Hi. I’m Rich, chairman of the GoobNet SPEED. Today we’re going to look at Microsoft Office. You might well ask why we would ever want to do something that silly. But we are anyway.
You see, there are some very interesting things going on in the world of user interfaces. Microsoft, of course, introduced the ribbon in Office 2007 in what it calls the “Fluent User Interface”. Though many people called it the Foolish User Interface, in the years since, people have gradually become accustomed to it.
There are changes afoot, though. First, Microsoft has indicated that in the 2010 version of Office, the ribbon will be added to other parts of Office programmes where it was missing, like the main Outlook window. Office 2010 will also allow users to customise the ribbon, a feature that was strangely lacking in the 2007 version.
But the most shocking news was that OpenOffice.org is also planning to change its user interface to something that looks like a bastard stepchild of the Office ribbon.
Naturally, all of this means that it once again falls to us, the GoobNet SPEED, to help everyone regain their sanity. Should Microsoft revert to standard dropdown menus and toolbars, or should it force everyone to use the same ribbon?
The answer is: we don’t care. Here at the GoobNet SPEED, we are more concerned with how commands are laid out rather than what they look like. So, with that in mind, I have asked our team to review the current ribbon layouts of the four major Office programmes – Outlook, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint – and report back on how they should be changed. This week, Jhonny fixes Outlook.
Hi, Microsoft. I’m Jhonny, and I’ll be helping you improve the Outlook user interface. Keeping in mind that the ribbon is still to be added to the main window, I will concentrate on the ribbon in E-mail messages. When you introduced the ribbon, you considered where people would probably look for each type of functionality. You also put some commands in multiple places, recognising that not everyone will look in the same place. I have borrowed a couple of those ideas in my proposed command layout below.
However, table and image commands should not be hidden until a table or image is selected. They should be visible at all times, but simply disabled until a table or image is selected. That way, once the user does select the table or image, the user already knows where to find the desired command.
I don’t mind the idea of the little diagonal arrow buttons opening dialogue boxes. However, they need to be larger, and they need to be given names. As it is, everybody forgets about them.
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