One of the most startling and consistent pieces of feedback we've received from the early deployments of Office 2007 Beta 1 (and Beta 1 Technical Refresh) has been: "It's great that you added the drawing tools to all of the Office programs! Now I don't need to create the drawings in PowerPoint and copy them into Word/Excel/Outlook..."

Surprised? I certainly was.

While the drawing and graphics engine has certainly been massively improved in Office 2007, the same basic drawing capabilities have been available in Word/Excel/PowerPoint since Office 97. Yet, again and again we hear stories about people assiduously creating drawings in PowerPoint and copying them over piece by piece into their Word or Excel document. I remember during a site visit watching a man create a simple flowchart in Excel which should have taken 3 minutes actually take 15 minutes because of all of the cross-application, clipboard, and windowing work it took to keep moving shapes between the apps.

Why do many people believe the drawing tools are only in PowerPoint? Quite simply, PowerPoint is the only application which shipped with the Drawing toolbar turned on by default.

Of course, one could access the Drawing tools in Word or Excel in a couple of different ways: there is an unlabeled 16x16 icon on the Standard toolbar which toggles the Drawing toolbar on, for instance. Or, if you happen to be poking in the Picture submenu of the Insert menu, you might come across the AutoShapes command which floats the AutoShapes toolbar on top of your document content. Or, you could manually turn on the Drawing toolbar from the View Toolbars dialog box. or by right-clicking a different toolbar and clicking Drawing in the popup menu.

The result of these tools being split up and buried in so many places in the UI? Many people don't find them.

Furthermore, because the Drawing toolbar is on by default in PowerPoint but isn't in Word/Excel, some people intuit that the features don't exist. (After all if they did exist, the toolbar would be there at the bottom of the screen, right?)

With that in mind, I shouldn't have been shocked to hear from people pleasantly surprised to stumble across the drawing tools in the Office 2007 UI.

In fact, because there's less UI to scan through (just six tabs to click on), we expect that a lot of people will find new features that save them time. And when we get feedback from people raving about "new features" that were actually added a decade ago, we know we've achieved one of our goals of helping people get more out of the capabilities that are already there.

The drawing area is unique in a few ways, and it's one in which we've received a lot of feedback.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss some of the tweaks we've made to the drawing UI along the way (and for Beta 2) based on this feedback.