Microsoft Office 12 screen shots 13 Sep 2005

61 comments Latest by Viktor

Microsoft puts their new UI on Office 12 (you can also watch it in action courtesy of the Scobleizer and Channel 9). It’s a pretty big departure from the current and previous versions of Office. They’ve also introduced more logical visual groupings in their toolbar, and seem to be favoring large and small icons in the same toolbar. Have a look and share your thoughts.

61 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Carson McComas 13 Sep 05

Lipstick on a pig.

Jordan Roher 13 Sep 05

Holy cow… somebody send them an early iTunes 5 build? I rather like how the background behind the page looks vaguely like Tiger’s Dashboard background. Redmond, start your photocopiers indeed.

It certainly seems like a better idea to have those most-used toolbars emphasized like that. Given the expanded screen real estate of future monitors I suppose they can justify it. Right now it looks a little goofy but such is to be expected from a beta product.

You can see a little bit of their legacy team fighting to put the File menu at the very left… and their noveau usability team putting “Undo” right next to it. I wonder if that “Undo” button is going to get any bigger as the builds go on.

still sucks 13 Sep 05

This is better? I am glad I don’t have to use such and application.

Brad 13 Sep 05

I like it. But I like change for its own sake.

Phillip Hutchings 13 Sep 05

I think they’ve forgotten about usability, there’s no visual flow at all. The whole interface with the mixed icons and splashes of colour detract from the product - a word processor.

I love Apple’s Pages. It’s simple, all tools hide until you want them. Most people who use Word don’t know about basic features such as styles so not showing all that by default loses very little.

I bet my mum could use Pages. I’m not so sure about Word 12.

Douglas 13 Sep 05

Brushed metal without the brush, interesting.

Jeff Shell 13 Sep 05

I’ve been waiting to see the Office 12 screen shots ever since I saw the Windows Vista screen shots. In a lot of the Vista screen shots, which showcased the Desktop explorer windows (which pack in a lot of functionality), it seemed that the Windows menu bar was pretty much gone. In the IE 7 beta screen shots, the menu bar is BENEATH THE TABS, well below the top of the window. So I was wondering - where will menus be in Office 12?

It looks like the menubar is pretty much gone in Office 12 in favor of tabs and the new toolbars, with the exception of the ‘file’ menu. I find this really interesting. It’s been on my mind for quite a while, actually. We’ve seen this proliferation of big-top windows growing on the Mac with metal apps, the ‘unified look’ in Mac OS 10.4 apps, and whatever name that the iTunes 5 look might be given (a look that I like, actually). Is this a general trend in desktop interface design?

Anthony Morales 13 Sep 05

I was just trying to help a coworker wrestle with Word just before I read this post. Is the new Office better? For me, no. Office, Word especially, has always been overwhelming. I get all itchy and panicky with the thought of ALL THOSE BUTTONS! Where do I start? And what happens when I click one of those buttons? A pop-up with MORE buttons!

But what do I know? I only use Word when I have to because it scares me. Most of my word processing occurs in e-mail, and text-only at that. Not HTML e-mail. So what do hard-core word processors (the people, not the applications) think? How many of those buttons do they use and love?

Jeff Shell 13 Sep 05

Regarding menus and toolbars, I found this interesting (in response to “which applications will pick up the new user interface?”):

Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and the authoring part of Outlook �your calendar, your mail notes and your contacts �not the shell of Outlook. It�s important to note that the new UI is not intended to be a general-purpose application model. It�s not a replacement for menus and toolbars for all applications. There�s nothing wrong with menus and toolbars. It�s just that our powerful authoring applications have lots of commands, so we needed a different model �a higher-level way of presenting commands.

Tommy 13 Sep 05

Much better….

matt Carey 13 Sep 05

How can anyone cope with using the Windows UI every day. That looks like a Linux GUI with some extra shading…

Bob Aman 13 Sep 05

I much prefer the Office 2003 aesthetic (especially within the context of Outlook 2003). I think they hit a high-note with the last iteration. This new one looks like it will require a significant amount of adjusting to. I don’t think I’m keen on the apparent disappearance of certain familiar menus. Fortunately, I don’t have to adjust, because I never have to use Office for anything. I even do my presentations from scratch, and technically, I use OS X for most everything anyhow. So…

Apathy and Disgust.

A far cry from the Shock and Awe claims that Scoble has bored me to death with.

David Barrett 13 Sep 05

I’m trying to type a letter. How am I supposed to do that with all this crap in my face?

It looks like KDE, and boy I hate the look of KDE. It feels like I’m using a kids toy. TOO MANY GRADIENTS.

The Other Brad 13 Sep 05

I think it’s an improvement, and I don’t think most users will have trouble adjusting.

I still remember how much I hated Mac OSX and its applications when it first came out…I just wanted to go back to ol’ familiar OS 9. But once I started using it, I figured things out pretty quickly and after a few weeks I swore I’d never go back.

Virtually nobody is going to fall in love with a new user interface at first sight, when it involves a product that they use every day. The first reaction is always, “But things aren’t where I’m used to, this is a disaster!” But after a few days, if the improvements really are improvements, people generally change their tune. I think that’ll be the case with office 12.

JohnO 13 Sep 05

I definitely think the gradients and hatching are overboard. I definitely think the grouping can work (Microsoft Word screen shot only, the other groupings truly suck and are far too large). The key is being small enough to stay out of my way, big enough for me to see and click, and useful enough for me to use.

Some of those (Access) is absolutely hideous

Peter 13 Sep 05

I’m sorry - shouldn’t customers expect just a little more innovation, especially for such an expecnsive product suite? It seems that Microsoft are becoming less agile the more their competitors blossom.

Jon 13 Sep 05

David Barrett—You do realize KDE has full support for themes built in right? If you don’t like the gradients, pick a theme that doesn’t use them.

And is it just me or does the Office12 GUI look remarkably like the Mac Brushed Metal theme. Very Safari-ish. Except uglier.

BL 13 Sep 05

Just a new skin on an ugly application. In my experience using word etc. is that I find it excruciatingly hard to do what I think are the simpleist (sp?) tasks. I break out in a sweat whenever I have to use one of them.

Wesley Walser 13 Sep 05

I think everyone here wants to complain. Use it for a month and you will like it better (and if you don’t use it then why do you care what the UI looks like?). Tabs have proven themselves and the issues are obviously well though out. If you use the advanced featured of any of the applications you will appreciate having easier access to them, if you just use the basics it’s obvious that those are right up front just as they have always been.

And it looks nothing like any of the OS X interface so stop using that as an excuse to bash MS.

JF 13 Sep 05

I think there’s some great thinking here. The video linked in the original post (and above in the comments) is worth a look — it really helps you see the vision in action.

hunter 13 Sep 05

Wow, what a strange feeling of deja vu. We designed something very similar for the Australian version of AOL, 6 years ago! A little too radical for AOL back then. We always were the black sheep of the family.

The new interface has some good points but some of those applications have a huge amount of clutter. It certainly doesn’t feel like a good fit with the current generation of windows UI but considering this will be pushed along with Vista it will be interesting to see how well they work together.

sxates 13 Sep 05

I think some people will never like anything microsoft does. They yell “this looks (slightly kinda) like apple in some way” and “so much for inovation” but I haven’t heard any bright ideas for innovating such an app. I want to know how all these whiners would change Word. Make it like pages? Oh I can imagine you’d still be complaining because it would be a ‘copy.’

For a brief moment try to use your imagination and imagine that Apple released something like this—would you be nearly so harsh (honestly)? I doubt it.

Personally, I think this is kind of a radical way to go with an office app, and office apps could use some shake ups. They’re so boring, and in this age they could use some flash. I think the tab idea is a cool one, and I imagine the look will be totally customizable so you can put what icons you want in each tab, size them how you want, etc. Apple certainly doesn’t let you do that with their apps…

sxates 13 Sep 05

Ok, now I’ve watched the video and I’m quite impressed. The static screen shots really don’t do it justice, and I’d say if you’re looking for innovation from microsoft we’ve found it. I’m looking forward to giving the new office a spin.

Andrew 13 Sep 05

The interface is beautiful. If Apple were to come out with the same thing, most of you would love it (as would I). Microsoft simply did a great job reducing the appearance of cruft in the applications. There are no pull down menus! At the very least, watch the video. Maybe then you�ll understand how cool Office 12 is going to be. This is a great direction for the Office to go. Usability is heightened as is its aesthetics.

Robb Irrgang 13 Sep 05

Apple wouldn’t do this - there’s no elegance. Despite serious issues I have with Apple and their lack of UI standards these days, they would never pile this much info into a toolbar.

I honest to God hope for MS that they did a LOT of user response testing (we all know they have the budgets for it) - My initial response is: Will scare the shit out of my Mom or sister (novice home user), will scare the shit out of every middle manager / secretary I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. It’s too far out - nothing wrong with change. But this will alienate existing non-power users.

And honestly, power users will be turned off by the lack of new features (If they continue the trend they started with office 2003) and the increasingly restrictive DRM-hands of Big Daddy MS.

I’m not sure who they’re trying to please here- my gut says ‘no-one’. I’m hoping for the shareholders of MS that my gut is dead wrong.

Kesava Mallela 13 Sep 05

Office 12 actually guides you thru the lifecycle of artifact creation/maintenance. I think thats the most significant value it brings.

kevin 13 Sep 05

Robb - you should watch the video.

Dave Simon 13 Sep 05

I love this:

“According to our research, people generally are very satisfied with the current version of Office, and the consistency of the UI over the years has been a big part of that. So we redesigned it.”

OK, so I added the last sentence. But seriously.

It is no more than not being able to cram any more features in the old UI, so they built a new one. 87 pixels for that toolbar. 87!! That doesn’t include the tab bar and menubar, which together push the total to 150 pixels. That is a serious waste of real estate.

Think about when you last used Word, or Pages, or any other word processing app. How many times do you change fonts in a single document? (I am assuming you have taste and don’t go for a wonderfully eccentric mix of Comic Sans, Trebruchet MS, Arial Black and Geneva.)

The answer is that you might have two fonts in a document. Their example document has two. One for body copy, the other for headers. So why is it reasonable to have an entire 87 pixels by 330 pixels taken on the screen for fonts alone? And we aren’t counting the “Quick Format” options. Why not a palette? The Mac version of Office uses a palette!

Do I realize you can customize the interface? Of course. But who needs a 32 x 56 pixel area to click to choose clipboard options?

It’s late, perhaps I’m more frustrated than I should be by this. I’ll go to bed. I doubt it’ll be better in the morning.

(And why does MS insist on interface elements having so much blue?)

Arthur Vanderbilt 14 Sep 05

Yawn. It’s all right. I would not want to make such a big departure from my established ui. Really, things should be getting plainer and features should be coming out. I avoid using these things already because they’re so slow. I use PC Pine to elude Outlook, which is almost its own OS now.

Christopher Fahey 14 Sep 05

It’s funny, a couple of days ago I posted a whole rant on the iTunes thread about why MS never changes the core of their UI for fear of needing to re-train their millions of users. Looks like they’ve decided to take a risk, finally. This UI change appears to be the most radical change, by far, that MS has ever made to their application UI. There’s going to be a lot of money to be made by a lot of people who do MS application training next year!

Anyway, I’m impressed, and I look forward to trying it out. I’m sure they’ll screw up a lot of stuff, too, but the fact that they’ve discarded the legacy UI conventions and basically moved every command into far more logical groupings is really a huge and encouraging development.

Another thing I notice, watching the video, is that she had a Proper Name for every UI element: The rows across the tops are “Ribbons” and the large drop-down menus showing visual design templates they call “Galleries”, the effect of seeing an effect before applying it is called “Live Preview”. I’ve always thought that a key to good UI design is to have unique, descriptive names for every single UI invention, even if that name is never exposed to the user. These names should be created as early as possible in the design process, to avoid wasting time over ambiguous phrases like “the lower left tool thing” or “the medium-sized preview widget” or “the flashy outliney effect”.

Anonymous Coward 14 Sep 05

Ugly. IMHO.

Christian Romney 14 Sep 05

It kind of looks like iWork’s Pages, but with a lot more going on in the interface.

Bob Aman 14 Sep 05

Having looked at it again… I’m pretty sure my first impressions are heavily influenced by the fact that I don’t like purple and grey. I actually designed a webpage that used that color scheme a couple of months ago. I redesigned it a week later because the colors bothered me so much. Purple and grey is ugly.

Michael Ward 14 Sep 05

I don’t like the screenshots and I have only briefly seen some of the video. Before slamming it however, I would like to try it out and see how it “works” rather than just how it looks in a static screenshot.

Jeff Hartman 14 Sep 05


Man, that comic is a perfect example of many CMS’s and corporate intranets. Too funny.

Kim Siever 14 Sep 05

I love it, and based on the articles I’ve read, I’m looking forward to actually using the software.

Ian 14 Sep 05

I’m glad to see Gates finally got around to copying more of Apple’s UI. He’s been so focused on .NET and the XBOX these past 5 years, I was starting to worry!

Seriously, I love the no pulldown menus.

Mark Haliday 14 Sep 05

Wow, a direct rip-off from Mac OS X, and then dumbed down to uselessness. Typical Microsoft all the way. Wake me up when an original idea comes out of Microsoft.

Tory 14 Sep 05

When I first saw the screenshots I thought it looked horrible. But after watching the video I think it’s pretty nice.


The problem is still the same - I don’t want “Wizards” in my software anymore than I want to drive a car that tries to guess when I want the doors locked, or when I might want the lights on, etc. (Detroit is the Redmond of the car world). I want REAL tools, with specific functions that allow ME to do the thinking/deciding.

MH 14 Sep 05

It reminds me of why Windows XP is so awful: When MS decides they need some more “flash” in their UIs, they don’t show a whole lot of restraint. Too many faux-3D surfaces and gradients, and too much color.

Replace the nice sample PowerPoint graphic with something a typical executive might crank out, and the UI will call too much attention to itself.

Also—will they be applying this new menu arrangement to all their applications? Will it become part of their human interface guidelines for third-party apps?

?! 14 Sep 05

“Will it become part of their human interface guidelines for third-party apps?”

Hahahahahahahahaha! “Microsoft Human Interface Guidlines”

Good one.


MH 14 Sep 05

> Hahahahahahahahaha! �Microsoft Human Interface Guidlines�

I know, I know. But hey, if it’s fair to ask of Apple, it’s fair to ask of MS. There is such a document. I wonder if this UI will become a standard thing, to replace the current menubar everywhere…

Mark O'Sullivan 14 Sep 05

I get the feeling there are a lot of mac-lovers on here :)

I think it looks like a move in the right direction. I’ve always hated how office hides all of that functionality. Change is good, especially when their focus is an attempt at simplifying.

I watched that video and thought to myself, “My wife is going to love this”.

MH 14 Sep 05

It does make a big difference when you watch the video and realize that there are breathing intelligent human beings behind the interface design, and they are genuinely interested in helping the user, while at the same time, working with a huge piece of legacy software…

Based on my experience, I’d say that maintaining, improving, and redesigning in pieces makes up the vast majority of UI design. It’s not all shiny new apps out of the blue.

Darrel 14 Sep 05

The problem is still the same - I don�t want �Wizards� in my software

I think this is the key point. Over the years, the Office GUI has slowly been dumbed down. And that never works. It just leaves people that much more in the dark as to what they are actually doing.

This interface is simply overload. There’s still too many options, now just taking up even more real estate, and will involve that much more mousing all over the place to get things done. And, really, when your toolbar is hitting a couple dozen items, an icon for everything starts getting in the way.

It looks as if MS is getting paid by the big-monitor industry to force us all into 32” screens just to use MS Word. ;o)

Deirdre Saoirse Moen 14 Sep 05

As always (especially with UI), they stole something they didn’t understand. Thus, they screwed up the implementation.

I have always hidden all the doo-dads. Just gimme a menu bar, other stuff when I ask for it (and don’t link toolbar panes, that annoys me), and keep outta my face.

Brad 14 Sep 05

I think this is the key point. Over the years, the Office GUI has slowly been dumbed down. And that never works. It just leaves people that much more in the dark as to what they are actually doing.

Darrell, have you and the other people complaining about wizards actually used Office lately? I just looked through all the menu items in Word 2003 and I found exactly one wizard…the “Letters Wizard” in the Tools menu. I use Outlook, Word, Excel, and Access every day in my job and I can’t remember the last time I used a wizard for anything.

Darrel 14 Sep 05

Darrell, have you and the other people complaining about wizards actually used Office lately?

It’s not literally just wizards…but Wizards and the like that basically just dumb down things.

Wizards can actually be good, but Office takes things too far. Really, Word, I can capitalize my own words they way I want to thank you very much.

David Barrett 14 Sep 05

Yes Jon, I am aware of that. It doesn’t negate my point.

The way the UI works is very interesting, and it seems to make a damn lot of sense. I like the way that they have split things up by task — that is a great idea.

But the look of it… gah. I dunno, I hope they make it more subtle in the final release.

Don Wilson 14 Sep 05

After looking at a screenshot of Pages, I forgot how much it looks like ass compared to this new soon-to-be-released Word. If you watch the 40min office 12 preview video on an msdn site, you’ll see just how cool it really is.

Christopher Fahey 15 Sep 05

Darrell, I use Office apps every day and I never see wizards. As far as I can remember, I haven’t encountered an Office wizard in 5 years, with the notable exception of the pointless wizard you see when you want to change your email settings in Outlook.

Darrel 15 Sep 05

I thought I was excited about the new Outlook 2003 & SharePoint 2003

How can anyone get excited about two of the most awful products ever spit out from Redmond?

Just finished taking a MS SharePoint training course. What a steaming POS that product is.

sim 19 Sep 05

I can’t believe they still give fonts precidence over styles (confusingly renamed to “Quick Formatting”, I notice).

sloan 23 Sep 05

Honestly, this looks simply like they are grouping toolbars at the top, which is a good thing. They are also adding realtime editing so you can see what a selection will do before commiting to it and having to click undo. But without really working with it, I don’t know how different this is…

One question from a usability side, how much SLOWER will this system be than drop-down menus? It takes a lot more mental energy to find the right icon, in the right place, with the right label than using well categorized menus… right?

Keith 11 Dec 05

1500 commands in Word? Holy shiat, don’t they know anything about combining things into one? They could have combined things into one, if they’re already redoing the whole way of presenting commands, why not redo some of the commands while they’re at it. Just as an example, I would have taken away the horizontal line option and borders. At least don’t make it “insert line” or “insert border”. Let the user use the mouse to draw the apprpriate lines, and then, depending on where thye drew the lines, Word would know whether to snap them to the border of an object, extend them to the margins, or whatever.

Viktor 12 Dec 05

Looks very promising so far.