Changes to Office UI Far from Done

Microsoft is far from done with innovating and changing the new user interface in the Office System family of products, with OneNote, Project and Visio next in line for change.

While Windows Vista and Office 2007 officially hit the streets today after years of development, Microsoft is far from done with innovating and changing the new user interface in the Office System family of products.

Going forward, the new ribbon-based user interface is likely to be applied to other applications that did not get it in Office 2007, Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Business Division Product Management Group, told eWEEK in an interview ahead of the general availability of the products on Jan. 30.

"People have generally been very positive about the ribbon, so I would say that in the 2007 release we focused on the rich, authoring experience and trying to make that far simpler in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. That focus was really helpful," he said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifMicrosofts "Enchanted Office" comic touts the ribbon UI. Read about it here.

"So we will look at bringing the ribbon to those other Office applications, such as OneNote, Project and Visio, going forward and based on user feedback," said Capossela, who manages the Microsoft Office System of products.

Some of the lessons that Microsoft has learned, and continues to learn, from the authoring experience can also be applied to other aspects of Office and how it is used by customers, he said.

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"So I dont think our user interface innovation is done. It is not just about spreading it to other applications. If anything, I think the work we have done in Office 2007 and the reception we have gotten so far have made us all the more excited about the users ability to advance, and has opened up the possibility of a whole lot more innovation rather than limiting it," he said.

Capossela also confirmed to eWEEK that there is no current plan to productize the much-speculated Office 2007 search add-in, code-named Scout, which he said is a "cool internal project from Microsoft Research to show off some search technology."

But Scout is just an internal prototype and not a real product. The Office team feels good about the ability of users to find what they are looking for inside Office 2007, with the interactive guides on Office Online getting a lot of usage, he said.

These guides use short videos to show customers where commands or tool bar buttons found in Office 2003 now live in the new Office 2007 user interface, and how to make the transition from the old to the new, he said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifeWEEK Labs says Office 2007 does break some new ground. Click here to read how.

"The guides are available today, at no cost, and are the No. 1 tool people should use to make the transition from Office 2003 to Office 2007," he said.

Asked if this means that there are no plans to productize Scout for Office users at this time, Capossela said, "Yes, that is correct."

Capossela also confirmed that Microsoft has worked through the issues with its volume-license customers, on a case-by-case basis, around the impact of the delay in the release of Vista and Office 2007.

Next Page: Volume-licensing issues.