A major component of the work around improving the Office 12 user interface is rethinking feature organization.  As I've explained in past posts, there are many reasons why commands ended up in certain menus and toolbars--not all of them logical.  Most of the decisions made sense in isolation, but over two decades, the overall model hasn't hung together very well.

One of the myths I hear from Office enthusiasts a lot when we sit down to chat is "but the current UI is already organized totally logically."

It seems to me that in this case, familiarity might be clouding rational judgment.

Not that I underestimate or undervalue the importance of familiarity.  The fact that some people can master even the most complex tools shows that any lack of user-friendliness can be made up by sheer time and experience.  No question about it. 

In fact, this is why we have taken so seriously the task of reorganizing Office.  We only did so after many years when it became clear that the benefits of doing so hugely outweighed the advantages of familiarity with the current system, however flawed.

But, at the same time, let's not romanticize the "idealness" of the current Office menu structure either.  It may feel familiar to experts, but that doesn't mean it's the best system for helping people find functionality in Office.

Just as a simple example, here's a fun Monday quiz for all you Word gurus out there.

    What do the following Word 2003 features have in common?

  •     Find out the current number of words in the document
  •     Use voice recognition to control Office
  •     Create a Document Workspace
  •     Print envelopes
  •     Open the Visual Basic editor to write macros
  •     Hyphenate the text in your document
  •     Merge the contents of multiple documents
  •     Start a video conference using NetMeeting
  •     Tweak your AutoCorrect settings