Office 12 UI Video

I watched the O12 UI Video recently. Here are some thoughts on it.

First, until Scoble cures his Parkinson’s, take a Dramamine before watching. The ribbon is obviously what is new and exciting about the UI. I panned it based on the screen shot mainly because it’s so damn big. However, I think I heard that there’s a way to make it smaller in the video. And since it replaces the toolbars instead of complementing them, it probably won’t take up too much more real estate that what I have now.

One of the stated goals of the ribbon is to expose features that have been long hidden. I think that’s a worthy objective, but I’m not sure this achieves it. It will certainly expose some features, but it seems it will just obscure others. Let’s face it, this is just a different looking toolbar that’s organized differently. That doesn’t make it bad or worthless, but does it show me more options than the old system? You still have to click on the “Data” tab to see the ribbon items associated with data.

One concern that I had when they came out with recently-used-menus (menus that don’t show all the options and, only after a pause, expand to the full menu) was that obscure features would become even more obscure. If you only show me the features I use, then you can be sure that I will never learn a new feature. Now they’ve done something similar. The items are organized in a more functional manner, e.g. Sheet, Page Layout, etc.., but the Sheet tab supposedly contains the features that are used the most based on studies the UI team has done. If that’s true, then most people don’t use the Reviewing toolbar because it’s now all the way over on the right. Are they now obscuring Reviewing? Should they be? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that you can’t show everything to everyone all the time. You have to make choices and from what I’ve seen, they made pretty good ones.

The ribbon changes contextually. When the presenter created a chart, for instance, the ribbon shifted over to tools that would be useful for charting. I’m both exited and scared by context sensitive stuff. If you get it right, it make the product so much more usable it seems like the developers have read your mind. If you get it wrong, it’s just annoying.

There’s going to be a new graphics engine in O12 whose main purpose appears to be to give you real-time visuals of your potential choices. For example, when you hover over the button for a 3-D pie chart, you get to see, with your real data, what it will look like before you commit to changing the chart type. When I first saw this, I about peed myself it was so cool. That excitement has worn off. I’m interested to know if other people will find this useful or they think it’s just eye candy (like I’m starting to). Currently I just commit the changes, then use Undo. This will make it slightly faster, I guess.

The presenter in the video mentioned that they’ve done away with in-your-face type constructs. That can only be a good thing. “No more clippy” as Scoble said. Later in the video she showed a context sensitive, position sensitive menu. Specifically, she selected text in Word and little menu appeared with the stuff people use most when they select text. So I don’t think they’ve quite gotten away from in-your-face stuff.

I was encouraged by her comments that keyboard-o-philes have not been forgotten. Most of the demonstration was very mouse centric, but she did mention that everything is available via keyboard. The control keys are the same, but the Alt combinations have changed. Personally, I don’t mind learning a new way, as long as it can be done. I’m hopeful that this will actually be easier, keyboard wise, for some of the more cumbersome tasks. Renaming a sheet comes to mind.

My guesses regarding the extra sheet tab and the slider were correct. That’s a testament to the UI people, I guess, that they made it so intuitive even I could figure it out. They can go ahead and get rid of that “Insert a sheet” tab, though. the problem with Excel workbooks that I get is that they have too many sheets, not too few. I get workbook after workbook with three sheets (the default for a new workbook) and data only on the first.

The zoom slider, which I predict that I’ll never use, will either be a hit because people will be able to layout their spreadsheets more easily, or it will be a disaster because they haven’t fixed the bugs associated with zooming. Time will tell.

Overall, I look forward to the UI changes. If they kept the same UI, we’d never know if another way is better. Now, at least, we’ll know.

So, we’ve seen a new XML based file format and a new UI. Surely there’s more to come, but based on what weve seen so far: Will this entice people to upgrade?

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4 thoughts on “Office 12 UI Video

  1. Redefinition of the English language.

    First of all there is the word “Legacy”.
    Used throughout MicroSoft as a veiled insult against anything old when in the real physical world a 1 million dollar Legacy from a great aunt would be very nice indeed.

    Now we have “upgrade” :o)

  2. Would you like to ‘upgrade’ your aunties legacy million to two? ;-) Which is what I suspicion MS will do: from $400 or so to $800 or so…


  3. “Will this entice people to upgrade?”

    Sooner or later everyone will move up to a newer version of Office unless they port themselves to the Linux platform.

    As a consultant there are no other options then to add the new version to the never ending growing “toolbox”.

    At present the number of versions that “should” be supported is:

    * (Office 97)
    * Office 2000
    * Office 2002
    * Office 2003
    * Office 12

    For those of us that have English as the second language we need to have the local versions available as well. Sure, the MUI-versions are in most cases acceptable to use but not always.

    It’s easy to be flashed by all the new tech-stuff but what is the core value that the new version will bring to the businesses per se?

    This will be the critical issue for evaluating the new version and will give the answer to the question.

    Kind regards,

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