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Stuff from Microsoft that actually seems cool

I hadn't been the least bit interested in anything Microsoft was doing for quite some time. After seeing some of the laughably bad screenshots for the next version of Microsoft Window, which were mostly bad (and ugly) attempts to copy OS X, I was convinced that they had no clue what they were doing (especially the horribly bad transparencies).

I'm still not sold on the next Windows, but two applications they previewed today seem like they might be interesting. First, there's Microsoft Max, which is a photosharing tool notable for the fact that it has some rather nice looking 3D layouts. I haven't tried it out, though, so it's hard to say whether or not it will be an impressive offering.

What did sell me on some future Microsoft tech is the Office 12 revamp. Office 12 is a major, major overhaul. The focus of this release seems more on improving the usability of features, rather than bogging it down with more useless features. Instead of the cluttered menu bar of the past, they have reorganized everything in tabs that change a toolbar at the top. For example, there is an 'insert' tab that you can click on that fills you top toolbar with things like "table" and "header" and "chart." The coolest bit I think is that when you hover over an option, you get an instant preview of it in the page. If you hover over a font choice, for example, your entire page appears in that font. If you hover over a 3x3 table, you see a 3x3 table in your page. I can see this as being a big timesaver.

word-inserttab.png

The Office 12 UI redesign also demonstrates a better, though not perfect, understanding of Fitt's Law (basically, the smaller something is and the further away it is the harder it is to select with a mouse). The new toolbar has much larger selection buttons and there are new "floaty" menus that appear above selected text in Word. These floaty menus contain the most common commands like bold and underline. An interesting behavior they added is that the menu fades away if you move your mouse away from it.

Screenshots taken from here. Words and still photos don't really convey the differences though, so if you have the time you can check out the Office 12 video (skip past the first 10 minutes or so).

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on September 13, 2005 12:04 PM.

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