The first time I was shown the new ribbon and tab-based Office 12 user interface, I pronounced it "bizarre." It reminded me of the old Amiga or GeoWorks UIs of two decades ago, not the Microsoft Windows that replaced them.
But while I havent spent time actually using the new Office 12 UI, it has already begun to grow on me.
Why havent I played with the beta? Because its being released to press and beta testers within a few hours of each other, I am doing the final edit of this column literally as the software is downloading to my machine.
I will come back with another column once Ive had a chance to actually play with the software. This column is based on the demonstrations Ive seen and what Ive been told about the Beta 1 release.
Ive also prepared a slide show of the major elements of the new Office 12 user interface, which not only makes most-used features easier to find, but also raises less-used features up a rank.
For example, Ive never used the References features in Word and rarely use Mailings, but now that each has its own tab and ribbon, these features will be much more in front of me and probably will get more use. Unless, of course, I can just make those tabs go away.
While the ribbon-based user interface is used in most of the Office 12 applications, it is PowerPoint and Access that seem to have been improved the most.
Since its first release, Ive been complaining that Access is much too difficult for the typical user to master. It seems like Microsoft may, finally, have taken this to heart and improved the interface enough that Access 12 wont seem so terrible to new users.
PowerPoint gets features designed, finally, to help people produce better-looking presentations and then share them more effectively across an organization.
I have not played with the beta code, but the impression I got from the demonstrations is that the ugly PowerPoint templates have been replaced with better ones. But, well see if this materializes.
What Office 12 apps dont use the new ribbon UI? Outlook and OneNote.