Friday, February 17, 2006

New Office UI: better for some users, but not me

Jensen Harris has an interesting post defending the size of the ribbons in the Office 2007 UI. He makes some interesting points but his comparison is with the default Office 2003 toolbars, but the majority of users don't use those settings. They are probably sitting on Office 2000 which has a much smaller area devoted to toolbars.

On a related subject, at first I was very bullish on the new UI and although I still applaud the Office team for "swinging for the fences" and appreciate a lot of the improvements to things like tables, I'm coming to the conclusion that the new UI is less efficient for me and I'm going to have to change the way I work to accommodate it.

The biggest problem centers around the inability to combine elements of separate ribbons in to my own personal ribbon. At Directions on Microsoft, we do most of our work in outline view, from preparing a "scope" (which defines the scope of a report) through to writing the text, and on through the editorial review process. But in the new UI, outlining tasks are one ribbon, writing tasks are on another, and reviewing tasks are on a third. During a typical writing or editing session, I need to move between these areas many times and the new UI adds a significant number of clicks. So we, as an organization, either need to alter the way we work or take a significant productivity hit in order to upgrade.

I suspect there will be quite a few users who have developed their own particular combination of tasks and who will find they now have to switch between ribbons.


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