MS Office 12's Incredible New UI

Ariya sent an email to the KOffice list today passing along this link to an interview with the program lead for MS Office 12's new UI. All I can say is WOW. This is stunning stuff. A colossal change and, IMO, a great one. They have taken an incredibly complex app and eliminated all of the menu's _without_ eliminating the functionality. They've also made it so that none of the functionality is hidden.

Here's a screenshot:

New Office 12 UI Screenshot

Now, I haven't actually played with it, so it might come off worse in practice (perhaps the hit to screen realestate is just too much for laptop users for instance), but I have to applaud their courage.

We have to show similar courage for KDE4. No, not to eliminate our functionality, hide it or rock our users, but to develop something compelling :)

Can you imagine if we could take apps like Konqueror, KDevelop, KWord (insert-favorite-complex-KDE-app-here) and eliminate the menus while still delivering and presenting all of the functionality... the mind boggles.


Whilst I'm intrigued by the idea, and impressed by the attempt to move away from the entrenched WIMP metaphor, I have reservations about the specific changes made.

1. Once of the purposes of toolbars that people seem to forget is for a way of showing current state (although this is less common in KDE apps than windows apps). Now this state information is scattered through multiple "ribbons" that you'll need to forage through.
2. Secondly one of the advantages of the existing menu system is that is that despite being visual, it is also very fast to select options using the keyboard and it is very keyboard friendly to use. The new design looks much more mouse oriented and I suspect will make most actions much slower.
3. The current 'sales pitch' for this new design is how great new users think it is and how fast they can use it.... (obviously a similar reaction will come from existing office users too, since they are also 'new users' to the interface). It will be interesting how people find the interface after using it in anger for a while, and whether they think it is faster or a hinderance.

I'd certainly love to see some interesting new UI ideas floated about for KDE4, but I certainly don't want to see a direct copy of this idea.

By ivor at Sat, 09/24/2005 - 14:49

To me that looks like the KDE Control Center issues (what to sort into what category? how to represent "advanced" setting?) tacked onto an application. All the discussions about Control Center with no final solution in the concept used above but instead the decission to move toward a search based interface in KDE4 tells me that it won't work within KDE. (Within Microsoft apps the 'working' part is not really necessary since its products being 'standards' people using it 'professionally' still can and will get instructed about everything in paid-for courses with resulting certificates for which a whole industry exists.)
(However one could look at showing the app menu in a DockWidget icon bar or whatever instead, that may well show some current 'unintuitive' menu entry arrangements more clearly than before.)

By Na at Sat, 09/24/2005 - 20:10