Last week I started a new series of some of my favorite new features in Office 12.  If you're curious what criteria I'm using to select them, read Part 1.

Today's episode: You're standing up on stage in front of a thousand people who have come to watch you talk.  The house dims, and the bright glare of stage lighting burns down on you.  Nervous, with sweaty palms and shaking hands, you prepare to start your presentation.  What will the audience think of you?  Will they like what you have to say?  Have you prepared enough?  Did you expect a larger audience?  Smaller?  Oh geez, I hope the demos work...

Many of us have been there... up on stage, getting ready to present a PowerPoint deck.  Or maybe in an important meeting with clients or potential supporters of your big idea.  You're probably presenting on a laptop with a TrackPoint or a TrackPad.  These mouse substitutes are hard enough to use with great precision in general; when nervous, they can be almost impossible to use.

All of these thoughts are going through your head, your hands are shaking, it's tough enough to use a TrackPad anyway... and PowerPoint makes you click a tiny 12x12 button in the lower-left hand corner of the screen to start the presentation. 

This is one of the only buttons in Office people regularly use under high stress, and it's arguably the smallest, hardest to click button on the screen.

The Start Slide Show icon is so small that it can be tricky to click...

How many times have I watched nervous people fumble to hit the Start Slide Show button?  I know I've done it myself many times.  When I'm on the spot and people are waiting on me, I want the software to make me look good--not add to my stress by starting me out on the wrong foot.

So, the simple Office 12 feature is this: the Ribbon in PowerPoint contains large, easy to click buttons that make it easy to start your slide show from the beginning or from a slide in the middle of the deck.  Each of the buttons is thousands of pixels in size, easy to hit even with imprecise pointers, such as a TrackPoint or a Tablet PC stylus.

An easy-to-click way to start your presentation (Click to view full picture)

This might seem like a small detail, and compared to many hundreds of other improvements in Office 12, it is.  And it is true that, if you know about them, there are other ways to start a slide show in Office 2003: press F5, or drop down the Slide Show menu.  But small things do make a difference, and if we help people have a higher level of confidence when starting a slide show, that's well worth the effort.

I think this is a good illustration of how the freedom of layout and size options provided by the Ribbon help us communicate what's important in a program.  The right features can be made large and prominent, and others can be made smaller to take up less space.

I know I'll appreciate this the next time I'm up on stage, hot lights bearing down on my composure...