As was to be expected, the publishing of new Office 2007 screenshots last Thursday brought along a scary amount of attention. In its first eight hours, that article had already had received 100x more hits than the next-most-popular article I've ever written has in its entire lifetime. So there were a lot of people seeing Office 2007 for the very first time.

And, as I alluded to last Wednesday in my roundabout way, we knew there were going to be a lot of passionate opinions. It's beautiful! It's ugly. I want it now! I would never use it. The black rocks, the blue is ugly. The blue is great, the black is oppressive. All of us have intrinsic, emotional responses to visual designs--and so it's no surprise that there were so many comments all over the web about the screenshots. Brad probably said it best on Friday; he predicted 1/3 of the people would love it, 1/3 would hate it, and 1/3 would be indifferent.


A sample of the new blue skin - Click to enlarge picture

At the same time, it's clear that many people were introduced to this whole UI project for the first time through seeing these screenshots and, if there's anything we've learned, it's that screenshots don't translate well the power of the new UI.

If you're just starting to learn about the Office 2007 UI, there's so much more than just visuals--there's a new interaction model throughout the programs. A great way to get up-to-speed is by watching Julie's video; it's six months old now, but the concepts are still up-to-date. (We're working on an updated one to debut soon.)

If you want to learn more about why we've changed Office's UI, the "Why the UI?" series of articles is the best resource.

OK, so there's a lot to get to this week, including a hopefully definitive look at the "size" of the UI, both mathematical and in common practice.

But today, I wanted to touch on the reasoning behind an aspect of the visuals that seemed to attract a lot of opinions: the colors.

As you probably know by now, there are two skins you can choose from: blue and black. Brad talked about some of the choices behind the visuals last Friday; I wanted to add some additional perspective today.

In Beta 1, the temporary skin was very gray. Although some people liked it (and are now sad that it's gone), the overwhelming feedback was that people thought it was unfriendly and depressing. Fair enough. (By the way, the anecdotal feedback from people actually using the new visuals has been very positive.)

But another reason the Beta 1 skin was wrong was that it didn't follow from the operating system. Why is the "blue" skin blue? Because the default appearance of Windows XP is based on blue, and we designed Office to complement the appearance of the operating system.

The black theme then (you guessed it) is designed to complement the upcoming Windows Vista release, with its darker, glass-like appearance.

A common question people asked last week is "which theme is the default?" The answer: it depends on your operating system. On Windows XP blue, you get the blue skin by default. On Windows Vista, you get the black skin by default. If glass is turned on in the operating system, we will enable glass in Office. However, unlike in past Office releases, you can choose a non-default skin--so if you like black better, by all means use it. Personally, I think I'll use blue with glass in Vista.

Last thing about visuals for now: are we done? Not even.

Although the overall direction is set, there are a lot of tweaks to the visual appearance still to come (we're not even to Beta 2 yet!) Some good issues were brought up in comments here and elsewhere which will inspire us to continue to improve the visuals as we continue this journey towards Office 2007 RTM.