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 ButtonFrom 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.
No More Back ButtonOne 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.
Updated VisualsWe’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:
Organization of Navigation CommandsWe 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.)
Most Recently Used DocumentsFor 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.
Clicking on the “Open Recent File Button” from the QAT will open the Backstage view directly to the Recent tab.
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…
The number of documents you choose will be shown along with the other “Quick Commands” at the top of the Backstage 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:
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
This new changes look great, and I suspect (but more importantly, your usability studies confirm) that it makes these features and the former "Office button" much more discoverable.
The only bad thing is that now there are no fewer than three implementations of the ribbon UI in existence: the original Office 2007 style (oversized icon in upper left), the Windows 7 and former Office 2010 style (normal title bar, regular-sized icon-menu directly left of first ribbon tab), and now the Office 2010 style (similar but with "File" instead of icon). Too bad these studies weren't conducted sooner!
Maybe it will be changed for Windows 8. :)
I like the elimination of the back button, but I will miss the program-oriented color scheme seen in the backstage view, i.e. the dark blue hue in Word. I hope that comes back, it was a nice color contrast to a mostly white UX that at times is plain and boring.
Great job! Thank you for these adjustments. Your work is appreciated.
Well I for one absolutely love Backstage the way it is in the Tech Preview. It's made perfect sense to me from the start and is innovation that's increased my use of the product from the previous versions. Every single change you listed here is a disappointing regression in usefulness.
The color of the selected panel looks like plastic, the previous style was better, and please bring back the application-specific background color, it looked very nice.
The help button is inconsistent with Windows 7 help buttons.
I don't like how the fitts law oriented design of office 2007 now got removed again, placing the system menu in most easy to reach place. the system menu is something really old, that windows tries to get rid from, but can't for backwards compatibility.
please remove it from office, as it makes no sense up there.
two proposals: the quick buttons to the left, so that fitts law lets you reach the most left button very easy (it would be 'save' for most people).
put the office logo (the one you had on the backspace menu button) up there, and let it still open file (similar to the way the office button in 2007 was visibly round, but clickable as a square).
so expand the file menu upwards to be a square (or rectangle) with the office logo above.
that would support fitts law, the new, more user understandable file menu, and the wish of windows, to get rid of the system menu completely.
hope this gets heard, and considered.
The use of Fitt's law was excellent in Office 2007. It was indeed easier to quickly grab the orb as it was at the left top (extreme).
I think over time, people have already started adapting to Office 2007's Orb Button. I don't understand why you have to question your own logic behind introducing the change in Office 2007.
Considering the arguments, I think there should be a customizable feature provided to either keep the Office Button at the Extreme Top Left or where-ever it is.
Please give it a thought or two, as my 70 year old Dad and I feel the Office 2007 Orb Button is "more usable" than how it is now.
I was just searching the web to see if people had similar thoughts.
I request the UI Design Team to "PLEASE" read the article in the link below to see where you are heading. I STRONGLY feel, the UI team needs to give some strong thoughts as to what's being changed. I feel the Orb button is something that can be "refined" like, say, adding a small text that reads "Actions" or a tooltip that reads "File".
For instance, in Windows 95 till XP we had the "Start" text in the Task Bar's Start Button. Now that it's become easier for people to recognize where the Start button is, you have removed the text and just put an Orb in the Task Bar of Windows Vista and Windows 7. That's acceptable and is welcome. But the Orb feature in Office 2007 was a real cool thing - that it's such a bad idea to remove that idea and go back to history!
May be you want to try binging what feature went wrong in Office 2010 - and there you go: UI - The Orb and the Ribbon Everywhere!!!
Team - Hope you hear us and do something! At least a customizable option can save the ideas!
Microsoft can try what Autodesk has done with ribbon for their products. They have used the big letter A for the product Autocad and big letter I for the product Autodesk Inventor with a small drop down arrow. Google for the Autocad or Inventor screen shot with ribbon and you can understand that. Likewise word can have a big W, excel can have a big E, and power point can have a big P, all with a small drop down arrow near to it. Some sort of branding is always required to have pride in the product. The small W at the left end is not showing up.
In my honest opinion the Orb was never broken, it was the logical place to put the typical options such as Open, Print, Save... And for those who didn't find it the first time, they would have the second time.
The Orb was distinct from the rest of the tab options, it made sense that if you want to open, save, or print a document you went to the Orb, anything else you wanted to do to a document you used the appropriate tab.
How many users will now click the 'File' tab by mistake when they where really wanting to select 'Paste' on the 'Home' tab simply because of being used to selecting the 'Home' tab which used to be on the farthest left of the tabs selection area.
You would have been able to solve the supposed delemmer for first time user blues simply by adding the word 'File' to the Orb, and providing an option for the user to remove the text once they knew where to go to Open, Print, Save... if they want.
My honest suggestion and preference is to leave 'Back Stage' just where it should be - Back Stage - and bring back the Orb and its far better usability offerings.
The old saying, 'if it ain't broke - don't fix it' surely applies here.
@ Michael (above): You lost all credibility when you spelt dilemma, "delemmer".
I agree with davepermen and Ganesh Anand. Office 2007's respect for Fitt's law and usability in general is astonishing good. The team were bold enough to do things right, and really improve on the ancient interface conventions. But Windows 7 and Office 2010 have reversed some of the progress.
For most people, the bottom two corners are used (probably usefully) by the taskbar. Assuming the app is maximised, the top right corner is for the close button (also useful). However, this leaves just one corner for application use. The top left corner in Office 2007 was well used, but is now useless in 2010 (as it is for most apps). To me, it looks messy and is confusing - and this also applies to the new ribbons in Paint, etc., in Windows 7.
Where's Jenson Harris when you need him...?
How can I get the evaluation of 2010
Most of these changes are good and they were asked for on this blog quite often. Two things:
I agree that the fitts corner should be used. As I remember the original office orb design history there were many variants possible. I would prefer having the office logo (or app logo) above the word File which would both be the complete backstage button.
Please (pretty pleasy with sugar on top?) add a drag source onto the Info tab in Backstage (best drag & copy source) which would allow you to get the file to somewhere else (mail, folder, upload, whatever). Or even better: Make the File Button (/Ribbon Tab) a drag source. That is even the perfect metaphor.