Microsoft Office 2007 has a completely new user interaction paradigm.
The old interfaces for Microsoft Office 2003 (and earlier) organized the menu structures around features or capabilities. Each grouping represented tasks that appeared to be related in functionality. This, unfortunately, doesn’t help the user very much. The new interface is very task based, and organizes capabilities based upon the task the user is currently performing. What the Office team has done is innovate. And the innovations differentiate them from every other business application I’ve ever seen.
Check out the 13 minute video from Microsoft’s user experience team here : http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/ui/demo.mspx. It’s worth watching!
The best quote, from Jensen Harris, lead program manager, Office user experience team:
We realized that people weren’t trying to find commands in the product, they were trying to get great results.
This really captures the spirit of the changes – and they are compelling and dramatic!
Julie Larson-Green / Scoble interview on Channel 9
Robert Scoble filmed a 41 minute interview and demo with Julie Larson-Green, manager of the Office user experience team (Sep 2005). The comment thread on this Channel 9 post is really interesting, including several people expecting to be unimpressed, and ending up being converted. If you only watch one video, watch the other one. If you’re the kind of person who re-watches a DVD to listen to the director voice-over the decisions, check out this one too.
Jensen Harris has a blog devoted to Office 2007
After you watch the video, and decide that you must have this app (and you will), subscribe to Jensen’s blog to stay up to date. He provides great insight into how the UX force at Microsoft has driven these changes and why. A great post to start with: Ye Olde Museum of Office Past (Why the UI, part 2). Note that it is a repost of an earlier article he wrote, but it is still fun to look back at the evolution of the Office UI.
Suddenly, open office seems much less compelling. The Office team has put together very compelling and differentiated innovations. It isn’t the ribbon (replaces the menus and toolbars) that makes it exciting, its the task-centric design of the application. The new UI puts Office 2007 clearly in the revolutionary change corner of the magic square of innovation.