As I mentioned last week, the Office 12 Ribbon was designed to host a variety of control types. Most of these control types have been around as common controls in Windows for over a decade: push buttons, checkboxes, radio buttons, edit controls, combo boxes, etc.
In addition to these, we designed a new control type for the Office 12 user interface that was conceived from the start in partnership with the Ribbon. This control is called the "gallery" and it's debatably the single most important concept in the Office 12 UI. It is the Ribbon and the gallery together through which the user interface presents the power of Office in a way that more people can take advantage it.
(OK, I can't believe I'm seeing Donald Trump on TV in overalls singing the "Green Acres" theme song during the Emmy Awards show. This has got to be the new low point for American television. Awards shows have officially jumped the shark. Ugh. I digress...)
Anyway, at its heart, the gallery is a simple concept: a control designed to present a choice to the user visually. The most familiar-looking flavor of gallery looks somewhat like a menu with better graphics; it's called a "dropdown gallery."
(click to enlarge)
In addition to the menu-like representation, the gallery control also supports a very useful grid layout:
All of the gallery layouts support the same basic capabilities: the ability to display arbitrarily-sized graphics; the ability to have a label and/or sub-label; the ability to have a zoom-in effect on hover; the ability to group and filter within the gallery; and the ability to support live previews.
The most special flavor of the gallery is what we call the "in-ribbon gallery." Just like it sounds, an in-ribbon gallery places the content of the gallery itself within a chunk in the Ribbon. While the control still supports the filtering and zooming capabilities of the dropdown flavor, content destined to be in-ribbon does have certain limitations (such as a maximum height for artwork bounded by the height of the Ribbon.) Here's an example from PowerPoint:
The gallery gives us a lot of flexibility to represent functionality visually, and we've tried to take full advantage of that capability. Our internal builds of Office 12 already sport several hundred galleries throughout the product.
Over the next two days, I'm going to write about two ways we use galleries to help people create beautiful documents and to get expert-like results without actually being an expert.
(Confession: I've never been to the Louvre, but I'd love to go. I did read "The Da Vinci Code" though; I don't suppose that counts.)