Microsoft Office Backstage (Part 3 – The Info tab)

Hi, my name is Marina and I am a Program Manager on the Office User Experience team. In previous blog posts, you’ve read about the new Backstage view and how it has helped to improve the Printing experience. Now I’d like to tell you about the Info tab - the default tab you see when you enter the Backstage view.

Whenever you are working on a document, there is a ton of information available about its current state. Unfortunately, it is not very easy to actually view all of this information. And when it is displayed, it is spread out across many different parts of the application - in dialogs, the title bar, the status bar, the properties dialog, or even in Windows explorer.
Some information is always visible (the word count that is shown on the status bar); while other information isn’t shown unless you know to look for it (is there any personal information hidden in the properties of the file?) And some information isn’t even accessible from within the Office application (what is the full path to my file?)

Information about your document can be found in many different places in the product:

Multiple dialogs showing document information

In Office 2010, we are providing a way for you to see all the information that is available about your document in one convenient place.  And not only that, but we are making this information readily available, so you don't have to dig around for it yourself.  You no longer have to remember to run several features before sending your file to a potential employer.  And if your document is in a state that you didn't know about, you will be able to notice this on your way to saving it to a public share.

The Info tab of the Backstage view is the place that assembles all this information:

Office 2010 Info Tab Example

While there are many features exposed in the Info tab which can help make working with documents easier, I'll highlight a few of my favorites.

Simple Features Made Useful

Sometimes, knowing some of the most basic document properties can help you make a decision.  With the Info tab, it's now easy to see (at one glance) when your document was last modified and who did it.  You can also find out the file size of your document without having to leave the application and search through the Windows explorer:

Example document properties

One other task that has always been difficult to do from within Office applications has been to get the full path of where a document you're working on lives.  We now show you this path in the Info tab, and you can easily copy and paste this path wherever you need it:

Current document's path available on the Info tab

If you ever wanted to protect a document from accidentally being edited, but didn't want to prevent someone from editing it if they really wanted to, you can use the Mark as Final feature.  Just select the radio button to indicate that you think this document is final in the Info tab: 

Editing permissions in the Info tab

Your document will now be made read-only, and anyone can see that it has been marked as final.  They can also easily understand how to change this state if they wanted to go ahead and change something in the file.

The Value in Knowing the State of Your World

When we were designing the Backstage, one thing that we realized is that it is much more interesting to read about the current state of your document, rather than reading the description of the feature that will provide you that state. 

Instead of telling you that you can "Increase the security of the document by adding encryption" and making you guess whether you want to use this feature (or if it has already been applied), we can just say "Anyone can open, copy, and change any part of this document".  Seeing the current state of the document makes it much easier for you to decide if you want to use one of the available features to change this state.

The Office Menu in Office 2007 shows you a list of features you can use to "Prepare the document for distribution":

Office 2007 Office Menu Prepare Tools

In the Office 2010 Backstage view, instead of just giving you a list of features you can use, we tell you the current state of your document, without requiring you to first run the features yourself:

General Info Tab Features

And of course, if the state of the document is anything but the default, we update the information to give you the most up-to-date status of your document, and highlight it to indicate that something special is going on:

Info Tab Permissions Highlighted

Another example where showing you the status of the document is much more effective is the Document Inspector feature.  It can scan through your document and find personal information (such as the author's name) or content that is hidden (such as hidden sheets or comments) - content that you may not want other people to see. 

Unfortunately in the past, you had to actively remember to run this feature in order to find out if this content exists in your document.  In Office 2010, we provide this information without waiting for you to run the feature yourself:

Info Tab Prepare for Sharing

By glancing at this section in the Info tab of the Backstage view, you can quickly tell that your document contains some comments and hidden worksheets that you've forgotten about and may want to remove.

Contextual Information

In addition to the information that every document contains (such as document properties, permission information, presence of hidden information, etc), if your document is ever in a special state, we make sure to tell you.  This contextual information is not interesting to know about at all times - otherwise you'd be bombarded with all the possible states that your document could be in.  So it only appears when your document is in this special state and there is an action that you may want to take as a result.

For example, your workbook may have some disabled macros in it, which are necessary for your file to work correctly, but are blocked to protect your computer from being attacked.  The Info tab will show you this contextual information and allow you to enable the macros:

Info Tab Security Warning

Another example of contextual information that will be shown is if you are working with a file that was created in a previous version of Office.  In this case, your document may be in Compatibility mode - and some of the rich new features have been disabled.  This state is reflected in the Info tab, and you can convert your file to the latest version if you want to use those features:

Info Tab Compatibility Mode Information

And if your document lives on a SharePoint site and you use features like Co-authoring, Workflows, Check Out, or Policy, the Info tab will always show you what is going on with your document.  For example, if you have a workflow task assigned to you, you will be shown this information in the Info tab:

Info Tab Workflow Information

Thanks for reading.  We hope that working with documents is a bit easier now that you have this information at your fingertips!  Let us know what you think!