Yesterday, a few of us spent the day until almost 10pm locked in a conference room meticulously reviewing all the tabs in the Ribbon. We've done these all-day marathon sessions a few times during the product cycle, and I find them to be extremely draining. By the end of the day, my head was just swimming with controls and labels and Ribbon scaling--and we only finished reviewing about half of the total tabs.
At this juncture, we're far enough along with the design that we're focused on trying to make sure that every detail is correct: every label as clear as it can be, every punctuation mark in the right place. We looked at the scaling of every tab at horizontal resolutions from 2400 pixels down to 200 pixels across and everything between, considering the ramifications of the scaling designs for all of the languages for which we ship a version of Office. We looked at consistency across every tab in the different apps, making sure that we're as consistent as possible in how the UI works and looks.
Going through this somewhat excruciating process reminded me of a few smaller features that I meant to write about long ago but haven't gotten around to yet.
Last fall, I wrote a series of posts introducing the gallery control in Office 2007. We use the gallery all over the place in the new UI to show visual representations of everything from simple formatting styles to the results advanced features will have on your document.
One of the unique capabilities of the gallery that I haven't shown or discussed yet is called the "gallery filter."
Simply put, when there are a large set of items in a gallery which can be well-categorized into several groups, we provide the ability to filter the list of items in the gallery directly from the gallery itself.
For instance, Word 2007 includes a new feature for inserting and formatting rich mathematical equations and symbols into a document. You start by clicking Equations on the Insert tab to add a new math region into the document.
When you insert the math region, the Equation Tools contextual tabs appear to provide the tools for designing the equation.
One of the primary components of this tab is a Symbols gallery which helps you insert mathematical symbols from a list of hundreds of the most commonly used ones. A gallery with so many items would be larger than could fit on most monitors and would be unwieldy to navigate.
To help solve this problem, the Symbols gallery uses the built-in capabilities of the gallery to split the contents into several manageable sections. You can then use the filter dropdown at the top of the gallery to navigate between the sets of symbols.
Here's how it looks:
The Symbols gallery in the Equation Tools contextual tabs.
Drop down the Symbols gallery to choose a symbol from the current category(Click to view full picture)
Click the filter at the top of the gallery to choose a different category of symbols
The gallery changes to show the symbols for the category you picked(Click to view full picture)
While most galleries don't require the filter, its addition to a few key galleries has greatly enhanced their usability and efficiency characteristics.