Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering

The official blog of the Microsoft Office product development group

Save Some Time -- Save Some Trees

Save Some Time -- Save Some Trees

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I'm Jon Gordner, a PM on the User Experience team. As Clay wrote in his post, we created the Backstage View for the opportunity to take Office's OUT features - those that you use to do things to the whole file (rather than the content within it) - and make them a little more WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get.

Many of the Backstage features in Office suffer from low discoverability and we want to use the Backstage View to address that. We also want to help you get more out of the Backstage features that you already know.  One of the best examples of a Backstage feature you know and likely rely on is Print. It's been around for ages and largely hasn't changed since you first used it:

Picture of Word 97 print dialog

Word 97's Print dialog box

Over time, while we've added a few features, things have stayed largely the same:

Image of Word 2007's Print Dialog

Word 2007's Print dialog box

Even though Print hasn't really changed in all these years, it is far from perfect. Has the following ever happened to you? After writing a document, you format the page so it looks just right. You click Print and walk over to the printer, only to discover in horror that you forgot to set it to print two-sided, or that a last minute margin change meant the last word of your document got pushed onto its own page. You realize this as you watch the first of 30 copies printing.

Considering how popular printing is (in Word it is the 8th most commonly used feature), we knew we could beat the existing workflow with one that was more straightforward and less frustrating. To figure out how to improve it we needed to first understand specifically how Print was failing users so we looked back to the WYSIWYG interaction model:

Five stages of WYSIWYG

The five stages of WYSIWYG

When we looked at the steps one by one, Print didn't fare too well. Scanning the page is hard without Print Preview, and even if you remember to use it, you'll also have to dig around in the Printer Properties dialog box (which is out of the way of the normal workflow) to see if there is something to change (like if you are currently set to print two-sided.) Finding the right tool to use can be a bit of a challenge because tools related to printing are spread across the Page Layout tab, the Page Setup dialog box, the Print dialog box, and the Printer Properties dialog box, which is different for every printer you use. To take advantage of the tools, you need to bounce between all of these dialog boxes and hopefully you remember to check Print Preview in between! After going through this whole process, you'll see the results on the page... the real page... the one made of paper. That's the part where you notice on the very first copy that you made some silly mistake and now need to start the whole process again. That's when it gets frustrating; that's when you're wasting both time and paper!

To improve this experience we needed to improve every stage of the process. By using the space available in the Backstage view, we've been able to consolidate everything you need into one place.

 The print tab in Office 2010's Backstage View

The Print tab in Office 2010's Backstage View

The first thing you'll notice when opening the Print tab is the Print Preview on the right. There is no need to remember to preview after you make a change since it's always there for you displaying what is about to print. Better yet, whenever you change a setting, the preview is automatically updated, so no matter how much tweaking you do to get it just right you'll always know what's going to come out of the printer.

On the left, we've combined the print-related settings people used most in all of those dialog boxes so that the Print tab is the only place you need to go to make sure you are printing what you want. If your printer at the office can staple and print two-sided, then when you are using that printer we'll show galleries that let you choose how to do those things. If your home printer doesn't support that fancy stuff then we keep it simple and only show you the galleries you can actually use.

To help you use these settings, we've created a new kind of gallery. It doesn't just show you the name of the feature, it tells you what the status is and describes it. This can help you figure out if you want to change the setting from what you have. You don't have to remember to check if you're printing two-sided since the answer is right there when you print.

Picture of print settings galleries in the Print Place

Galleries show you the current settings so you don't have to remember to look them up

When you click on the gallery we'll show you the information you need to choose the right option. For instance, when you click on the gallery to select a printer we'll show you the status for each printer so you know right away which printers are working, which are running out of ink, or anything else that might prevent you from printing successfully.

List of printers to choose from in the Choose Printer gallery

See if a printer is available before you choose to print to it

Of course, if you are happy with the default printer and all of the default settings then you can still add Quick Print to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) just like in Office 2007 and send the document straight to the printer with a single click. For the keyboarders out there, Ctrl+P will take you to the new Print tab.

Quick print on the QAT

You can still add Quick Print to the QAT for one-click printing

The Backstage View Print experience has been built into Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Publisher, and Project. Between the Print Preview and the galleries that show your current status, finding something you need to change before printing has never been easier. The tools to make any necessary tweaks are right there to use and the preview updating in real time helps you see the results before you print thus making it easy to fine-tune until you have it just the way you want it. Now that's WYSIWYG! You can be sure that with Office 2010 you will print it right on the first try - saving you frustration, time and even a few trees.

 

Comments
  • Just watched Jensen's "Story of the Ribbon" presentation and I think I finally understand why I have such a strong, hateful reaction to Office 2007.  It seems I am in the vanishingly small percentage of users who actually knew how to use Office 2003, i.e. I had a high "sense of mastery" to use Jensen's term.

    With Office 2007, my sense of mastery is zero.  To give some background, I'm actually a heavy Access user, with Excel and Word coming in second and a distant third, respectively.  The other day I was discussing a database issue with my boss and opened up the front end to a database on her machine.  She has Office 2007 installed and so Access 2007 opened the mdb.  Like all the front ends I build, I hide the database window, so ordinary users don't accidentally get themselves into trouble.  So, naturally I next unhid the database window.  Or that is, I wanted to.  I looked everywhere: on the Ribbon, in the big circle menu, everywhere I could think of to find the "Show Database Window" command.  I eventually found it ... in Access 2003 when I finally gave up on Access 2007 and reopened the database.  I still have not a clue as to how to make the database window appear in Access 2007.  So, one short moment and there's my sense of mastery out the window and I get to look like a moron in front of my boss as I stare blankly at an application I'm supposed to be an "expert" in.  Thanks, Office UI team!

    In past versions, I've been someone people turned to in order to get help with Office; now I tell them their guess is as good as mine.  To bring it around to this particular post, I guess I was one of three people in the world who knew how to use the print dialog.  Now, of course, that knowledge is soon to be completely useless and the print dialog will turn into another "pin the tail on the donkey" exercise like the rest of Office.

  • I am very curious why Visio did not get the Backstage Print options.  I find after Word, Visio is my biggest paper waster.

    Please if you can add it, I think the feature will save me runs(time) to the printer as well as paper.

    MaryHazel

  • @CarlosT: I'm sorry, but you should feel foolish.  It is your job to learn as things change and everything eventually changes!

    I want to thank the Office team for making features discoverable to the "every-day-man".  The "masters" need to suck it up and move on, but the great part is that I am no longer being bothered with the "simple stuff".  I don't have time to answer questions regarding the print dialog or picture formatting tools.

    Thank you for making my life, easier.

  • Jon,

    So glad you wrote this article. The new print preview functionality was one of the first things I noticed and was impressed by when exploring the CTP. Congratulations to you and your team for improving this seemingly simple piece of UI to make it even more useful and usable.

    Cheers

    Justin

  • The visibility of commonly-used settings is a step forward, but the keyboard-friendliness of backstage is a HUGE step backwards.

    It's not that keyboard shortcuts have changed; it's that MANY more keys are needed to change settings that were a piece of cake in the old dialogs. In the old dialogs, I could simply press ALT+x; ALT+y to change two settings. In the new dialogs, I have to press ALT+P, x; ALT+P, y to change the same settings. Because of this, I have to say I *HATE* backstage.

    Please fix the keyboard model for backstage before you release the product. Here are a couple suggestions (though you may think of better ideas):

    1. Make backstage modal, so that the user does not have to repeatedly press ALT+P before every command. If users want to use another command from the File menu, e.g. Open, from the Print window they should press ESC, O (or ALT+F, O; or CTRL+O; or CTRL+F12....) You could indicate this modality by dimming the other items on the File menu. In short, you need to separate commands in a backstage pane from commands in the File menu for keyboard users.

    2. Underline keyboard accelerators. If the user has set Windows to show keyboard accelerators, then Office should comply. This way, you could show which commands are available from the current mode (and which must be triggered by exiting the mode.)

    Note that such changes as these would have zero effect on mouse users but would be hugely beneficial to keyboard users.

    Thanks!

  • And two last notes--

    1. Please make sure keys work as expected in backstage. Page Up/Page Down SHOULD flip through the pages in Print Preview, e.g. There are many places where keys do not work as expected--instead, horrible awkward keyboard shortcuts are used.

    2. Move the Office button to the top left corner of the screen. Fitt's Law matters. The location of the Office button in 2007 made it so easy to access for mouse users; now, much more dexterity is required (so as not to click the almost useless, vestigial control menu.)

  • Big improvement. One small suggestion - it is not obvious which printers are colour or black only. Perhaps show colour printers with a coloured icon and black only ones with a greyscale icon.

    I agree with MaryHazel - Visio badly needs this feature too.

  • @MaryHazel: For Visio 2010, we've chosen not to implement the full print preview experience in the Backstage View but will use the Print Preview mode tab in the Ribbon instead. We will definitely evaluate the Backstage Print experience for future versions of Visio. Keep an eye on the Visio blog for posts about Visio’s implementation of the Backstage View. The link is: http://blogs.msdn.com/visio/

    Tim Davenport

    Visio Team

  • Hi CarlosT,<br>

    Firstly let me start by saying I empathise with your comments. However, I will then flip over and say "get over it". Access 2007 has been out for some time, this is now 2009. In that time, I have developed new projects using Access 2007 and trained people in all common Office Products. Microsoft and third-parties have come up with all kinds of help, advice, tools to help us move on. And we need to move on.<br>We carefully schemed our way with Access classic and employed all kinds of shortcut techniques to mock up a user interface. Of course, some of these techniques need to be re-worked - that's what we are paid to do - work with Access. The new Access 2007 has a lot more "pros" than "cons".<br>

    In terms of migration tools, Office 2007 has an effective interactive what's where in the new UI - see my blogpost
    ">http://thenewofficecoach.blogspot.com/2008/08/oooh-kay-so-they-took-that-feature-out.html<br>

    They also have printable tables of what was and what is. Specifically for Access, you really only need this for the first 2 weeks of heavy use, after which you have already climbed the learning curve. Good luck!

  • Great Job - :) - thankXalot!!!

  • I feel like the Print Preview has been crippled from its former functionality.  Zooming is my key example.  When I went to print a complicated Excel document I was unable to zoom in far enough to properly see cell borders and such.  There are only 2 levels of zoom... zoomed out and zoomed in.  There is a "Zoom" check box, which when unchecked causes the document to zoom in (kinda an un-zoom checkbox if you ask me).  Why not provide a zoom control or at least the keyboard functionality like CTRL+Scrollwheel which zooms in every other application.

    Another loss of functionality is that I can't make quick edits during print preview.  Yes this was a surprising feature in older versions of Office, but it was infinitely useful when you just need to nudge an object into the print range or some similarly mundane task.  Getting in and out of the Backstage menu is a royal pain.  Typing ESC, or clicking the "Back" tab (or the small image of the document on the Info sub-tab) is unacceptable.  Oh and if you try the little X in the upper right, you'll exit the application.  The Backstage menu covers up all the other tabs, the entire document, and the status bar.  Its not just Application-Modal, it swallows the screen whole, acting like a new window, but doesn't exist on the taskbar or ALT-TAB menu.

    The organization of Printer settings is great. Big fat buttons, all the options are right there, looks spiffy.  The Print Preview and the Backstage menu in general though seem crippled and I think the average user will be justifiably confounded at why the Print Preview is so small and under-powered, and why the Backstage Menu has swallowed their screen.

  • @brostbeef: I guess Office 2007 is a time saver for me too in that way, because now I don't answer questions about any part of Office.  I guess I win out for as long as I can avoid using 2007.

    @Ananda: what would those "pros" be?  That's a serious question.  What can I do in Access 2007 that I couldn't do in Access 2003?  Multivalued fields?  As in, non-normalized table design?  Yay?

    That's been the problem: I haven't found a compelling reason to switch and the pain in the ass user interface greatly increases the cost.  So, no added benefit and increased cost, and you see where that ends up.

    Everyone here seems to accept that discoverability has been improved in Office 2007, but I have had the exact opposite reaction.  I knew where everything I needed was, so it was all perfectly discoverable to me.  I got the metaphor.  What used to be instant tasks are now bewildering treks through the Ribbon.  This is even more true because the keyboard accelerators don't work in the same way.  I am very used to typing a three or four letter combination after ALT to get to what I need (e.g. ALT-F-G-I to Import in Access, ALT-T-E-E to get to the envelope dialog in Word, and ALT-E-S-V-ENTER to Paste Special - Values in Excel).  It's really fast, much faster than using the menu, and three billion times faster than figuring out where a particular function has been shanghaied to.  Office 2007 doesn't smoothly support those key combinations and I have to very slowly tap them out to get them to work correctly, if it even works at all.

    As for change, Office 2007 now has a much steeper learning curve than OpenOffice.  I guess that's where those of us who actually knew how to use Office 2003 can go.

  • CarlosT, F11 shows the database window, and has done for as long as I can remember.  In Access 2007 it shows/hides the navigation pane.

    Ironically, it's one of the few UI functions I didn't have to hunt around for the first couple of days after I moved to Access 2007.

  • Overall, I have found this facility much more usable than the older print preview (mainly a Word user).

    Is it completely obvious that the document display zoom zooms the /preview/ and not the /printout/ ? (I suppose it is "discoverable" in the sense that if you get it wrong, you will find out as soon as you print, but maybe  there is space to clarify it).

    Can the document display actually display what is going to be printed - e.g. in Word, when you select that you want to print Document Properties, can the preview display that? (at least optionally)

  • A couple of suggestions from a sustainability point of view.

    - The selection of which pages to print can save a lot of trees. It would be very useful if there is an option that automatically suppresses the printing of (nearly) empty pages. Some research has been done and savings in the order of 10-15% seem possible. Obviously, it's a big cost saver too

    - It would further be interesting if there was a button to select the most "green" option to print a job, i.e. double sided (aka duplex), B&W, low-quality and only non-(nearly)-empty pages.

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