Variations on a Theme by Office

Today's Guest Writer: Howard Cooperstein

Howard Cooperstein is a Lead Program Manager in the PowerPoint and OfficeArt group.

This week's post is third in a series on Office Themes. The first post was an overview, in the second we looked inside an Office Theme file. This week I wrap up the series, but the discussion about Office Themes, PowerPoint and OfficeArt will continue over in our new team blog. (Happy now, Loki?)

Themes, Documents & Templates

Let's start with a quick look at the relationship between Themes, Documents, and Templates.

An Office Theme is a standalone file type. They are what you see in the Theme gallery. Every document created with Office 2007 has a theme inside it--even blank, new documents. When you apply a new theme it replaces the default theme with a new "look." A template is a special "starter" document type; when you open it you get a fresh new document with all the content, layout, formatting and the theme from the that template.

If you are a PowerPoint user you may be asking, "Hey! What's the difference between a Theme and a PowerPoint Design Template?" Starting with Office 2007 PowerPoint templates are focused on being "starter documents" just like Word and Excel. Office Themes are the new format for PowerPoint slide designs; a theme file can contain a slide "master" allowing it to take over this job.

Themes make Office Templates much more rich and customizable.

GrrAnimals, Office Style

A popular line of 80's children's clothing tagged their shirts, pants and skirts with a signature animal. As long as you picked say, two lions, your outfit would look great. The idea was to help children (and I'm sure quite a few parents) choose a well-matched outfit. That basic idea lives in Office Themes and Quick Styles: pick from the galleries and your content will be well-matched to your overall document theme.

This is not a document formatting straitjacket, to continue the analogy, sort of. :-) A single theme generates a variety of styles for each content type. Using the Office Theme default (featured in last week's post) I've created a small sampling of the table, chart, and shape styles available. The actual number of styles for each object is 30 or more! And, of course, those 30 styles update their fonts, colors and effects with every theme effectively creating a brand new set of 30+ styles.

Click to see style variety from one theme (PNG, 99KB)

Following Your Theme

The most common complaint about Theme and Style content is that it gets dated quickly. More importantly, it's never exactly how YOU want it. Pretty soon everyone has seen the same canned documents and they are bored. Then you are back to square one creating your own formatting.

This staleness factor was on our mind from Day One. We worked hard to build in many levels of customizability to create many different potential themes out of our core set. The customization for Colors, Fonts, Effects is right next to the theme gallery. Pick a theme, tweak the settings; you can even save these settings as a new theme in your gallery. And new themes for your gallery will be available to download through Office Online.

In the picture sequence below I show a sample slide in the Atrium theme progressing through a series of color, font and effect changes. You'll see the subtle and not so subtle adjustments you can make to any Office theme. This is one of our new themes, fresh off the desktop of one of our Theme Designers.

Click to the see the Atrium Theme transform (PDF, 863K)

This theme and the other two I show below are so new most of my team hasn't seen them! Obviously the themes are in development and exact names and visuals will likely change by the time Office 2007 ships.

The Themes, They are a Changin'

So far we've talked about the foundation of themes, and have seen example styles and customization within a theme, but we haven't seen a document actually change Theme. In the sequence below you'll see a single slide rendered in four different themes using a recent build of PowerPoint 2007. I exported these graphics using the new Save to PDF feature.

Click the slide to see example theme transformations! (PDF, 403K)

Wrapping it Up!

So, there's your taste of Office Themes. Thanks for reading. I'd also like to thank the amazing, dedicated people I work with on Themes and Quick Styles. There are hundreds of people involved in the design, coding and testing of features affected by Themes--all working to help you make superb looking documents. Get your hands on Beta 1 or Beta 2 when it comes out and let us know what you think!