A DESIGN WITH ALL-CAPS

A DESIGN WITH ALL-CAPS

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Let’s talk about the all-caps menus.

When we shared the RC design preview with you, we expected the uppercase menu would generate mixed feedback and emotions. We had seen similar reactions from early adopters and from our own internal users prior to posting about it. Rest assured that we’ve heard you, and we’ve been thinking through what should be done here. Using uppercase for the menus was not an arbitrary decision, and I think it will help the discussion to frame why we made this change.

We’ve chosen to use uppercase styling in the top menu for two main reasons: 1) to keep Visual Studio consistent with the direction of other Microsoft user experiences, and 2) to provide added structure to the top menu bar area.

On the first point, the use of uppercase text is becoming a strong signature element of styling for navigation and headings in Microsoft user interfaces. You can see it in the Azure Portal, in Zune, and in the latest Bing search results update.

On the second point, we explored designs with and without uppercase styling. In the end we determined it to be a very effective way of providing structure and emphasis to the top menu area in Visual Studio 2012.

Standard Case

Uppercase

Based on early feedback on this application of uppercase styling, we made two modifications to our design. First, we tuned the typography of the menu to better adjust to uppercase text, including increased spacing between menu items from 14px to 20px to make menu items stand out better. Secondly, we moved Quick Launch to the title bar to make more room on the menu bar, especially for cases where a user has installed add-ins that add their own top-level menus.

As with most style changes, there has been both positive and negative feedback. We realize that some of you will continue to dislike this change, and you’ve been very direct in expressing your opinions on this subject.  Our view remains that this is the right design for the Visual Studio user interface for the reasons I mentioned above. That said, we will enable you to customize the casing, and we are exploring options for how to expose that choice. We will post again once we’ve settled on a final approach to be available in RTM.

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  • I've been using VS 2012 RC at work from the day it was released and not once was I bothered by all-caps.

    They said there will be an option to turn that off. Now go and write some useful feedback!

  • Thank you for deleting my honest feedback. Who cares about dreadful user experience in Microsoft anyway?

  • AS LONG AS YOU GIVE US THE OPTION TO TURN THIS OFF, I DON'T HAVE A PERSONAL PROBLEM. I still don't agree with your reasoning, though.

  • I LIKE THE ALL CAPS, hehe :-)

  • I really dobn't like all caps, too bad design.

  • I like the all-caps, too.  But if I change my mind, nice to know I'll be able to change it.

  • @Mike Paterson: If you could care less, then that means you care. Which is it?

  • I think the all-caps menu is great eye catcher. It draws the user's eye to the menu. I like it.

  • I don't mind ALL-CAPS menu. I hide the menu bar by default since years. People should just learn to use the shortcut keys.

  • Relative to the other navigation and the other UI text, the uppercase in the Azure Portal looks like small caps and is upstaged by a more friendly line of navigation right below it. The menu text in Visual Studio does not do this, so it has more impact and looks significantly worse. Additionally, the uppercase in the Azure Portal uses Helvetica where the uppercase I does not have serifs (as they do in Segoe UI) which makes some word forms look strange.

    They are different things and do not have the same effect when implemented; to use them to keep Visual Studio consistent with something it's not is, for the above reasons, a fool's errand. Like the monochrome icons before them, it sells out the feel and the integrity that Visual Studio has accumulated over many years and which people rely on to do their jobs. That doesn't mean "never change", it means "never change without a marked improvement and don't take change lightly".

    You changed every single icon in the product, many of them now not clearly recognizable. You stomped on a lineage of consistent visual feedback in the Intellisense menu since Intellisense was invented. The mental high-level picture of "what the toolbar looks like" and "what this palette looks like" is erased and although you still find your way around intellectually, you can't go directly by intuition and have to re-learn your muscle memory. That's not a bad thing when associated with real change, but in many cases (and with notable exceptions), this just qualifies as a paint job.

    You absolutely did not have bad intentions, but for a group of people who see Visual Studio as a power tool and the thing they live in and need to rely on, you made them lose their grip on a few important places and they feel like they don't have control. No wonder people were rioting in the comments then, and are now still upset about a similar change.

    Kudos for daring to address this head-on; boo for not actually explaining what qualities using uppercase is supposed to bring to the table and for pretending that using uppercase in all places are functionally equivalent. If you really are up to letting us into the process, I look forward to a post where these things are given the focus they deserve.

  • By looking directly at your examples (Azure Portal and Zune) do you see how the all-caps menu font is much smaller than the low-caps text? That's acceptable, because then their menus don't end attracting too much attention. But you are using the same font size for both regular and all-caps text, thus leading to this terrible effect.

    If you want to keep all-caps, please fix the font used by making it smaller.

  • Caps can be switched off. No problem.

    I can't turn off monochrome in the interface though.

    After using the Beta for a few weeks and now the RC, I've just gone back to Visual Studio 2010. Sorry guys, it's just too fatiguing to be constantly scanning for the right icon. In VS2012 all the icons in the Solution Explorer look the same. It *may* be pretty from a design perspective, but it's not usable. I'll miss all the brilliant new features, but I just can't handle the new interface. It's not about taste, it's about usability for me.

  • ALL CAPS CAN BE GOOD, BUT PLEASE LEAVE AN OPTION TO TURN IT OFF.

  • Menus are of secondary import, not something I go to every minute. It doesn't have to stand out like that, but rather be elegantly in the background. The lower case looks much simpler and less glaring. I stare at the code editor and that is the thing that should be in the focus.

    Uppercase menu elements when mouse hovers over it or something if you absolutely must.

    And I truly dislike the design directions in many of the recent products.

  • Azure Portal is not really a good example.. there it's clear why they use it - to distinguish a secondary menu ("secondary" because of its smaller text size) from the primary menu (which uses lowercase!). In VS11, there is only one menu.

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