Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Consistency and pulldown menus go away in a new Office version

Couple of genuinely interesting things happening this time.

Microsoft is moving away from pull down menus and toolbars in their next release of Office called Office 12. So no more "I have seen it. But cant find where it is" stuff.

The pull down menu technique was introduced into the office when there were about 150 features. But over the years and several releases as the commands and features grew to 1500, they had to use additional techniques like preferences/checkboxes to present all that stuff. The consequences? Some of them are deeply hidden...and it takes a lot of time to get to them. They realized that the technique no longer works.

In a strange way, the root of the problem has been "consistency". Yeah, consistency with the legacy of the predecessors in the product line. With office 12, they have finally decided to break off from the lineage w.r.t consistency. They began to think what they would do if they had began all over again. (Yeah, I too think Consistency is overrated and Change is good.)

They have reorganized all of the menus into 'galleries' now. The galleries look very task oriented and they actually guide you thru the lifecycle of creation/maintenance of the artifact. Everything is shown upfront in the galleries. No pulldown menus. No hidden features. Did this come at a price of loss of functionality? No. I am guessing they have built lot of contextual intelligence into it.

No annoying clip. There is thing little thing called floaty that comes up when you right-click and gets you most frequently used commands on the selected text. (Behaves little more intelligently than the current right click).

They have also departed from the alt key board shortcuts into something called Overlays. When you press the Fn key or something, you are shown the keyboard shortcuts on the items themselves. (With galleries you have nothing hidden.)

"You tell it what to do and its going to do that." , thats the motto. I think finally, its going to be a fair deal.

There is a great video on the whole thing: http://channel9.msdn.com/showpost.aspx?postid=114720

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