Evolving the Backstage View

For those of you who are dogfooding the Technical Preview build, thanks for all of the great feedback you’ve sent us so far on the new Backstage view! We’ve been getting a lot of requests for a sneak peak at the design changes that we’ve been making to the Backstage view since the Technical Preview builds have been released. I’ll talk through some of these changes in this post. Please note that these screenshots are still subject to change - they are from an interim build on the way to our Beta later this fall. We continue to tweak the designs based on what we learn in our usability labs and appreciate continued feedback from those of you that are dogfooding the Technical Preview.

File Button
From the early days of this release, we have been working on making the common commands like Print, Save, and Open more discoverable than in Office 2007. When we created the Office Menu in Office 2007, we optimized for Fitt’s Law – making it super easy to put your mouse in the upper left corner and get to these commands. For those folks who discovered the Office Button right away, this was a great little feature that made Office easier to use. Unfortunately, because this design was unconventional and different from the rest of the Ribbon UI we added, it was hard for some customers to find the Office Button the first time. Many who saw the Office Button believed it to be a branding decoration, rather than a functional button.

In the Technical Preview build, we took steps towards addressing this feedback. First off, we put the Office Button within the same row as the other Ribbon tabs. The location of the Office Button contributed most to people confusing it with a decorative logo. Another thing that we changed was the shape – instead of a fancy round button, we turned it into a button that looked much more like a tab. Lastly, we added an arrow to the button to try to encourage people to click on it.

With these changes, we started seeing some significant improvements in the usability tests in terms of people finding this button quickly the first time. But we still thought the initial discoverability needed to be better - we want to be sure people have no trouble finding the functionality under this button. Over and over in the usability lab, customers told us the word “File” was something they were looking for in the UI – all the years of using the File menu to use commands like “Save As” and “Print” is a hard habit to break. So we’ve listened to our customers and in our Beta release you’ll see we’ve added the “File” label to the tab. This has been a tremendous success in the usability labs and we’ve seen an incredible surge in initial discoverability of the Backstage view.

Technical Preview: Beta (coming later this fall):
Technical Preview file tab Beta File tab

No More Back Button
One of the things we’ve been working on has been improving the navigation to and from the Backstage. Because the Backstage view covers up the document, we created the Back button mechanism to allow you to navigate back to your document. Unfortunately, this design had some issues that we’ve been working through – it led to some confusion around what the “X” (close) button in the top right corner should do, set incorrect expectations around what “Back” actually implies (does it work like in the browser?), and was not an easy target to hit.

An important change has been to keep the Ribbon tabs visible and usable while you’re in the Backstage view. This makes the Backstage work much more like any other Ribbon tab – a metaphor people are already familiar with. In addition to clicking on the document thumbnail or pressing ESC, you can simply click on any one of the other Ribbon tabs to get back to your document and use those commands, just as you would switch between other Ribbon tabs.

Technical Preview:
Technical Preview back button

Beta Backstage View Top

Updated Visuals
We’ve also worked to implement our nearly final set of visuals for the Backstage view. Our designers have worked to develop a set of visuals that help make the Backstage easier to browse and make the transition between your document and the Backstage feel smoother:

Word Beta Visuals

PowerPoint Beta Visuals

Organization of Navigation Commands
We have also added a little bit more efficiency to the “Quick Commands” in the left side of the Backstage view. Commands like “Save”, “Save As”, “Open”, and “Close” are no longer located beneath the “Info” tab and are actually closer to the File button than they have been in previous versions. Options and Exit are also no longer associated with the last tab, which has been renamed to “Help” to better reflect the commands located on this tab (you can think of the Help tab as the replacement for the commands that used to be located on the Office 2003 Help menu.)

Technical Preview: Beta:
Technical Preview Navigation Pane Beta Navigation Pane

Most Recently Used Documents
For some of our customers, having very efficient access to their most recently used documents is super important. There are several ways to do this. First, you can add the “Open Recent File” command to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). Just drop down the Quick Customize menu at the right of the QAT.

Quick Customize Menu

Clicking on the “Open Recent File Button” from the QAT will open the Backstage view directly to the Recent tab.

Open Recent File Button

You could also choose to add a number of recently used documents directly to the navigation pane – the left hand side of the Backstage view. At the bottom of the Recent tab is a new feature that will allow you to choose the number of recent documents to show in the pane.

If you turn on this feature by clicking on the checkbox…

Recent workbooks checkbox

The number of documents you choose will be shown along with the other “Quick Commands” at the top of the Backstage navigation pane.

MRU items in Navigation Pane

Turning this feature on also means that you’ll be able to use the keyboard sequence Alt+F+1 (or 2 or 3, etc) to open the most (or 2nd most, etc) recent document. And for those of you who use the pinning feature of the Recent Documents list (which keeps your favorite documents at the top of the list), you will be able to use the Alt+F+1 (or 2, or 3, etc) keyboard sequence to get to your favorite document, regardless of when it was last opened!

You can now use the keyboard to open your pinned and most recently viewed documents:

Keyboading to MRU items in navigation pane

Thanks for all of the great feedback that you’ve been giving us so far and we hope that these changes help you become even more productive with the new Backstage view. Let us know what you think of these changes and we look forward to continue hearing your feedback on all of the work that we’ve put into Office 2010. We are listening closely and looking forward to the release of the beta version later this fall.

Marina, Program Manager on the Office User Experience team