Back in the article "Set In Our Ways?" I talked about one of the design issues we were thinking about at the time--namely, whether or not it was OK sometimes to break commands out of a set.

In particular, we were thinking about the Mini Toolbar which comes up on selection and as part of context menus in Office 2007. As you may recall, in order to make the best use of the limited space available, we needed to cast a critical eye on the content included in this UI.

With many people clamoring for indent, outdent, highlighter, and styles, it seemed like a waste of space to include much less frequently-used features such as right justify and underline.

As it often does, an interesting discussion ensued, and many of you encouraged us to break with convention.

So, for Beta 2 we decided to take the plunge and really optimize around the most frequently-used commands, breaking the restriction that all of the commands of a "set" (such as Bold, Italic, Underline) have to be together.

Here's what we decided on as Beta 2 content for the Mini Toolbar in Word:

The Mini Toolbar, Revisted

(Remember, the complete set of commands is still always available in the Ribbon--the Mini Toolbar is for super-efficient mouse access to the absolute most frequently-used commands.)

An overview of changes from Beta 1:

  • Styles were added (the button next to Format Painter on the top row)
  • Underline, left justify, right justify, and numbering were removed.
  • Highlighter, Indent, and Outdent were added
  • Center is now a toggle button which toggles between Center and Left Justify (if you click Center on centered text, it left justifies.)

As a result, the set of features available maps much more closely to the most frequently-used features in Word while taking even less screen real-estate than the Beta 1 Mini Toolbar.

We made similar enhancements to the Mini Toolbar in Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook based on the same design criteria.

So, as always, thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts--it was because of feedback from the internal beta program as well as the discussion here that we made this change.

I'm finding the updated Mini Toolbar to be a lot more useful, especially because of the indent/outdent and highlighter that I missed so much on the Beta 1 version. And I know, based on overwhelming feedback, that many people will be happy to have access to Styles as well.

So, while I'm optimistic about the improved design, only time will tell as we get the next round of feedback based on Beta 2.