Hi, I’m Tucker Hatfield, a PM on the Office Graphics team, and a while back I posted an introduction to Background Removal (The Magic of Background Removal). In this post I’ll build on what I showed you last time by giving an example of how to make more detailed background removal and how to do some interesting things with the results.
As I showed before, in many cases you’ll find you can effectively remove a background with nothing more than a very little adjustment of the marquee, but other times it takes a little work. Here’s a good example of a photo that takes a bit more attention.
If we just clicked Remove Background and accepted the default marquee for this picture, you’d get the result below. You can see that even with the default marquee it did a pretty good job of guessing what the subject was, but there are a few problems.
The top of the cup extends a bit beyond the marquee, which makes Background Removal think it should be excluded. Clicking and dragging on the selection handles to resize the marquee quickly adds that part back in.
After just resizing the marquee a little the results are better because Background Removal has a better idea of what to include. But it’s still not perfect. A bit of the lip of the cup is still gone, there’s that background poking through the handle of the cup, and parts of the “Office” logo are getting cut out. (Here’s a quick hint: Clicking off of the picture or pressing ESC will close Background Removal and let you see what your work looks like so far. You can go back into Background Removal and continue editing at any time – you can even save and exit and continue editing later.)
What to do?
When you start Background Removal, in addition to showing the marquee and what areas will be included and removed, the Ribbon also switches to a new contextual tab that features some new tools to help you fine-tune the result.
First let’s use “Mark Areas to Remove” to eliminate the background from inside the handle. If you choose the Remove marker you can draw a line to indicate that what’s under the line should be added to the background and removed from the picture. Remember that background removal is a smart process and all your marks are doing is giving it a hint about whether something is foreground or background. You don’t have to be precise or “color in” the area; a click and drag to make a quick line that crosses some of what needs to be removed is good enough. (For those of you who want more details on the technology Background Removal is based on, the paper here provides some details)
Now let’s add in what’s missing using the “Mark Areas to Keep” button. A couple quick Include marks include “Office,” and the cup edge.
Include marks also don’t need to cover the whole area you want to add, and it’s okay if they cover some of what already is included. You’ll note that I made one, long mark that crossed all of the portions of the Office logo that I wanted to add in. I could have made several smaller marks over the various letters, but fewer marks can often do the job quicker and with better results.
You’ll notice, though, that when I removed the background from inside the cup handle, Background Removal examined the entire image again and trimmed out a bit of the handle – that’s easily solved by simply adding an additional mark, but if the result seems unsatisfactory, you can use the “Delete Mark” option to simply to simply click on the mark to remove it and start over.
Let’s clean the handle area up, next. First zoom in using the zoom slider in the status bar to make that easier. When you’re zoomed in the picture becomes bigger but the marking lines remain the same size, which allows you to place them more precisely.
Once you choose to keep the changes, you have the cup isolated from the background.
What if you choose just to remove a small portion of the picture? For instance, you might like the curved look of the Office logo and decide I wanted to isolate it for a document.
You’ll notice that the size of the picture doesn’t change when you do Background Removal -- even though the bulk of your picture may be transparent, the whole thing is still there. If the result has too much white space, use Crop to remove the extra. By the way, using crop in this way is a trick that works with any picture that has a lot of transparency.
Once you’ve got a picture with no background, you’ve opened up your options for integrating those pictures into your document. In PowerPoint, we could use Brightness & Contrast to brighten it up a bit, add a shadow and put it on a nice background. Adding a small amount of Soft Edges, which is available in the Picture Effects dropdown in the Picture Tools tab, enhances the way your picture blends into the background.
Or in Word, we could use tight wrapping around the cup.
And don’t forget that you can use Artistic Effects and other photo editing tools after background removal.
That’s pretty much all there is to using background removal. More complicated pictures will take more marks to properly remove the background, while for simpler pictures merely using the marquee may do the trick. With some practice and experimentation, I’m sure you’ll find many ways to use Background Removal to make pictures a more integrated part of your documents.
Lots of the talk around Office documents these days seems to be about “Collaboration”. “Team work”. “Sharing”. And yet, you don’t get an A on your term paper because four people were on your team. And you don’t get promoted because your business plan involved 30 different reviewers. No doubt, it almost always takes a group of people to get the job done these days, but the job is still about the output.
Unfortunately these days we have to choose between simple collaboration and rich, polished output. With the first, you might use a web tool thinking “it’s good enough” because everyone has easy access to the doc. But you still have to spend a lot time at the tail end finalizing the output and adding elements that aren’t supported in the web tool. With the second, you might juggle multiple email attachments from multiple people, multiple versions, resulting in multiple headaches. Sure, output layout and design is preserved throughout the collaboration process, but at the cost of deciphering everyone’s additions along the way.
Here on the Office team, we have been focused on getting the right combination: collaboration without compromise. No matter what type of output you create, you want to focus on your content, not the tasks associated with creating and managing it. With the co-authoring experience in Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote, you can simultaneously edit the same content with colleagues or friends without compromising the quality and user experience you’ve come to expect from Microsoft Office. With your documents stored on SharePoint 2010 or Windows Live, the Office Web Apps are great partners to the Office 2010 Clients apps. The Office Web Apps allow you to access and share that rich content even if you don’t have the Office 2010 Client apps. Be sure to read the Web App blog for more details.
With the Office 2010 desktop apps against SharePoint 2010 or Windows Live, you get the best of both worlds – the ability to create the best possible content with multiple people. Simple. Now, there’s only one version of the output AND you know when others are working on it with you. No intrusive UI. No check-in/check-out. No waiting your turn. No losing control of when you share your changes or when you see others’ changes. Want to track your changes and add comments into the marketing plan in Word 2010 while Bob is on page three? Check. (In fact, that’s how this blog entry was created). Want to edit a video in PowerPoint 2010 while Sally updates slide two? Check. Want to brainstorm with your research team in real time with OneNote 2010 – screen clippings, audio and video recordings, handwriting included? Check, check and check.
Co-authoring in Microsoft Office 2010 means no more compromise between easy collaboration and effective content. Find out how it works in your favorite app -- check out the video and links below and let us know what you think.
Product manager – Office
Microsoft Office 2010 provides you powerful new ways to deliver your best work - whether you’re at work or at home, whether you are travelling in a cab or on a flight, whether you are working on a PC, browser or phone. By offering more ways to access your files from virtually anywhere, Office 2010 puts you in control.
As part of Wednesday’s Office 2010 Beta Announcement we announced the availability of the Office Mobile 2010 Beta -- today’s post describes some of the exciting work we’ve done related to mobility in more detail. Specifically, we’ll talk more about the experiences that make Office 2010 the mobile information worker’s best set of productivity tools on the phone.
Basically, there’re two major offerings we provide for mobile information workers to work on their Office documents. Depending primarily on the type of phone you have, you get to choose whichever way works best for you or is available to you. One way is with Microsoft Office Mobile 2010 and another is with Microsoft Office 2010 Mobile Viewers. We’ll discuss both in detail below, but in short….
…If you are using a Windows Phone
l You get both options. If you want to modify your Office documents, you can use Office Mobile 2010 applications providing rich user experience which customers of Microsoft Office client applications are familiar with. If you just want to quickly view the documents, you can use Office 2010 Mobile Viewers which display your documents in mobile IE browser. We will walk you through the different scenarios in upcoming posts so you know which option might work best for you.
…If you are using a phone built on a non-Windows Platform
l You get the Office 2010 Mobile Viewers option only. As previously mentioned, you get to view the Office documents in your mobile browser whether you have smartphones like iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Symbians or non-smartphones.
The Beta for Office Mobile 2010 is available worldwide in Windows Marketplace for Mobile for Windows Mobile 6.5 phones. To try the Office 2010 Mobile Viewer, you need to have the Office Web Apps installed on your company’s Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and then you can use explorer on your phone to view Office documents on the server (read this Office Web App blog post for more information on how to deploy the Web Apps in the enterprise).
In future blog posts, we will explore tips and tricks for the different apps and tools Microsoft Office provides to meet the demands of your busy life on-the-go with your mobile device. In the meantime, enjoy the information below and we hope to hear your feedback soon!
Office Mobile 2010
Use Microsoft Office Mobile 2010 on your Windows phone to get the familiar Microsoft look and feel as well as the services that you’re used to.
Even when you’re on the road, you can view Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office Excel and Microsoft Office PowerPoint documents sent as email attachments.
Word Mobile 2010, Excel Mobile 2010 and PowerPoint Mobile 2010
Office Mobile 2010 also makes it easy for you to review documents on the move by adding the ability to edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. So use your commute time in a cab or on a flight to customize an existing presentation by hiding or rearranging slides, reviewing speaker notes, and even adding new notes as you rehearse. What’s more, you can now use your Windows phone as a presentation aid that enables you to control the slideshow and simultaneously view notes as you engage more effectively with your audience.
View images and animations. SmartArt graphics are preserved. Easily manage slides.
Using OneNote Mobile, you can take and manage personal notes on your Windows phone. You can even record voice or take pictures using the phone and bring them to OneNote Mobile or share your notes with your PC and refer to them when you are away.
Capture multimedia notes with ease. Take & insert a picture or voice recording and organize your notes with lists.
In addition to files and e-mail attachments, if you get a link to content hosted on SharePoint Online or on SharePoint 2010, you can access it using SharePoint Workspace Mobile 2010, which enables you to browse sites, document libraries, and lists from the comfort of your Windows phone.
Access multiple sites and libraries, view and sync libraries easily and access your content offline.
We’ve also done work to allow you to save edited documents to the phone and just synchronize them back to the server in case you lose your mobile connection.
Office 2010 Mobile Viewers
With your mobile device browser, Office 2010 Mobile Viewers will help you stay organized, get things done, and present information by keeping Office at your fingertips.
Office 2010 Mobile Viewers enable you to view Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files in an easy to read small-screen format that maintains high fidelity. Office 2010 Mobile Viewers target a wide range of devices and micro browsers so that people with or without smartphones can take the advantage of the cool features without having to upgrade your mobile phone. Here are a few examples.
Viewing product sales documents on your mobile phone
Imagine you are sitting in the airport when your colleague calls you and says that the inventory data sheet and promotion document you are going to share with the customers later has been modified and saved back on the SharePoint server to reflect the latest status. You don’t need to bother turning on your laptop. You open up your browser from your mobile phone, connect to your team SharePoint portal, select the inventory data sheet, and quickly see the new inventory diagram. You then click on promotion document and see that the visuals have been revamped. You feel confident before you walk on the plane knowing that the customers will surely be happy with your presentation later.
Excel Mobile Viewer and Excel Mobile Viewer functionalities
Word Mobile Viewer – image view and the Word Mobile Viewer – text view.
Joining a meeting and viewing the presentation on your mobile phone
Office 2010 Mobile Viewers also go beyond just allowing you to view your own files. Imagine you’re stuck in a traffic jam are going to be late for a meeting that starts in 5 minutes. Now you pull out your mobile phone and pop open the email you received from the meeting presenter that contains a URL to the presentation broadcast (“Broadcasting presentation” is a new feature supported by PowerPoint 2010 that will be talked about in more detail in the future). You can now participate in the call and view the current slide in real time as the presentation moves along.
PowerPoint Mobile Viewer – image view and PowerPoint Mobile Viewer – outline view.
We hope you’re as excited about Office Mobile 2010 as we are! Future posts will walk you through each of the above mobile productivity tools in more detail so when they are released you’ll be able to use them as we do and improve your productivity on the go.
Update: Replace the images of “Excel Mobile Viewer” and “PowerPoint Mobile Viewer” with updated ones. No description or other content has been changed in the update.
As you’ve probably heard, this is a big week for Microsoft’s Business Division. Earlier this week we announced the public availability of Microsoft Office 2010 Beta. Have you ever wanted to co-author a document with your team in Word? Have you ever wanted to analyze tons of data at once in Excel? Have you ever wanted to push the limits of multimedia in your PowerPoint presentations? If so, check out the Beta.
It’s also a big week for the standards community, especially for those of us working in document formats. This week marks the year anniversary of the first publication of ISO/IEC 29500, also known as Open XML. As the cross-Office driver responsible for Open XML support in Office 2010, I thought that now would be a good time to reflect on the work that we have done in Office 2010 to support the Open XML standard, as well as how improving interoperability relates to our ability to innovate in Office.
In the document format space, the big question on everyone’s mind is what level of support Office 2010 will have for Open XML. I’m happy to announce that Office 2010 will generate, by default, ISO/IEC 29500-compliant files of the transitional conformance class.
The first step to get Office 2010 generating ISO/IEC 29500-compliant files was to evaluate the files that we were generating in Office 2007. That product was generating ECMA-376 First Edition files, which, as you’ll recall, was the precursor to the ISO/IEC 29500 standard. Once we identified the differences in syntax resulting from either bugs or changes in the standard, we went about making the changes required to get our syntax compliant.
It generally surprises people when they learn about some of the changes we had to make to get our syntax compliant. In most cases, the changes were due to trivial bugs in specific scenarios. A favorite example of mine is a bug in Word 2007 where, in certain circumstances, Word would write out the oMath element before the rFonts element, whereas the standard clearly states that the oMath element should be written out after the rFonts element. This was a minor bug that was simple to fix and is characteristic of many of the changes we made.
Because we were changing some of the syntax of the files we write, we also did work to ensure that customers using previous versions of Office could continue to work with files using this new syntax. First, we included fixes in Office 2007 Service Pack 2 to ensure continued compatibility. Second, we updated the Compatibility Packs for older versions of Office, too. In other words, if you have Office 2007 SP2 or the latest compatibility pack, interoperability with Office 2010 will be seamless.
We also went further than just ensuring syntax-compliance of the files we generate. We went through many of the accepted recommendations that various national bodies made during the ISO ratification process for Open XML, and identified a handful that we wanted to support in Office 2010. Here are a few highlights:
There are two other particularly important investments we’ve made based on national body feedback provided via the standards process.
The first relates to our dependency on Vector Markup Language ( VML ). We heard clear feedback during the ratification process that depending on VML was a difficult requirement for other implementers. To lower this bar, we set out to reduce our dependency on VML, and have made great strides moving to DrawingML. PowerPoint 2010, for example, almost never makes use of VML as its primary method of representing drawing elements.
The second relates to the date syntax in spreadsheets. Again, during the ratification process, we heard lots of requests to add support for using the ISO 8601 Dates syntax for expressing dates in spreadsheets. Although currently in progress, Excel 2010 Beta includes support for this syntax. What is noteworthy about this investment is that we’re working closely with members of JTC 1 SC 34 ( the standards body responsible with Open XML maintenance ) to identify and resolve backward compatibility issues related to this new functionality. We’re particularly proud of this cooperation between Microsoft and the standards community.
As I talk to customers and partners about the work we’re doing to improve interoperability, I get asked lots of questions about how this quest to improve interoperability impacts our ability to deliver innovation in Office.
A few months ago at the Seattle, Washington DII event, one of my friends, Dr. Lee, a member of the JTC 1 SC 34 Korean National Body delegation, once asked me, what impact this focus on improving interoperability has on our ability to innovate in Office. It was a great question and the answer surprised many of the DII attendees.
My answer was simple: None. In fact, if anything, it makes it easier for us to innovate. The room fell silent.
From a technical perspective, there is nothing in the standard which prevents us from innovating. True, there are many rules and requirements we must follow. But there are also a number of technologies defined in the Open XML standard, MCE and extension lists, for example, which allow all implementers the ability to deliver compliant implementations, and, at the same time, compete in the marketplace on customer value. Microsoft Office, as we showed in that DII event, makes heavy use of these technologies to add all of the great innovations being delivered in the 2010 release, such as sparklines in Excel 2010 and new transitions in PowerPoint 2010.
I also pointed out that we fully documented both the Office 2010’s Open XML implementation as well as the technical details behind those innovations to ensure that all implementers had free access to that information. After all, this is about interoperability.
But the answer to Dr. Lee’s question was more than about technology. It was also about how working to improve interoperability has positively impacted the manner in which we build Office.
Interoperability has been elevated to the same level as other core design requirements of our products. Just as all of our features go through security and privacy reviews, performance and scalability testing, accessibility and programmability reviews, and international sufficient testing, we now approach interoperability the same way. Instead of documenting our file format implementations at the end of the release, we document the implementations during the release, while it’s being worked on. This provides countless benefits to the engineering team, allowing them to build features in a more efficient and more effective manner. It also makes on-boarding new employees, as well as load-balancing between employees, much more efficient given the wealth of documentation we have regarding our document formats. Ultimately, it is simply a great benefit to the entire design process. And fortunately it’s here to stay.
But it is more than just documenting your document format. It’s about continually looking for new ways to improve general interoperability between different vendors’ implementations. We recently held a DII event on the PST format used by Outlook. We did it not because we had to, but because it was the right thing to do. And based on the feedback so far, this was a great win for the industry.
I promised myself that I would limit this post to no more than two and a half pages. So for those of you who I have been unable to convince that our quest to improve interoperability hasn’t stifled our ability to innovate, I can only make one more suggestion to prove my case: go get the Beta. It’s well worth it.
As always, everyone working on Microsoft Office would love to get your feedback on ways in which we can improve the current state of interoperability. We hope that you’ll share our excitement for the Office 2010 release.
Group Program Manager, Microsoft Office
For More Information
This post is for IT Professionals who may wish to host the Office Web Apps within your own organization on your own servers. As we announced earlier this morning, the Office Web Apps are now available in a public beta for our business customers to try with SharePoint 2010.
Franklin Williams, a Program Manager on the Office Web Apps team, has posted information on the Web Apps blog about how to deploy Office Web Apps on-premise on a server running Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 or Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. His post will help anyone interested in evaluating the Beta and understanding how the Office Web Apps can work inside an organization’s IT infrastructure when they are released in 2010.
Today is an exciting day! At PDC we announced the availability of the public betas of Microsoft Office 2010, SharePoint Server 2010, Visio 2010, Project 2010 and Office Web Apps for business customers. If you’d like to be one of the millions of people who try, test and give feedback on the latest and greatest, you can download the betas at www.microsoft.com/2010.
We also announced that Microsoft Office Mobile 2010 beta is available now too, and you can download it through the Windows Mobile Marketplace for Windows Mobile 6.5 phones.
The final release of Office 2010 will debut next year, but we’re excited to allow everyone to start using the new features and tools that will help you collaborate, connect and work better together with others across the PC, mobile phone and browser.
The betas released today include everything we’ve talked about so far on this Blog and much more. In addition, today we announced several new facets of Office 2010 that you can check out when you download the beta:
The announcements and releases today reflect years of work for the Office team here at Microsoft – head on over to www.microsoft.com/2010, download the Beta, and let us know what you think!
Hello, I’m Jeffrey Dunn (User Experience Designer) with the Office Design Group (ODG). As Shawn mentioned in his “Designing with Customer in Mind” post, ODG includes UX Designers who work to create compelling software. I’d like to share with you a little bit of the design work that went into Office 2010. I hope to give you a sense of the scope of our work and how it’s made 2010 a better experience for you.
UX design defines how software looks and behaves. We’re deeply interested in the interaction models that affect how software is perceived, learned and used. Our goal is to make compelling software that’s usable, useful and desirable. We are not the only discipline at Microsoft that has an active hand in experience design. In fact we are a partner. We work closely with the researchers in ODG (see Tim’s previous post “UX Research Tools and Techniques”) to integrate your feedback into our software design process. We are embedded with engineering teams and also work closely with many of the folks you’ve heard from on this blog: the teams that produce Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, Project, SharePoint etc.
As UX designers we get to exercise many creative muscles you might associate with the word ‘design’. We sketch on paper. We brainstorm new opportunities. We envision interactive flows and innovative ideas. We create wireframes of software interactions, and mock-up the look and feel of our software. Many of these creative tools have one goal in common: they minimize the risk of committing to a particular design direction. The artifacts we produce support discussion with product teams, researchers and you. They help us realize which design proposals are compelling & feasible.
We sketch. We build prototypes. We design the visuals. Though not as concise, the samples below may illustrate what we do with a little more clarity. Since I’ve worked closely with the SharePoint product team to incorporate the Ribbon user interface, I’ll share with you a few samples that highlight the development of SharePoint 2010. It’s important to note, most of these samples represent designs that do not match what you see in Beta. This is important as many of our sketches & prototypes are explorations. We aim to fail early and often such that what you see when we ship is the best that it can be.
Sketching is a tool we use throughout the product development cycle. It’s often helpful in the early phases. Collaborating with researchers and the product teams, designers sketch and iterate on feature design. Sketching is very low cost work. We can explore a myriad of possibilities without committing time to visual polish or code. The quick and loose nature of a sketched designs helps crystalize a vision, teasing out goals and success criteria. It sets the foundation for discussion, iteration and polish.
These early sketches explore possible placement of Ribbon UI in SharePoint 2010. (Click to see larger images)
Sample sketches exploring alternate ways to access site level commands in SharePoint 2010. (Click to see larger images.)
Once a design direction is well understood we often create a prototype. These mock user interfaces are often click-able and rich with interaction. Like the sample below, some prototypes are bare, almost wireframes. Regardless of the fidelity, creating a prototype helps us get a closer look at the intended design. The process of building one removes ambiguity by crystalizing a number of decisions into a design that can be experienced, just like the real software. It is common for us to evaluate the experience of these prototypes in the lab, with people from outside Microsoft. Tim mentioned this in his post “UX Research Tools and Techniques”.
Here is a sample prototype exploring ribbon interaction for SharePoint 2010.
Designing the form and behavior of our applications is another core part of what we do as designers. The visuals or form are closely tied with the interaction or behavior. We carefully consider how the user interface is presented. We also carefully craft the subtle details that make each button hover and transition feel alive. In a future post we’ll spend some time explaining the details of how we develop visuals and branding. Here, I want to share what happens once interaction and visual direction is defined. There is quite a bit of work that goes into specifying interface details. Being embedded with engineering teams means that we play a crucial role in making sure that software matches our specification. This is what we often call a fit and finish stage. The sample below illustrates just how detailed we get about visual.
Above is a sample visual specification of SharePoint 2010 Ribbon user interface.
I hope this quick overview of user experience design helps you understand the impact of our discipline on the software you use. Our work affects the look, feel and behavior of Office products. It’s evident in the icons, themes, visuals and details of each application screen. It also shows through in the bits of delight we hope you experience when you use Office.
Please look for our upcoming posts on the Visual and Branding story for Office 2010. We look forward to hearing what you think! Thanks for reading.
Hello, my name is Melissa Kerr and I am a Program Manager on the Office User Experience team. Today I'm introducing the era of “This is your Ribbon!”, made possible by the new Ribbon customization feature available in Office 2010. Ribbon customization is available across all Office 2010 client applications, and allows you to create a personalized Ribbon optimized to the way you work with the application.
Customization is the ability to add, remove and relocate commands within an application, and is not a new idea. It began with Command Bars in Office 97, progressed to the Quick Access Toolbar in Office 2007, and now has evolved to include Ribbon customization with Office 2010.
Why would I customize?
Office is used by approximately one billion people worldwide, and we know the default organization of commands can’t possibly match the preferences of every single one of our customers.
Using customization in Office 2010, you can group your favorite and most frequently used commands in one location, or remove seldom used commands. Or maybe you have a repetitive task that you’d like to accomplish in fewer mouse clicks. You now have the ability to put those commands on a custom tab, or add them to a new group on an existing tab.
Let's say that you are an editor for a local newspaper and that your company uses Word 2010 to review all articles that are going to print. When reviewing articles, you find that a specific set of commands are used over and over. You’d love for all those commands to be located together on a single tab, making each command only a single click away.
An example of a customized Ribbon.
The Options dialog provides a user interface for customizing the Ribbon, which doesn’t require any coding. To launch this dialog, you can either right click on the Ribbon and click “Customize the Ribbon”, or enter through “Options” on the File tab.
Two entry points to Ribbon customization
The commands you frequently use are located on different tabs, therefore you decide that creating a new custom tab with all of them in one location would be the easiest way to streamline your work and get the results you want faster.
When all customizations are completed, click OK to create your custom Ribbon.
Applying your customizations.
End result of your Ribbon customizations.
Joe, your coworker on floor 3, heard that you created a personalized Ribbon that is optimized to the way you work with Word. He wants what you have! Well, that's easy… Sharing your customizations is as simple as exporting a single file and sending it to him.
Importing & exporting customizations.
Importing and exporting customization files can also benefit many scenarios within an organization. For example, an IT department can create a company-wide custom Ribbon and then distribute it to the entire organization via policy and Office configuration deployment. That will ensure all employees are using the organization’s customized Ribbon.
Features of Ribbon Customization
Ribbon customization capabilities are not limited to the above scenario. Here is a list of the major functionality that Ribbon customization offers:
Thanks for reading and I hope that you will enjoy the era of “This is your Ribbon!”.
If you’re the type of person who likes to test-drive the latest and greatest software (or you’re the type of person who reads an Office Engineering blog…), then you’re probably familiar with the pain that can be part of trying out new software for the first time. My name is Paul Barr, Lead Program Manager for the Click-to-Run team in Office 2010, and we’ve built Click-to-Run with you in mind. What follows is a more in-depth post on the technology introduced in the New Ways to Try and Buy Microsoft Office 2010 announcement.
Delivering rich programs like Office over the internet hasn’t changed much in the last decade. Sure, we have self-extracting executables, securely signed files, and download managers, but all of these fall short of solving what we think are the biggest problems with downloading and installing large applications:
What is Click-to-Run?
Click-to-Run is a new software delivery mechanism built by the Office product team. It’s based on core virtualization and streaming technologies from the Microsoft App-V team in Cambridge, MA. Click-to-Run is optimized for home users on broadband connections (at least 1Mbps), and there are three key pillars of the investment:
Click-to-Run products also take up about half the disk space of normal products, they repair more completely, and they won’t break other software installed on the PC because they have private copies of all of their files and registration.
Click-to-Run is not a new Office “product”, it’s a new way of delivering and updating the products with which you are already familiar. Click-to-Run delivery is available for both the Office Home and Student 2010, and Office Home and Business 2010 products. It has full language support, and will work on both 32-bit and 64-bit Operating Systems (although only the 32-bit version of Office is actually run on both platforms).
How does Click-to-Run work?
Products delivered via Click-to-Run execute in a virtual application environment on the local Operating System. This means that they have private copies of their files and settings, and that any changes they make are captured in the virtual environment. The effect is they don’t end up modifying any other software installed on the System. With few exceptions, only user data actually passes through the virtual environment to the local System. Click-to-Run users may notice that they have a virtual Q: drive on their PCs, this is the virtual file system used by Office.
Click-to-Run products also support streaming. Think of this in the same way you think about streaming video. You get to watch the first part of the video before the entire file downloads. With Click-to-Run, users can start using their Office programs before the entire suite or product has been downloaded, enabling them to get to work much faster. While the user is running their application, the rest of the products are being downloaded in the background. The initial installation process is very different than what users may be used to. The experience of getting Click-to-Run Office is more like downloading a big web control than doing a traditional Office install:
If a user tries to use a feature or application that is not yet downloaded, Click-to-Run retrieves the required functionality from the internet immediately. In this case, the application may pause briefly, and users might see an experience like the below:
Users can see the current progress of the product download by launching the Click-to-Run Application Manager in Windows Control Panel:
Once fully downloaded, the product is cached locally, and users are free to disconnect from the internet and continue using their Office products:
Click-to-Run in the Office 2010 Beta and beyond…
Users will see that the Office Home and Business 2010 Beta product is available to download using the Click-to-Run technology. This option is optimized for high bandwidth connections (low bandwidth users should download the Office Professional 2010 Beta). When Office 2010 releases, Click-to-Run delivery will be available for a wider range of Office products. Users who download an Office 2010 product using Click-to-Run delivery also have access to the “normal” self-extracting version, as well as the native 64-bit version if those better suit their needs.
Home users may notice that a handful of things behave differently when using a Click-to-Run version of the Office 2010 products. For instance, there is a Click-to-Run specific destination in the Backstage for each application in the product. This section gives details about the status of applied updates, and links to more information about Click-to-Run:
It’s also possible that users will notice that some add-ins, or other integration points with the Office client, behave differently or are broken when using a Click-to-Run product. The vast majority of these will have no issues. All macros, in-document automation, and cross-Office application interoperability work fine. But sometimes the Office product group must make changes that cause some integrated solutions to require updating (building 64-bit versions of the applications is another good example of this). In some cases, add-ins might have trouble locating the Click-to-Run Office products on the machine, or they might have issues communicating with Office products when they are running in the virtual environment.
We expect these issues to be limited in scope. You will see more from us on how to resolve these both for users, and developers that wish to extend Office. In the Beta timeframe, if you are a developer, or are having issues with an add-in that you believe is compatible with Office 2010, you may want to obtain the Professional version of the Office 2010 Beta.
Wrapping it up…
As you’ve seen through the other posts on this blog, the Office 2010 rich clients bring a great new set of features and functionality to users. Click-to-Run is about getting that value into the hands of users easier, faster, and safer than ever. We’re very excited to pioneer the next generation of software delivery over the internet, and we look forward to your feedback.
Hello, my name is Peter and I work in the Office Trustworthy Computing (TWC) team. One of my team’s areas of focus is collecting data on how various applications are being used so we can make informed decisions. You’ve probably seen, and based on the comments received to date, have used our Send-a-Smile feedback tool. In addition to that type of qualitative feedback, the last 3 versions of Office have included telemetry through the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) to help us understand how applications are being used. The combination of qualitative and quantitative data provides valuable insights for making informed design decisions.
In short, the CEIP is an anonymous opt-in program that helps us improve Office. If you opt-in to the CEIP, anonymous data about how you use Office are uploaded to Microsoft occasionally in the background.
When you run an Office 2010 application for the first time you are asked about what settings you want to apply to ‘Help Protect and Improve Microsoft Office’ and the CEIP is included in the Recommended Settings. You can also find this in the Privacy Options of the Trust Center. In previous versions, opt-in was through a “Help Make Office Better” balloon that would pop up the first time you ran Office.
Of course, we respect your privacy and don’t collect any information that could identify you or your data personally. Your anonymous data is combined with millions of other users to provide us a broad picture of how people use Office.
We collect a lot of information on our applications, too much to enumerate in a blog post. The engineering teams have defined data points that they are interested in learning about, and added those to the software for data collection. They typically fall in the following categories:
The TWC team provides the expertise and guidance for the different application teams to get high quality telemetry on their particular usage. Since we receive over a billion sessions in a month, we rely heavily on data aggregation and provide several analysis and reporting tools so teams can access the data more easily when they want to know how their customers are using their software.
Before we had the data from customers participating in the CEIP, design decisions were quite often based on consulting people who had worked on the product for a long time (opinions) or personal observations of, say, someone’s family members (anecdotes). If you were lucky, you had some data from the researchers in the Office Design Group or a survey done by the Planning team. There was data, but it was from a constrained sample of users, rarely data from real users, doing real work. Throughout the development of the Office 2003 release, the Office teams began leveraging the CEIP data to better understand how real users used the Office applications. With every release, we’ve grown our toolset and have a richer understanding and appreciation of real-world usage data.
For many of the Office 2010 design decisions, we leveraged this usage data to answer questions based on how real customers actually use the applications. To provide a single example, take the question on whether the Ribbon should be collapsed when users were in a particular view in PowerPoint – the discussion was on whether users could still figure out how to start a slideshow. We have a few different entry points to start a slideshow and the reporting tool showed how often each was used.
Based on the Command Name and the ID, we know that the one showing 65.9% is not on the Ribbon, but still a significant number of users (25.6%) click the Ribbon. We can drill down even further and see that the vast majority of users access the Slideshow command through the status bar instead of using a hotkey.
While the design process involves more than just data, this example shows how your participation in the CEIP can replace the opinions and anecdotes from ‘experts’. Knowledge about actual usage is extremely valuable and ultimately puts us in the position to make intelligent decisions and create a better product for you.
In future posts we will give you an overview of other feedback mechanisms we use to improve the product, such as error reporting to find and fix reliability issues, as well as a tool to collect data for performance and responsiveness issues.
I look forward to reading your comments and questions on how we use data during the development cycle.
Peter Koss-Nobel, Senior Program Manager Lead, Office Trustworthy Computing
When introducing the Ribbon UI in Office 2007, we also introduced the RibbonX (Ribbon extensibility) model, a new way to programmatically customize the Office UI. RibbonX enables 3rd party developers and solution providers to build on top of the Ribbon by authoring custom tabs and groups, targeting scenarios unique to and optimized for their customers.
Office 2010 extends the span of the UI extensibility platform by providing support for customization of the new Backstage view. It also adds several new, powerful features to the existent RibbonX platform.
The Backstage view is a new integral part of the Office UI. It elevates the file-level features (printing, sharing, distributing, collaborating, etc.) the way the Ribbon elevated document creation features. Making it easy for 3rd parties to extend the Backstage view’s immersive UI in meaningful ways is a large area of our extensibility focus in Office 2010.
One may ask – “when is it appropriate to extend the Ribbon and when the Backstage view?” If you are building a solution that targets document editing and content generation scenarios (i.e. your features will be helping customers when working in the document), extending the Ribbon is the way to go. If, on the other hand, your customers need a solution that helps them work with documents, processes and custom workflows that those documents are associated with, extending the Backstage is the recommended approach.
More than ever in the past, today’s documents evolve via collaborative efforts, shifting through various stages and cycles. Processes that those documents are tied to are often highly customized and organization-specific. The Backstage view offers a great place to expose custom info about documents and those idiosyncratic processes, and enable users to “move” those documents through various stages.
Below is an add-in that adds a custom Contoso Process tab to the Backstage view; all of the custom UI in the example is built using the new Backstage extensibility model. Contoso Process tab displays relevant metadata about the spreadsheet and the phase it is in, as well as remaining steps that need to be taken for the spreadsheet to progress to the next stage. Schedule For Design Phase and Open Design Issues groups are red, indicating issues that require immediate attention. The graph on the right provides “bigger picture,” a summary of where in the process all of the other related spreadsheets are. It is easy to imagine how all of this custom metadata could be pulled from a SharePoint library which hosts the spreadsheets.
The Contoso Process UI displays custom metadata and contextually-aware custom UI for process management
Once all of the open design issues are resolved, Exit Design Phase button on top of the tab can be enabled programmatically. Clicking it moves the spreadsheet into the legal review phase and the tab updates its content dynamically to show the new status and the requirements for the new phase.
The Contoso Process UI updates dynamically to reflect the new phase spreadsheet has been moved to
Imagine you are a solution developer, and sharing documents is a common scenario for your customers. They like the capabilities of the built-in Share tab in the Backstage view, but they also want a direct way to exchange their documents via Windows Live Hotmail and Facebook. Backstage extensibility empowers you to create and integrate both of these custom features into the built-in Share tab.
Here is what the customized Send Using E-Mail form would look like with the Send via Hotmail group added (the bottom right of the picture):
Custom Send via Hotmail group is integrated into the built-in Send Using E-mail form
And, here is what the customized Share tab would look like with the new Post to Facebook task (and the associated form) added:
Built-in Share tab is extended with a custom Post to Facebook task
Now imagine you are a developer and your customers do a lot of intense data editing in multiple documents simultaneously. They open and close documents frequently, and they don’t want to be prompted to save changes when closing documents.
With the Backstage view extensibility, you can easily replace the built-in Close command with a custom Save and Close control which automatically saves the document before closing it.
Navigation pane in the Backstage before and after the change to replace built-in Close with custom Save & Close
Backstage customizations are defined in the same markup file that contains Ribbon and context menu customizations; the Backstage is just another top-level node. Its internal hierarchy is in many ways similar to the Ribbon’s. Primarily, just like the Ribbon, the Backstage uses tabs as its core building blocks. Backstage tabs can contain either one or two columns of groups. The custom Contoso Process tab from the earlier example contains two columns:
Unlike the Ribbon, the Backstage can also host buttons at the top level – they show up as fast commands in the navigation pane, like the Save and Close command from our earlier example.
While groups in the Ribbon and the Backstage have different spatial organization of content, they can host numerous identical control types, with callbacks (custom functions that define unique control behaviors and which are being called by Office code) for those controls being same across the two.
More details on the Backstage extensibility, its structure and features will be provided in the upcoming Beta documentation. As the Beta build of Office 2010 becomes publicly available, the documentation will be published at the Office Developer Center on MSDN, and will include the full Backstage XML schema, the list of built-in control IDs, a comprehensive introductory article on Backstage extensibility, as well as numerous Backstage extensibility code samples.
If your solution customized the Office Menu in Office 2007, it will keep working in Office 2010. All of the custom functionality that was added to the Office Menu shows up in the Add-Ins flyout in the Backstage’s navigation pane:
Custom Office Menu additions (from Office 2007) show up in the Backstage’s navigation pane
Tab activation and group auto-scaling are frequently requested features we hear from developers who create Ribbon solutions. Tab activation enables developers to activate a tab on demand; this brings the tab to the foreground (as if it were selected) in response to some event. Group auto-scaling enables custom Ribbon groups to adapt their layout to best match the horizontal window size. Improving context menu extensibility is another feature request we hear often. We addressed all these requests in Office 2010.
Imagine a scenario in which you have built an Excel solution with several custom tabs. If each of your custom tabs pertains to a particular type of data, you may want to ensure that the appropriate tab is brought to the foreground when the user interacts with corresponding data type. You achieve this using the ActivateTab method on the IRibbonUI object (passing to it a String-type parameter specifying the custom tab to activate):
You can use a “parallel” ActivateTabMso method to activate a built-in tab and ActivateTabQ method to activate a tab shared between multiple add-ins (ActivateTabQ requires an extra String-type parameter that specifies the namespace of the target add-in).
You have probably noticed that built-in Ribbon groups change their layout when you resize the window. When the window is larger, groups in the Ribbon use the space to show labels or “grow” the size of some commands; as the window shrinks down, groups adapt and “pack” more functionality into less space.
Imagine if customers of your solution want to run with non-maximized windows so they can have multiple applications visible simultaneously. However, when they make the application window smaller, they don’t want commands in your custom group to immediately resize into a single button and be an extra click away. Without having to define when or exactly how your custom group scales, in Office 2010 you can just indicate that the group should adaptively change its layout (by setting its autoScale property to “true”), and Office will ensure that it best fits within the changing window size.
Here is an example that shows how an add-in group would scale using autoScale=true; note that you should assign an icon to the group itself as the icon will be used when the group finally transforms into a single button:
In Office 2010 a custom group can change its layout to best fit within the resized application window
If you are building solutions on top of Office and efficient access to frequently-used, contextual functionality is important for users of your solutions, you have probably considered customizing right-click menus. Some context menus have been extensible via the CommandBars Object Model. However, there are context menus that can’t be changed this way; for example, PowerPoint 2007 contains context menus that aren’t accessible via the CommandBars OM. And, several control types (galleries, split-buttons) can’t be added to context menus via the CommandBars OM.
In Office 2010, you can rely on the familiar RibbonX model to also customize context menus. All of the control types supported in built-in menus can now be added to customized context menus. Context menus are accessible in Office 2010 as a new top-level node in the custom UI markup, the same markup that already hosts the Ribbon.
Customized cell context menu in Excel with a custom split-button, gallery and a separator added
The new Backstage extensibility platform and Ribbon extensibility enhancements empower you to build Office 2010 solutions that are even richer than the ones you could build in the past. We hope that you have already started using these features in the Technical Preview build of Office 2010 and we greatly appreciate your continuous feedback.
- Mirko Mandic, Office User Experience Program Manager
Update - 11/3/2009: Links to more resources has been added in a “Further Reading” at the end of the post.
Update - 11/20/2009: More technical articles have been provided with the release of the Office 2010 public Beta – see Mirko’s comment below (posted on 11/20) for those details.
Update – 2/27/2010: Visio has just posted a related blog on UI extensibility in Visio 2010. Check it out here.