If you're like me, the new Office 2007 UI took a little while to get used to. Studies show that the average person takes up to 3 weeks to become fully proficient in Office 2007. Most of us are creatures of habit and are resistant to change.
So why the heck did Microsoft change the Office UI in the first place?
The simple answer - Office had added so many features over the years that people could not find them!
Did you know that Office has about 2,500 features in total? Prior to Office 2007 the typical person only used 5-20% of these features because they could not easily find the "right" and most efficient way of doing things. Even more interesting is the fact that most of the requests for new features in Microsoft Office were for features that already existed! Clearly this was a problem - both for Microsoft and our customers that use our software.
How did we address this issue? The new fluent user interface, also known as the Ribbon, was released with Office 2007.
Jensen Harris presented a great session on the history of the Ribbon which shows how complex Office had become to use over the prior 11 versions and the huge amount of work that went into researching, designing, prototyping and testing the new Office 2007 UI. You can watch this session, and download the slides, here: http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/archive/2008/03/12/the-story-of-the-ribbon.aspx
In my personal opinion, I see the release of Office 2007 to be a revolutionary release and a major paradigm shift - one that was long overdue. It reminds me of when Microsoft moved from DOS to Windows and then from Windows 3.11 to Windows 95. These UI changes for Windows were major and had some learning curve attached to them. However, looking back, how many of us would want to go back now?