy of iWork, right down to the "redesigned" formatting palette? Office is a great tool for general compatibility, but MS really has very little imagination.

  7. sw says:

    Copy of iWork… LOL, it is you who has no imagination. This is a product that sits with Office 2007… a product infinitely more important than itoy.

  8. Ishan Bhattacharya says:

    You have some nice high resolution pictures here which complement the text well. Why is the material on the Sneak Peek webpage so blurry. I know it’s not my monitor or OS-it looks the same in Vista. Please include some static screenshots (perhaps a Web gallery) so we can really get a better idea of what we will get in January ’08. Thanks.

    Ishan Bhattacharya, MD

  9. Freelancelot says:

    Just my 2¢ from a graphic designer’s point of view….

    I would like to see vector artwork retained in Mac Office documents (Especially Word). At present, vector pdf’s or Ai (Adobe Illustrator) files placed in Word for example are rasterized. Very surprising that this is still they way it handles vectors in 2007. I get lots of requests by customers when I do their letterhead designs in Illustrator for commercial printing, to create a Word version as well. It would be great to have Word respect the vectors and produce a much better quality document. Also, it would be cool if the vectors can be retained when saving to older Word versions from the latest version.

    As far as iWork goes, the graphics capabilities are awesome. Any files I place in those files look perfect. "iToy"? Are you kidding me? Although iWork lacks a few features for hardcore Office users, it’s still a very powerful tool and labeling it as a toy is pure ignorance. I’ve used both (MS Office and iWork ’08) and can see that each has strengths and weaknesses that the other doesn’t. Even Illustrator CS3 lacks things I would like to see, but it’s a great professional tool…

  10. Faramond says:

    I hope Mac Word won’t get the same partial upgrade that Winword 2007 has: the new drawing engine for charts and SmartArt but the old one for all user-created drawings and WordArt. It is totally inconsistent. *Please* try to update everything to Escher 2.0!

  11. Mike says:

    All of this looks really good and appears a leap forward in UI, but the most important thing is 100% compatibility with WinOffice 2007.  Too many prior versions of MacOffice have looked great on my Mac, only to look horrible on a Win machine — PowerPoint was especially bad at this.  I’m all for Quartz tools, but the resulting graphics must look the same on both platforms.

  12. Mac Mojo says:

    I use Office every day to communicate – email, documents, presentations, spreadsheets. I like to use

  13. Mac Mojo says:

    I use Office every day to communicate – email, documents, presentations, spreadsheets. I like to use

  14. Mac Mojo says:

    There is a new tool in town… the Object Palette. This new tool lives in the Toolbox and allows you to

  15. Mac Mojo says:

    There is a new tool in town… the Object Palette. This new tool lives in the Toolbox and allows you to

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