There are three ways to use the keyboard to get work done in the new Office 12
Type 1: Keyboard Shortcuts
Let's start with the simplest and most direct form of keyboard access: keyboard
shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts are single key combinations that perform a
command. Some of the most well-known shortcuts in Office are CTRL+S for
save, CTRL+P for print, and CTRL+B for bold.
All of the keyboard shortcuts in Office continue to work exactly as they did
in previous versions. In fact, we're doing more in the UI to
advertise the keyboard shortcuts and adding new ones based on usage data.
That's because keyboard shortcuts will usually be the single most efficient way
to perform commands with the keyboard.
Word continues to support customizable keyboard shortcuts as it did in previous
versions, although this capability hasn't been extended to any of the other
Type 2: Accelerating the Ribbon with KeyTips
In menus-based Windows UI, you can navigate the top-level menus by pushing Alt +
a series of accelerators (underlined characters in each menu item) to "navigate"
the menu structure like you would with the mouse.
the keyboard accelerator idea and adapt and extend it to take advantage of the
When you press ALT in Office 12, KeyTips appear in front of the Ribbon tabs and
each of the chunks in the tab. KeyTips are little tooltip-like indicators
with a single letter or combination of letters in them, indicating what to type
to activate the control under them:
(Click to view full picture)
In the case of the picture above, I could type 'I' to navigate to the Insert
tab, or press 'U' to navigate to the Page Setup chunk. When I press 'U',
the next set of KeyTips appear, this time showing letters for every control
within the Page Setup chunk:
Now, I can press any of the letters indicated to perform the command under
the KeyTip. We've even extended the metaphor to menus and dropdowns hosted
in the Ribbon:
(No need to click, there's no bigger version!)
In the above example, I could press ALT+U+G to toggle the Excel gridlines.
If I wanted to memorize a keyboard shortcut so that it worked from wherever I
was in the product, I would memorize ALT+P+U+G (the P is for switching to the
Page Layout tab).
Overall, this system has some advantages. Number one, it is very easy
for people to learn--even people who are normally turned off by using the
keyboard. I like to call it "Hansel and Gretel." You just follow the
crumbs of bread, pushing the letters as you go. It couldn't be simpler.
Second, KeyTips allow every control in the product to be keyboard accessible.
In Office 2003, only the menus could be easily navigated using the keyboard;
gaining keyboard access to toolbars could be done but only with an extravagantly
long and convoluted series of keystrokes. In the new system, everything
can be accessed efficiently with the keyboard, helping keyboard aficionados get
even more done with just their trusty 101 keys.
Third, KeyTips take advantage of the Ribbon's
to help save keystrokes in the same way that it helps to reduce mouse clicks.
When you're in a Ribbon tab, you don't have to press the letter for that tab to
use the commands within it. Press the letter for the chunk and command you
want directly. In the same way that you save mouse clicks because all of the table
layout commands are on one tab, you save keystrokes as well.
Of course, for those most common keystroke combinations--the ones you intend
to memorize--you'll probably want to remember and use the first letter, even
though it's not necessary if you're already in the tab. Doing so ensures
that you can use a consistent key combination no matter what Ribbon tab is up.
So, why did we design KeyTips, vs. going with a more traditional "underlined
accelerator" approach? One, the Ribbon is dense, and on some tabs, we
would have run out of letters quickly. Two, we wanted to provide keyboard
access to controls regardless of their display state. This means that even
controls without text labels or that are part of a "button set" (like
Bold-Italic-Underline) have KeyTips.
I believe it will be beneficial for most keyboarders to use the KeyTips
system, especially since it puts virtually everything you can do with Office
within a small number of keystrokes.
Type 3: Office 2003-compatible Keyboard Accelerators
Yet, we know you hardcore keyboard elements are out there. You've got
the "ALT+O+H+R" tattoo and you can use Excel with your eyes closed.
While I think even you would benefit from KeyTips is the long run, you'll be
happy to know that you can turn on a mode in which all of the keyboard
accelerators from previous versions of Office work. It's as if you're
navigating the "phantom" Office 2003 menu system right in Office 12. We
show hints in the status bar to help keep track of where you are and what you've
We know it's important that you can be effective day one with Office 12, and
being able to fall back on familiar keyboard accelerators is an important part
of that mission.
We designed the Office 12 interface to incorporate a rich set of goodies for
keyboard lovers. There's more I didn't mention (such as using the keyboard
to navigate the Ribbon as a 2D document for use with a screen reader), but I
believe I covered the essentials.
There's a new mechanism for accessing UI with the keyboard called "KeyTips."
KeyTips provides consistent, efficient access to every control and command in the
product. But, if you prefer, you can continue using the old keyboard
accelerators that are burned into your brain. It's up to you, but I'm
hoping the bread crumb trail leads a whole new generation of keyboard newbies to
the candy house to try a bite.
(Don't worry, I won't
pop you in the oven!).