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Office 12 to Sport a New UI

Microsoft showed off Office 12 publicly for the first time on Tuesday, featuring user interface changes that the company describes as the "biggest, most visible change to the way the core Office applications work since the introduction of the toolbar in 1997."

The demo came during Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates opening keynote at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2005 in Los Angeles.

The overhaul, which Microsoft calls a "results-oriented" UI, will initially cover Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and some elements of Outlook.

During the demo, Microsoft corporate vice president Chris Capossela said Microsoft needed to rebuild the UI because customers are overwhelmed by the functions -- Word 2003, for example, has 1,500 commands. Nine times out of 10 when customers make feature requests, Capossela said, the feature is already in Office.

Microsoft Office 12 Word
[Click on image for larger view.]

Microsoft Office 12 Word
Source: Microsoft.

To that end, Microsoft rearranged some features in terms of "galleries." For example, instead of having to figure out how to shadow a graphic, users are now presented with several visual options in a gallery and can pick one that they like.

Microsoft Office 12  PowerPoint
[Click on image for larger view.]

Microsoft Office 12 PowerPoint
Source: Microsoft.

Microsoft is also streamlining the UI to give users more room to work. Microsoft is trying to make fewer boxes and toolbars pop over areas where users are trying to work, and will do less automatic formatting.

Microsoft Office 12  Excel
[Click on image for larger view.]

Microsoft Office 12 Excel
Source: Microsoft.

Menus and options are supposed to be exposed only when they're needed, rather than all the time. "Only the more relevant features are visible, which also makes it easier for the user to understand what the product's capabilities are," Julie Larson-Green, group program manager for the Office User Experience, said in a Q&A on Microsoft's site.

Microsoft Office 12  Access
[Click on image for larger view.]

Microsoft Office 12 Access
Source: Microsoft.

In addition to galleries, high-profile new features include "Super Tooltips," a revamped Help feature; and a "Quick Launch Toolbar," that lets users customize the UI by adding the commands they use most often.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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