It's the Reason for Being
Although the focus of my blog is the Office 2007 user interface, really the purpose of any software interface is to communicate what a piece of software is capable of and to make it easy and efficient to use the features of the software.
So, while we do have a sizable team focused just on user experience issues in Office, we have an important partnership with the teams focused in building the individual apps based on the new UI: Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access.
It's a give and take process: we have goals for the overall user experience of Office, and they have goals around specific functionality they want to make more powerful, easier to use, or more discoverable. Usually those goals are in sync; occasionally it takes more dialog to really understand the ways in which the usage patterns of the apps are unique and to make sure we're suiting those ways of working.
That said, the Ribbon has given us an opportunity to look at how to expose in a straightforward way valuable features which existed in past versions of Office but which only experts knew how to find and use.
As we get closer to Beta 2 later in the year and then eventually the release of Office 2007, I'll ramp up the discussion of many of these details. In the meantime, the Excel team published a great article focusing on a few of the ways the Ribbon has helped to expose some existing features in a more discoverable or powerful way.
This article is well worth the read if you're interested in seeing a perspective on the user interface from a more specific, app-focused viewpoint.
Have a great weekend everyone... next week should be a fun one.