Microsoft Rolls Out New Look for Office, Vista

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-09-13

Microsoft Rolls Out New Look for Office, 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.

Click 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.

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.

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Capossela also demonstrated the anti-phishing technologies found in Vista, including the characteristics built into the Internet Explorer 7 browser. These tools watch the way a site behaves and identifies those that are suspicious, and then warn the user about them.

Internet Explorer would also offer tabbed browsing, he said.

Microsoft has introduced a quick view that would show the user all of the open tabs on the page simultaneously.

Headers and footers can also be turned off with a simple click of the mouse, and when a page is previewed for printing, it will now fit onto the screen and print the same way, in full, he said to applause.

Windows Vista has also built a platform around RSS so users and developers can take advantage of this.

Click here to view a Vista slide show from

Microsoft also believes that business applications would take advantage of RSS as a great way to publish and broadcast information out to customers, users and partners, Capossela said.

Turning to Office 12, Capossela said that the new innovative user interface that had been developed made the experience better and more seamless. This would give the user better results faster.

Demonstrating the user interface inside of Excel, Capossela showed how the tabs were more graphical and how drop-down menus had been done away with.

Menu items now appear in a graphical way in a bar at the top of the screen as the user moves across them.

Users can also get quick graphical depictions of their data and get better results faster, Capossela said.

The user interface also opens up a new world of galleries and live previews, "so users get to pick before they click and so get the view that they want," he said.

To read more about the Vista build from, click here.

Opening up Word, Capossela showed how tasks like inserting page numbers, headers and footers and boxes was now far more simple.

Users could simply choose these from an available gallery.

There are also tabs for mailings, reviewing the document, and layout, "which turns every Word user into a power user," he said.

Documents can also be quickly scrubbed and any unwanted comments removed with a simple click of the mouse.

Showing the new features in PowerPoint, Capossela demonstrated how a set of graphics has been built in, allowing text to be easily turned into a graphic, and how animation can be added by selecting from the available gallery.

"The client applications were also now deeply integrated with server applications like SharePoint, which has a recycle bin in case something is deleted in error it drops into the bin and can then be restored from there.

With regard to Outlook, there is a new "to do" bar on the right-hand side, and tasks are integrated and can be assigned timeframes in which they are valid.

Attachments can also be viewed and played in a preview pane.

"Search is also integrated throughout Office, using the same indexing technology as in Windows Vista," he said.

In his keynote speech, Gates also pointed out that the PDC is not an annual event and that it is only held when there is "record-breaking new software for developers to take advantage of."

Each attendee would receive more than 30GB of software, including new builds of Vista and Visual Studio, he said.

"I used to say that software should be as good and reliable as the electricity network, but after yesterdays power outage here in L.A., I guess we now we need to be as good as the electricity grid should be," he said.

Parts of the region experienced a two-hour blackout Monday, including the central district where the conference is located.

According to Gates, the industry is seeing both software and hardware breakthroughs, and the framework for building applications going forward will be an SOA (service-oriented architecture).

Recalling the 2001 PDC in Orlando, Gates said that conference was a milestone where .Net and XML were introduced, with the theme ".Net, the start of a new generation."

Its vision was of Web services and to move standard Internet computing beyond just browsing, he said.

"XML is at the heart of this new foundation, along with the WS-* Web-services architecture and the Visual Studio and .Net architectures," he said.

"Our investment in the platform is at record levels, and while the platform is getting richer, it is also becoming more simple for users."

"On the client side, this needs to be made more rich, and this will be the next stage in the user experience. Replication, search and presentation of the information needs to be done and presented far better," Gates said.

For Gates, the user experience is clearly getting richer; XML is now truly pervasive with data moving in and out of documents in ways that were much more difficult to do before.

He said that the companys next wave of products will be Vista and Office 12, due in the second half of 2006.

Around that launch would come the largest marketing campaign ever from Microsoft, which would highlight the "value opportunity" around these products.

"Today, software doesnt connect all the information up the ways it should," Gates said, adding that workflow capability is being built into the platform.

Services need to be able to analyze, access, share, find, automate and publish data.

"We could not have done this without XML, and it is very important that SOAs are something that business can deploy easily and get the benefit of their software working together," he said.

A lot of the work going on at the platform level is around integration, he said, adding that the next frontier is at the server level.

Customers, he said, want their server systems to be simpler while at the same time getting more out of them.

"In conclusion, we need to take the next step, which is to build on the foundation, focus on the user experience, build connected systems, ride on the 2006 PC wave and the realization that software is the key.

"There will be this big wave in 2006, with the software getting better and better after that. We are in the best industry in the world, at a very exciting time," Gates said.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include further comments from Bill Gates.

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