New UI Highlights Changes in Office 12

Microsoft on Tuesday took the cover off of the latest version of Office, calling the release its most significant since Office 95. With a completely redesigned user interface as well as new methods to make working with documents easier, Microsoft wants users to "focus on what they want to do rather than how they do it."

In a demo, Microsoft program manger Chris Capossela explained that a majority of users were requesting features that were already included in Office. The first version of Office contained only 100 commands, but today's release contains nearly 1,500 commands, most of which are very difficult to find.

Julie Larson-Green, group program manager for the Office User Experience explained that the UI had four main goals. "The number one design goal was to make it easier for people to find and use the product features needed to get the results they wanted," she said.

Other design goals included a streamlined interface, a desire to expose more of the features within Office, and designing the application for the full document life cycle.

"We're starting to add more of these processes in Office that aren’t just about authoring documents, which are features supporting collaboration and work flow and document management processes for your corporation," Larson-Green said.

Users who like the old look of Office will be unhappy to hear that there is no way to revert back to the classic UI. Microsoft feels that in order to move the application forward, getting users acclimated to the new UI now was the smartest move.

Larson-Green says that the change will not be difficult. "I think our customers will be excited to find how quickly they will become familiar with the new UI and how immediately they will see great results," she added.

A limited beta of Office 12 is due this fall, with a final launch slated for the second half of 2006.

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