A number of programs and services make up what is now called the Microsoft Office System.  Not all of them will include the new user interface I've been blogging about in Office 12.

The programs which do get the new user interface:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Outlook (except for the shell)
  • Access

A couple of reasons we started with this set.  Number one, they are the set of programs that people use the most, so we could make immediate impact there.  Number two, we really wanted to concentrate the new user experience on making the document authoring experience better, so we started with the programs most centered around document creation (e-mails, slide decks, spreadsheets, papers, memos, etc.)

Access, is it turned out, was planning a major upgrade to their user experience this release so it only made sense to include them in the mix rather than have them try to push up against the limits of the old system.  In retrospect, it was lucky to have Access along for the ride because making sure that the user experience worked for a database program stretched and strengthened our concepts.  I have much greater confidence that the Ribbon and Contextual Tabs and all the rest make sense for a wide variety of rich programs because we've had to make sure it worked for Access.

And I think it was a win for Access as well, because one of their goals is to be approachable and usable by someone who maybe uses Excel today but doesn't think to use Access.  I'll be posting later about how the new UI concepts map to Access.

Long term, I think we'll see more Microsoft applications start to use the new user interface.  The amount of time and care that goes into converting a program cannot be underestimated; it requires fundamentally reaffirming what the soul of the app is.  It's not just "put each menu item on an index card and re-arrange them into the Ribbon."  It requires a major collaboration between the user experience team, the application team, usability, research, and other shared teams that build features across Office. 

For an interaction designer, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and so we wanted to put as much thought into doing a great job for the Office 12 wave of programs as we could.  Because we had to design the interaction concepts, the visuals, and the way the apps use the interaction design all at the same time, it was a tall order even to do the number of programs we did this time.  As a result, some programs (Project, InfoPath, OneNote, etc.) continue to use the existing "menus and toolbars system" in Office 12.

I'm sure once we ship Office 12 and have a chance to start thinking about the next version we'll evaluate again what parts of the system it makes sense to move over next to the new UI.

P.S. A big shout out to the Office MVPs in town for the MVP Global Summit here in Redmond.  I had a great time talking to many of you yesterday and putting faces with names.  Hope you enjoy the rest of your time here!