Having just said that Microsoft needs to be better at innovating if it is to survive another 30 years in business, it seems that the next version of Microsoft Office has surprised everyone with a new, simplified user interface that removes much of the toolbar clutter. The press release includes screenshots for Office 12 core applications as well as a description of why Microsoft made the changes (there’s also a review of the interface on Office Watch).
I laughed when I read the comments about the new interface on Mark Harrison’s blog (which I was alerted to by Rory) – one which says “I hope [Microsoft] makes it easy for me to put things back the way I want” and another (from Mark) saying “[let's] have a dinosaur button to revert… to [the] old UI”! Could this be another case where Microsoft are forced to provide a “classic” interface to please those who don’t want to move with the times? The press release indicates that there are no plans to do so at present that doesn’t mean things won’t change before the product is released and whilst I appreciate that from a user familiarity perspective, many organisations will be reluctant to change (as there will be an associated training cost), the current UI has evolved over many years and is far too complex.
Interestingly, Microsoft say that this only applies to their authoring applications – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and parts of Outlook. Traditional menus and toolbars will still be used in many areas of the Office suite.
I can’t wait to see what they do to Outlook.