Microsoft Rolls Out New Look for Office, Vista

Updated: At Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference, Bill Gates shows off some of the new interface improvements due for the Office 12 productivity suite and the upcoming refresh of Windows, called Vista.

LOS ANGELES—Attendees at Microsofts Professional Developer Conference on Tuesday morning got to see the first live public demonstration ever of Windows Vista and Office 12 running together. Both of these products are still under development and due for release in the second half of 2006.

In the opening keynote, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates took to the stage before several thousand attendees and talked up the new redesigned and results-oriented user interface in Office 12.

The new UI that runs across the top of the screen is known as Ribbon and replaces the traditional menus and toolbars with a set of highly graphical command tabs that correspond to the tasks that people want to accomplish, Gates said.

He also talked about the developer opportunities associated with the extensible user interface and open XML file formats.

Office 12 would be released in the same timeframe as Windows Vista, Gates said.

Chris Capossela, the vice president of Microsofts Information Worker division, then gave the demonstration of Vista and Office 12 together, for the first time, showing a post beta one Vista build and a pre-beta one Office 12 build.

Using the "Alt-Tab" keys to bring up the "flip feature," he showed how this lets all the open user Windows stream in a band across the screen, giving the user a preview of what is in each window.

By pushing another set of keys, the windows can be viewed in 3-D.

Capossela also showed how search is built in everywhere across the system as well as the concept of virtual folders in Windows Vista, which can be stacked by type, keyword or author.

"These virtual folders are nothing more than an XML file, and so developers can easily take advantage of them," he said, showing how documents could also easily be painted with metadata, without making search more complicated.

He also showed off the Windows Sidebar, which will ship with Vista and helps connect users to real-time information via gadgets like a Web feed gadget and a slideshow gadget.

Capossela encouraged developers to create gadgets and rich mini-applications for the sidebar.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about opportunities for developers in Vista.

"These gadgets can also be dragged onto the desktop and allow users to connect to real-time information," he said.

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Capossela then demonstrated the Windows Sideshow—which has mini-applications that connect the user to information when they are away from their desktop—on a laptop with an auxiliary display built in.

Some of these gadgets, or mini-applications, run when the PC is powered off and others when it is on.

"This is another platform on which developers can build applications," he said.

Next Page: Tabs and anti-phishing tools.