One of the bigger things that came out of Microsoft’s MIX08 event was Internet Explorer Beta 1, but there was one really interesting presentation that you probably don’t want to miss. It’s an hour and a half PowerPoint presentation that is the first-ever public look at how Microsoft Office 2007 came about after 3 years of development, and I’ve embedded the video at the end of this article for your viewing pleasure.
Microsoft Office Word 2003 had a whopping 31 toolbars in it, and Microsoft wanted to conquer the “good enough” rating that Office was frequently receiving. People couldn’t find the new features that Microsoft was adding into Office, and they knew that things had to change before it all got out of hand.
–Why a Change was Needed–
Using the menus and toolbars was a great idea when Microsoft Word was first developed. There were only a few dozen menu items, a handful of toolbars, and very little confusion. It was almost like opening up today’s WordPad, but by the time Word 2003 hit the streets there were several hundred menu items…
… and all kinds of toolbars:
Following on that track could have resulted in over 300 menu items and 50 toolbars for Word 2007! Yikes!
Microsoft is probably king when it comes to collecting data on how their customers use their products. For example, there is the Office 2007 Customer Experience Program that you can opt-in to so that Microsoft can monitor the areas you use most in the Office suite. When designing Office 2007 they wanted to see what commands and keys were the most widely used across their applications, and so they aggregated the data into a central source:
That is from just one week worth of Office 2003 data that Microsoft had collected from their users. A lot of the commands for Microsoft Word show that the arrows on the keyboard are used quite a bit, but almost across the board “paste” is the most used command. Well, that’s until you hit Outlook where “delete” is the most popular. :)
Microsoft has about 50GB worth of Office 2007 prototypes totaling over 25,000 images! There are about two dozen screenshots below that I’ve taken from the presentation, and many of them have aspects of Windows Longhorn (what eventually turned into Vista) in them.
Radical Changes – Microsoft of course looked at some really drastic changes that I for one am glad didn’t make their way through:
September 2003 to October 2003 – They experiment with where to put the hundreds of commands available in the different applications:
October 9 & 10, 2003 – These are the days that the Office Ribbon and the Mini Toolbar were born:
October 29 to 31, 2003 – The team wasn’t sure if the Ribbon would be able to hold all of the commands in the applications, and so they started with PowerPoint to see if they could get them all to fit:
November 2003 to May 2004 – By now it is likely that you’ve grown accustomed to the Ribbon being along the top, but they considered putting it on the side:
November 2003 – To help create a home for all of the commands available they tinkered with sliding groups located on each tab:
Winter 2003 to Summer 2004 – All of the formatting options are what take up so much room in Office, and so they tried to find a way to only show the relevant options depending on the task at hand:
If you have an hour and a half to kill this presentation by Jensen Harris explains all of the technicalities behind each of the screenshots pictured above. If you’re like me you’ll be quite amazed at how much work they put into designing Office 2007, and it will give you a whole new appreciate for the software suite.
–How Good Is It–
Microsoft, being the stat addicts that they are, had to find out just how well Office 2007 was taking off. Was it what the customers wanted? Personally I believe that they delivered a strong product that will be well received for years to come. To get more concrete information they put a survey out there and here were the results:
As you can see a majority of users find that it is intuitive, simple, and easy to use compared to the previous versions. Congrats Microsoft, it looks like you did it!