Also currently in beta from Microsoft is Office 2007. Mike McBride got his Office Beta Blog going again, good info there. There are huge user interface (UI) changes. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook’s message window now sport the ribbon, while oddly enough Outlook’s main window doesn’t.
As for that whole ribbon thing, there’s obviously plenty of talk about it all over the net already. In theory, grouping functions by tasks – which is what the ribbon is supposed to do – should help the casual user. I’m not so sure about that; it presumes that the user is ‘casual’ enough that they don’t know which of the old menus hold the commands they want, but ‘experienced’ enough that they know which ribbon group to select. Heck, I’ve been working with it all through the non-public TR1 release and still can’t find things very quickly.
I can say this for a fact though: my son, who as a student is slightly more than ‘casual’ but I wouldn’t put him in the ‘expert’ category, hates the new style.
The thing I dislike the most is that this reduces consistency across the Windows platform.
For starters, gone is Windows’ “system menu” – the top left-hand corner menu that’s always held options for the window itself; Minimize, Maximize, Close etc. Though it’s still available via the Alt-Space keystroke combination, it’s not obvious and it’s different from other applications and from the OS itself.
In it’s place is a large circular area with the Office logo inside. That, believe it or not, is the File menu! I can’t believe how long it took me to find it, to figure out how to open an existing file. I think that’s going to be a huge problem for users, that helpdesks are going to be flooded with “how do I open an existing file” calls.