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Microsoft Office Fluent User Interface Overview

Jun 10, 2009 at 12:01 AM
Edited Jun 10, 2009 at 12:02 AM
The Microsoft Office Fluent user interface overview

When planning the release of the 2007 Microsoft Office system we took on the challenge of making the core Microsoft Office applications easier to work with. Taking into account extensive usability data and recent advancements in hardware and software, the team has delivered the most significant update to the Microsoft Office user interface in more than a decade. The result of these efforts is the Microsoft Office Fluent user interface — a user interface that makes it easier for people to get more out of Microsoft Office applications so they can deliver better results faster.

Microsoft Office Word 2007, Office Excel 2007, Office PowerPoint 2007, Office Outlook 2007, and Office Access 2007 will feature a streamlined, uncluttered workspace that minimizes distraction and enables people to achieve the results they want more quickly and easily. View a larger image.

Design goals and approach

In previous releases of Microsoft Office applications, people used a system of menus, toolbars, task panes, and dialog boxes to get their work done. This system worked well when the applications had a limited number of commands. Now that the programs do so much more, the menus and toolbars system does not work as well. Too many program features are too hard for many users to find. For this reason, the overriding design goal for the Office Fluent user interface is to make it easier for people to find and use the full range of features these applications provide. In addition, we wanted to preserve an uncluttered workspace that reduces distraction for users so they can spend more time and energy focused on their work. With these goals in mind, we developed a results-oriented approach that makes it much easier to produce great results using the 2007 Microsoft Office applications.

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Key features

While the overall look of the redesigned applications is new, early testing indicates that people quickly feel at home in the Office Fluent user interface and rapidly become accustomed to the new way these applications work. The ease with which people use the Office Fluent interface is due to the simplicity of the interface features:

The Ribbon

In the Office Fluent UI the traditional menus and toolbars have been replaced by the Ribbon — a device that presents commands organized into a set of tabs. The tabs on the Ribbon display the commands that are most relevant for each of the task areas in the applications. For example, in Office Word 2007, the tabs group commands for activities such as inserting objects like pictures and tables, doing page layout, working with references, doing mailings, and reviewing. The Home tab provides easy access to the most frequently used commands. Office Excel 2007 has a similar set of tabs that make sense for spreadsheet work including tabs for working with formulas, managing data, and reviewing. These tabs simplify accessing application features because they organize the commands in a way that corresponds directly to the tasks people perform in these applications.

The Ribbon in Office Word 2007. View a larger image.

The Microsoft Office button

Many of the most valuable features in previous versions of Microsoft Office were not about the document authoring experience at all. Instead, they were about all the things you can do with a document: share it, protect it, print it, publish it, and send it. In spite of that, previous releases of the Microsoft Office applications lacked a single central location where a user can see all of these capabilities in one place. File-level features were mixed in with authoring features.

The Office Fluent user interface brings together the capabilities of the Microsoft Office system into a single entry point in the UI: the Microsoft Office Button. This offers two major advantages. First, it helps users find these valuable features. Second, it simplifies the core authoring scenarios by allowing the Ribbon to focus on creating great documents.

The Microsoft Office button in Office Word 2007. View a larger image.

Contextual tabs

Certain sets of commands are only relevant when objects of a particular type are being edited. For example, the commands for editing a chart are not relevant until a chart appears in a spreadsheet and the user is focusing on modifying it. In current versions of Microsoft Office applications, these commands can be difficult to find. In Office Excel 2007, clicking on a chart causes a contextual tab to appear with commands used for chart editing. Contextual tabs only appear when they are needed and make it much easier to find and use the commands needed for the operation at hand.

Contextual tabs bring needed functionality to the user's attention at the most appropriate time. View a larger image.


Galleries are at the heart of the redesigned user interface. Galleries provide users with a set of clear results to choose from when working on their document, spreadsheet, presentation, or Access database. By presenting a simple set of potential results, rather than a complex dialog box with numerous options, Galleries simplify the process of producing professional looking work. The traditional dialog box interfaces are still available for those wishing a greater degree of control over the result of the operation.

Galleries simplify many operations by presenting a set of results that users can simply "pick and click" to achieve the desired results. View a larger image.

Live Preview

Live Preview is a new technology that shows the results of applying an editing or formatting change as the user moves the pointer over the results presented in a Gallery. This new, dynamic capability streamlines the process of laying out, editing, and formatting so users can create excellent results with less time and effort. These elements are just a few of the new technologies that combine to create the Office Fluent user interface.

To learn more, watch the Office Fluent user interface demonstration video.

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The goal of the Office Fluent user interface is to make it easier for people to use Microsoft Office applications to deliver better results faster. We’ve made it easier to find powerful features by replacing menus and toolbars with a Ribbon that organizes and presents capabilities in a way that corresponds more directly to how people work. The streamlined screen layout and dynamic results-oriented Galleries enable users to spend more time focused on their work and less time trying to get the application to do what they want it to do. As a result, with the Office Fluent user interface, people will find it much easier and quicker to produce great looking documents, high-impact presentations, effective spreadsheets, and powerful desktop database applications.