[Not so OT] MS Office UI Developments

Scott Rossi scott at tactilemedia.com
Wed Dec 14 03:11:03 EST 2005

Tonight the local CHI meeting, I listened to a presentation by Jensen
Harris, a key designer behind the new Microsoft Office user interface.  He
presented a history of Word and Office and how it evolved into Office 2003,
and then went into a live demo of the new office apps sporting the ribbon
interface and contextual interaction.  Mr. Harris acknowledged they (MS) are
taking a risk in changing the UI/interaction of the apps.  And it was great
to hear someone so close to the project speak in detail about how it's
supposed to work and why they chose to do what they're doing.

A couple of things jumped out at me while watching the presentation:

1) the Runtime guys were on a similar track with their
somewhat-context-sensitive inspector thing (but there are way too many
sub-level choices to be made in the palette)

2) the fact that Rev developers can create rich menus by using stacks would
seem to bode well for a future of making apps that run alongside the Office
experience (regardless of how valid you think MS's UI direction is)

In the last few minutes of his talk, Mr. Harris demoed a UI treatment that I
personally find very interesting and appealing: a floating contextual
palette of sorts.  Initially it comes up ghosted (translucent), positioned
out of the way from the item you are editing; the palette gets more opaque
as you mouse toward it, and becomes more transparent as you mouse away from
it.  Pretty cool stuff.

There were a lot of good points made, and one that was quite refreshing to

  "Remove to simplify."

I wrote down a bunch of points that seemed like they might worth posting,
but Mr. Harris also has a blog where you can read his personal comments
about development of the project: http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh


Scott Rossi
Creative Director
Tactile Media, Multimedia & Design
E: scott at tactilemedia.com
W: http://www.tactilemedia.com

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