Why fill your autoshapes with just a boring single color when you can do so much more?

In the picture below,

  • The top rectangle has a traditional single-color fill. This is the default look that new autoshapes get.
  • The middle rectangle has a pretty two-color gradient, going diagonally from dark blue to white.
  • The bottom one is textured with an image.


It's all very easy to do.

  1. First create your favorite autoshape in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, or Frontpage. You can do this either using the Drawing toolbar (View | Toolbars) or through Insert | Picture | AutoShapes.
  2. Double-click the newly-created shape.
  3. Select the Color drop-down.
  4. Choose Fill Effects...

This is another feature that's been around since Office 97. However, I never discovered it until I started working at Microsoft.

Why? I never thought to look for a gradient effect, texture fill, or some other fancy fill effects in a color dropdown. It still makes no sense to me today. I would only go there to change the color of the shape, never looking closely at the choices at the bottom.

This is obviously bad. It's very cool, Microsoft spent many resources on its development, yet I never enjoyed the fruits.

I can understand why the Color dropdown might have been a good place to put Fill Effects. It's a mutually exclusive choice. You have exactly one choice between a colored fill, a gradient, and a texture fill. It makes sense to use UI that chooses between them.

But why label it Color? Why not call it Effect? And this I probably know the answer to. The vast majority of people just want to fill their autoshape with a color, and if it was labeled Effect, it was make this common scenario more confusing.

Design is always hard.