1.05.2007

CUA compliance and Office 2007

I love the ability generate gorgeous graphics using Excel 2007 and PowerPoint 2007. But otherwise I'm unimpressed by the software update, and have no plans to upgrade our company to Office 2007 any time soon.

One particular issue I have is the new user interface, which replaces the familiar File-Edit menu system (which was Common User Access compliant) with a new "ribbon" that combines the menu bar with the toolbar — and which moves things around dynamically, depending on how often they're used.

The last thing PC users need is a new GUI paradigm that attempts to gloss over the software's incredible complexity, vs. addressing the underlying causes of that complexity. See my comments in this week's Zeichick's Take.

4 comments:

keff said...

OK, so you abandon electricity because it doesn't comply with 'stick and stone' user interface? Dont't kick into inventors, that's how progress is made.

As for too many function... right, users use only 10% of them, but each user picks his 10% almost randomly from every function of the pack (you can ask MS for some Office ipod simple version, but dont be disappointed if they send you notepad :)))

Michael Chermside said...

How does one find out what all the features are of a piece of software? In the bad old days, I had to search through the manual to find the list of commands that one could type in. Then came GUI programs. The well designed ones allowed users to access all functionality through the menus. There might be a way to do it by right-clicking-while-holding-down-ctrl-alt-J, but every feature ALSO showed up in the menus. If you wanted to do something you could just read through every menu in order looking for the command you wanted.

Menus are a GOOD user interface feature. They are well understood by users. They are easy to examine. They are slightly annoying to use (multiple clicks and careful dragging is required) which is why better UIs allow shortcuts -- even display the shortcuts in the menus so casual users can gradually become power users by learning the shortcuts for the commands they use most often.

Abandoning this for the fancy "ribbon" isn't like moving from sticks and stones to electricity. It's like moving from using levers and knobs on car radios to set the balance, tuning, etc (all easy to control with one hand while watching the road) to controling all of it by pressing one button a certain number of times then turning a single knob (difficult or impossible to handle while watching the road).

Tom said...

Are things really "moving around" based on how often you use it?
I think I remember that MS gave up that idea because it was confusing for the user.

Bevan said...

Interesting to see your comments - I'm not entirely keen on the UI myself, mostly because I forsee a "cargo cult" tsunami of applications (badly) reusing the Ribbon.

One thing though - you wrote:

"and which moves things around dynamically, depending on how often they're used."

I don't think you're correct, and would invite you to check out this blog:
http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/

Jensen works on the team that designed the new UI - and he makes it clear that functions are NOT moved around based on how often they're used.

Instead, the Ribbon adjusts according to the size of the window. Since the MS Office apps are usually Maximized (Alan Cooper would describe them as "Sovereign") this seems (to me) to be a good call - as (for most users) each function will be in exactly the same place every time.

Of particular relevance:

How the Ribbon Scales
(http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/ archive/2005/10/18/482233.aspx)

Why menus that adapt acording to usage were bad
(http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/ archive/2006/03/31/565877.aspx)


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Co-founder and editorial director of BZ Media, which publishes SD Times, the leading magazine for the software development industry. Founder of SPTechCon: The SharePoint Technology Conference, AnDevCon: The Android Developer Conference, and Big Data TechCon. Also president and principal analyst of Camden Associates, an IT consulting and analyst firm.