New Office User Interface

For the 2007 release of Office Microsoft have completely redesigned the Office user interface and have done away with all the different menus and dialogue boxes in favour of a whole new interface that is commonly referred to as ‘Pick & Click’

This new Office user interface does away with all the searching through various menus, dialogue boxes and toolbars, and aims to bring you the options you need, when you need them. There are three main features of the new interface and we will deal with each of them in turn.

The Ribbon

The most striking change to the Office user interface is the Ribbon which almost totally replaces the traditional menus and toolbars used in previous versions.

The ribbon is divided up into four basic parts which are labelled in the picture below.

  • Tabs – Depending on the program, there are around seven main tabs across the top, each representing an activity area.
  • Groups – Each Tab has a number of groups that keep related items together.
  • Commands – these are the buttons that generally perform a specific action.
  • Dialogue Launcher – Most groups have more options than can be displayed, and clicking here opens an old style dialogue box to access these options.

For each of the applications in the Office suite, the ‘Home’ tab of the ribbon contains all of the most commonly used commands such as those for text formating, cutting & pasting etc.

Microsoft have also done a good job of making the Ribbon ‘smart’. Some tabs such as the Picture or Table tabs are only visible when the appropriate object has been selected.

Whilst the Ribbon is good at putting things where you need them, it does take up more valuable screen space than you might like, especially if you only have a small or low resolution monitor, to hide the Ribbon temporarily whilst you are working simply double click the active tab to hide the groups, double clicking again will restore it.

One last and important thing we should mention about the Ribbon is that it’s here to stay – Microsoft have invested a huge amount of time and money into its development and they obviously believe in it as they have not offered a ‘Classic’ view – you will have to learn to love the Ribbon!

The Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) is situated at the top left of the Ribbon, and contains all the commands you use the most.

Whilst the Ribbon makes is easier for you to find everything, there’s no substitute for having your favourite commands immediately available. By default the toolbar only holds the commands for Save, Repeat and Undo, but it is possible to customise the bar and add other commands of your choice.

To modify the toolbar click the Customise Quick Access Toolbar button just to the right of the toolbar itself and select the option marked More Commands, and the ‘Customise’ tab on the left to open up the dialog box shown below. (this one is from Excel)

All that you need to do now is simply select a command and click the Add button, in our example we have added the ‘Print Preview’ button, and the new QAT looks like the one below.



The Microsoft Office Button

Situated in the top left hand corner of the screen is the Office Button and its main function is to replace the ‘File’ menu used in previous versions, this has been implemented because there is nowhere in the Ribbon for these comands to naturally sit so a specific menu was devised.

Clicking the button brings up a menu with all the usual commands found in previous versions of the software such as Open, Save, Save As, and Print. Also included are new commands such as Finish, Publish and Prepare. Additionally, the Office Button menu is now home to the Options dialog box. Previously this would have been found under the ‘Tools’ menu, but with the demise of the Tools menu this is the obvious place for it.



Live Preview

Whilst not strictly speaking a part of the new Office user interface, the last item to mention is the new ‘Live Preview’ feature. In previous versions of Office changing the format of a document had often been a little hit and miss, and often resulted in a cycle of changing format, returning to the document, checking that the changes look OK, if not, going back and changing the format again and repeating, a process that obviously took a lot of time, not to mention mouse clicks.

With the new ‘Live Preview’ feature when you attempt to make any formatting changes, either by selecting text or changing an in built Style the effects of the change can be seen before they are applied.




In our simple example above we have created a table using an 11 point font, and then using Live Preview we can see what effect changing the font to either 8 or 16 point will have, as we move the pointer up and dwn the list of font sizes, the table will change on the fly, thus previewing the effect of any changes we choose to make.

‘Live Preview’ is available for changes to Styles, Borders, Textures, Fill Effects, Rotation, Outline Styles, Bullets & Numbering, Picture Tweaking, 3D Effects, Slide Design, Transitions, Animations and Sounds (PowerPoint only)