I've been using Office 2007 for a couple of weeks and I'm convinced that Microsoft missed an opportunity to change the way we relate to software by taking one step toward radical change, but ultimately failing when it came to implementation. While I like the idea of the new task-based interface, if you are going to completely change the way people work, especially with three years of development time, you better make sure, you do it right, and to me, this feels like a first draft released long before it was ready.
For those of you who don't eat and sleep technology as I do, Microsoft has changed the whole look and feel of Office 2007. Gone are the familiar menus and toolbars of the past replaced with ribbons, as in the example from Microsoft Excel below (click to see larger image):
If you are confused by what you see, don't worry, you are not alone. Microsoft took a long look at the Graphical User Interface for this release and decided it was time for an overhaul. On this point, it's hard to argue. The menu system has become too unwieldy with too many of them and each menu had too many functions and sub-menus hidden from the user. The toolbars simply repeated the functions of the menus in a graphical representation and ended up stacked on top of one another underneath the menu bar creating a cluttered interface.
Microsoft decided to reorganize the interface based on tasks and combine the menus and toolbars into a single set of tools. So far, it sounds pretty good, right? I think so too, but when the developers took apart the menus and toolbars to expose the interface to users, something got lost in the translation (like common sense) and long-learned tasks have been moved, shifted and otherwise changed in what smacks of a first draft attempt.
Let's start with the Office Menu shown in the picture below:
This menu contains commonly used commands like Save, Save As, and Print; so why exactly do they require you to do an extra mouse click to get at them under this menu. It makes no sense to me. Now it's worth mentioning (because I'm sure one of you will point it out if I don't) that Microsoft has kept one little toolbar it calls "The Quick Access Toolbar (shown below)," which contains Open, Undo and Redo by default. This is customizable and you can add Save and Print to the QAT, but the real question is why make users do this, when Save and Print should be part of the default setup.
Next, I find the implementation of the individual main ribbons to be sloppy with commands stacked on top of each other, bunched together and just thrown together as in the example below, the Home ribbon in Powerpoint 2007.
This is getting long, so I've divided it into two parts. Check out the remainder in Part 2.