Scout for Office 2007
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I don’t think that anyone would argue that getting used to Microsoft Office 2007’s new interface takes some time. I’ve been using Beta 2 for what seems like forever (probably about 8 months in reality) and I finally feel comfortable being able to find the commands that used to reside on toolbars and menus in previous versions of Office.

It turns out that Microsoft is working on a plug-in for Office 2007 with the codename Scout, according to I Started Something. It will offer an additional tab that is similar to the one pictured above so that users will be able to quickly search for the commands that they could instinctively find before. As you start to type a word in the search box, such as “pictur” in the example, it will show you live results from the list of available commands.

One recommendation that I can give you is to make good use of the Quick Access Toolbar that is located above the tabs. It keeps you from having to constantly switch back and forth between tabs to get to the commands that you use frequently. The easiest way to add something to the Quick Access Toolbar is to just right-click on any item located on a Ribbon, and select the “Add to Quick Access Toolbar” option:

Quick Access Toolbar

To keep the toolbar from getting too cluttered you can customize it using the respective option on the right-click menu. That way you can reposition items and put separators in.

Of course, you’ll have to be able to find the command in the first place. I’ve found the help to be quite useful and it can save you more time than you think, but once the Scout add-on becomes available that will surely speed things up. This morning I actually came across an interactive tutorial that Microsoft is offering for Word 2003 users that lets you hover over a command to see where you can find it in Office 2007 (as pictured below). If that isn’t enough for you then click on the command and it will actually demonstrate how you can find that command in Word 2007.

Office 2007 commands

I was really impressed that they even let you go through all of the menus and select commands there as well, so it will be pretty comprehensive for most Word users. It would have been nice, however, if they put a tutorial like this together for Excel and PowerPoint but I couldn’t find one.

Once you start to get used to Microsoft Office 2007 it is hard to switch back to the previous versions that only have the toolbars. Everything works so smoothly and, despite the initial frustration, you can find things much faster. If you really give the new interface a fair shot, and still walk away not liking it I would be quite surprised.