Microsoft Office Backstage (Part 4 - The Help Tab)

Hi, my name is Justin S. Davis, and I am a Program Manager on the Office Product Lifecycle Engineering Excellence (PLEX) team.  Clay, Jon, and Marina from the Office User Experience team have already introduced you to the Microsoft Office Backstage View.  The Backstage provides a first-class surface for a wealth of document information and operations that had been obscured by levels of user interface. 

In Office 2007, information about your product, product licenses, and product support is buried several levels deep, and discovering this information can be challenging.  For example, suppose that you wish to check for the latest Office product updates.  In Office 2007, you would open the Office Options screen:

 Office Center Dialog - Office 2007

If you wish to find out about the license state of your Office product, you would visit this screen and click the About button to bring up a very familiar dialog box:

Office 2007 About Dialog

Making the Customer Connection

The Resources tab is a good first step towards putting all the product support information in one place.  Still, product support options are located together with a number of Word-specific options, making it hard to pick out the information or options you're looking for.  This does not quite fit Office's WYSIWYG user interface at all.  Admittedly, product updates, product license activation, and product support don't necessarily align with the WYSIWYG paradigm in the first place.  After all, how often do you really need to update Office? 

In Office 2010, we set out to evolve the Resource Tab of the Office Options dialog into a dashboard-like interface: a dynamic, data-driven view that consolidates and surfaces application- and product-specific information such as versioning, updates, and license state in one convenient location.  The Resources tab with its matter-of-fact presentation is enhanced in order to...

  • Bring product support features, product licensing information, and various tools into one location.
  • Align with the WYSIWYG UI paradigm.
  • Provide value that gives you a reason to return to this place.

The Backstage Help tab makes it easier for you to get support, help, and product information.

  • If you want to get the latest updates for your Office 2010 products, or find out which products you have purchased and which products you are trialing, all of this information is laid out in a simple, intuitive format.
  • If you are using Office for the first time, the Backstage View offers a variety of options to get training and ramp-up on the features of Office.
  • Or imagine you are talking on the telephone with a representative of Microsoft Customer Service and Support and you need to provide your Product ID in order for the representative to assist you further. Explaining where to find the PID while on the telephone was a serious inconvenience in Office 2007. Now, you just open the Backstage Help tab. The PID is clearly presented along with other critical product information.

One Consolidated View

 Backstage View Help place

The Help place has three key components:

  • Support options in the left column, providing various ways to get more out of your Office products, troubleshoot issues, and get Help with your Office applications.
  • Product licensing that shows the Office 2010 products you are licensed to use on this computer, along with the applications included in each.
  • About My Application information that assists Microsoft Customer Service and Support in diagnosing any issues you are having with Office.

A typical user will install one Microsoft Office 2010 product at a time.  However, you may choose to purchase some products and trial others on a time-limited basis.  This view dynamically adjusts to your specific installation:

Office 2010 License Information Including Build Number

Thus, as you work with and try out various flavors of Office 2010, you can return here to see everything you've got in one spot.  Well, that's nice, but why should you care? 

Good point!  In general, you shouldn't have to care about product activation and licensing.  However, issues related to product activation are a source of considerable customer pain.  Activation status used to be buried in the Resources tab.  Now, product licensing is a first-class citizen of the Backstage View.

Product activation verifies that your product license was legitimately issued by Microsoft.  Across the spectrum of Office 2010 products, we have merged Office 2010 product activation with installation in order to automate the process.  However, it is not always convenient or possible to activate the product right away.  If you have not activated your Office 2010 product license, you may see the following notification when you launch an application such as Word:

Office 2010 Activation Dialog

However, you may be on the road, or you may not have Internet connectivity at your present location, so you simply close this dialog.  If you ever want to get back to this information, you can just open the Backstage view and go to the Help tab to activate your product:

Office 2010 License Requiring Activation

In addition, if you are running a trial version of Office, you can purchase the full product from here. 

Let's revisit our scenario from above:

Office 2010 License Information

This illustrates a typical Office 2010 installation:  you have purchased Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010.  However, you also have a trial license Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010, which provides some additional applications.  From here, you can see which applications are covered by which licenses.

To anticipate a question:  why not "subtract" the applications that you actually bought and show only the trial applications for Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010?  After all, that would be a shorter, neater list. 

We settled on this list-every-application approach since we cannot anticipate every Microsoft Office 2010 installation.  Multiple Microsoft Office 2010 products can be installed side-by-side on your computer.  If we try to be creative with the application list, we risk making bad assumptions about your Office installation, possibly confusing more than enlightening.

More Help than Help Itself

In most contexts, you can click the handy Help "question mark" to get specific information on tasks you wish to perform on your documents.  However, the Microsoft Office website offers a large selection of additional materials, training, support options, and handy online solutions to common questions.  One of the most valuable is Getting Started, which solves the tabula rasa problem:  launching Word or Excel for the first time, starting at a blank document window, unsure what to do next.  The other options from the old Resources tab are present here as well.

About The Help Tab

We hope that the Help tab succeeds in its mission to bring disparate product information into one convenient setting that is more attractive, more informative, and easier to use than ever before.  And, for those of you who like the familiar "About" dialog, don't worry - it's still there.  Just click "Additional Version and Copyright Information" and see it for yourself!