It’s Jon again from the Office User Experience team. I started at Microsoft a little over 2 years ago and one of the things that inevitably happened is that I instantly became the IT guy for everyone I know. The nice part about this is that every now and then I get to show off something that’s really cool to impress everyone in the room.
When I get asked about Office 2007, an interesting trick I like to mention is the ability to minimize the Ribbon by double clicking on the active tab, pressing Ctrl+F1, or using the Ribbon’s right click menu.
Word 2010 with the Ribbon minimized
Minimizing the Ribbon is great when I know I won’t be making many changes to the document and just want to focus on the content that’s already there. It’s helpful when I’m looking at a spreadsheet with lots of data to absorb, reading a very long document, or working on a laptop with a small screen size.
We thought minimizing the Ribbon was a useful feature for more than just the intrepid power users who discovered it in Office 2007, so in Office 2010 we’re bringing the functionality front and center (well, a little off-center). We’ve added an easier to find arrow widget next to the Help button in the top right of every Office 2010 application.
Click the arrow to minimize the Ribbon so only the tabs show. Once the Ribbon is minimized you can click on the tabs to use them like menus. When it’s time to do some more serious editing, click the arrow a second time to expand the Ribbon so you can more efficiently get to all of the Ribbon’s commands.
Increasing the discoverability of minimizing the Ribbon is nice because now lots of users will be able to enjoy it. The only downside is that I’ll have one fewer cool trick to show off to friends and family.
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.
Hi, let us introduce ourselves. I’m Tim Weber (UX Researcher) and I’m Tricia Fejfar (UX Research Manager) in the Office Design Group (ODG). As Shawn indicated in his “Designing with Customers in Mind” post, ODG includes UX Researchers who work to understand user needs and to integrate user feedback into our software design process. We want to tell you a little bit about some of our research for Office 2010 and how it’s made the overall experience better for users like you.
UX research is complementary to other types of research that Microsoft does, including market research and product planning research. While there is overlap among these different types of research, you could think of UX research as providing information to help create the Office experiences you have in Excel, Word, SharePoint, PowerPoint, Visio, Project, etc. As UX Researchers, we answer questions such as:
Throughout the product cycle, UX researchers answer these (and many more) questions. Basically, we get to do the fun stuff of interacting with our customers and see obvious impact in our product from the customer feedback we collect.
When most people think of UX research, they think of Usability studies or as we call them – Lab Studies. While we do conduct lab studies there are many other methods we use to collect data from users around the globe. Some examples are cognitive walk-throughs, multi-user remote studies, eye tracking, field studies, workshops, focus groups, and surveys.
It really depends on the research questions that we have and how much time we have to answer the question. For example, in a typical lab study we are working closely with the UX Designers in our group and Program Managers from the product teams to iterate on feature designs. We bring people from outside of Microsoft into a small room (a.k.a., the lab) that contains a desk and a PC so they can work with our software. Inside the lab, there are some cameras and a piece of one-way glass so the researcher, the designers, PMs, testers and developers can all monitor whether or not the software being studied is meeting the needs of the user. We conduct these lab studies in order to find problems that affect the usability of our software and we typically do a few thousand hours of these studies for each release of Office.
One of our favorite pieces of equipment to use in the lab is the eye tracker. The eye tracker allows us to see what people are looking at while they are using our software. This is incredibly useful when building new UI like the Ribbon and the Backstage because the mouse pointer doesn’t always tell an accurate story about where people are looking on the screen. Below is an example of output (a heat map on the left and gaze plot on the right) from one of our eye tracking studies conducted on the Backstage view using an early prototype.
The heat map on the left tells us where people spent most of their time looking for something. The longer someone looks at a specific location, or the more times someone’s gaze returns to a specific location, the hotter the color on the heat map. The gaze plot on the right tells us the path the eyes followed to get to a particular location.
The study participants’ goal was to open a recently used file. To complete the task successfully, a participant needed to open a specific file – the third in the Most Recently Used (MRU) list shown in the middle pane (of the 3 panes displayed on the screen). All participants were successful on this task. What we learned from the pictures above, however, was that while people eventually located the correct file, they spent a lot of time searching through the templates section in the right pane before going to the MRU.
This finding made us reconsider our design and we decided to split the MRU and templates sections into separate places with their own tabs in the left navigation pane. The screens below show what these places look like today (Recent and New):
Eye Tracking, however, is only one of many research tools used by the Office Design Group to help prepare our software for your use. Another way we gather research broadly is through our Send-a-Smile feedback. You may have read an earlier blog on Send-a-Smile (SaS). If not, we encourage you to take a look so you can start using it today!
We really do take your feedback seriously. Our researchers spend hours and hours a week to deeply analyze SaS user experience comments, look for trends, and triangulate with other data. For example, SaS comments sent in during the Technical Preview led to several changes in Outlook:
Send/Receive button in the Technical Preview
Send/Receive button in the upcoming Beta
How Private Appointments looked in the Technical Preview
How Private Appointments look in the upcoming Beta
Besides having researchers based in the US and in some of our Remote Development Centers, we also have the technology to do virtual multi-user remote studies. This technology was developed by members of our group. We call this setup our Virtual Research Lab (VRL for short), which allows up to 100 remote participants to simultaneously log into our servers and run through specific tasks on our software. We are able to recruit people from across the U.S. and internationally to participate in our studies from the comfort of their home, office, or anywhere they have access to the internet. With this technology, we can gather data from more users in a shorter period of time and we’re also able to expand our participant population. All of this is good for Microsoft and you the end user.
Another technique that we’ve used a lot more in this product cycle to get more early validation is what we call “kitchens”. Kitchens are weeklong events where small teams of people from multiple companies around the globe come to our Microsoft campus to “play” around with working builds of our software. For these events we typically invite people from the IT or Developer community and ask them to build their real-world solutions on top of our early working code. Participants in the kitchens get access to an advanced preview of our new release of Office and are able to provide in depth feedback during a concentrated effort. Also, participants and our engineering team (including Developers, Testers, Program Managers, UX Researchers and Designers, Product Planning and User Assistance) get lots of face-to-face time with each other to better understand concerns and answer questions. These Kitchens are held several times throughout the product release cycle and are valuable to us because they allow us to address user feedback early and fix missing gaps before we release more broadly during the Beta timeframe.
As we mentioned earlier, these are just some of the research tools and techniques we use throughout the Office development cycle to better understand user needs. We hope you enjoyed reading about them. We couldn’t do any of it without great people like you! Look for one of our upcoming posts on Design Tools and Techniques used in ODG. We look forward to hearing what you think! Thanks for reading.
Greetings Office Engineering readers—Clint here from the Access program management team. In partnership with Channel 9 the Access team is launching a new show called The Access Show. It will feature Ryan McMinn, myself and others from the team. We will talk in-depth about what is new in Access 2010 and Access Services and share feedback from the community.
Additionally, at the SharePoint Developers Conference we recently disclosed more details about the new server capability of Access 2010 called Access Services. Access Services is a new SharePoint 2010 feature that allows users to create browser accessible databases with the Access desktop application and host them on SharePoint. Through Access 2010 and Access Services you can keep your organization agile and your data secure:
Here is the inaugural episode and a short demo where Ryan creates an Access Services application that runs in the browser:
You can learn more about this release at the Access 2010 Intro Series RSS feed.
On February 11, all eyes will be on Vancouver, British Columbia as we watch top athletes compete for the gold in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
To show what people can do with Office 2010, Microsoft is launching a new contest that will give two ‘blogathletes’ the ability to showcase their blogging talents and highlight power of Office to help you get your work done no matter where you are. The contest will showcase how Office 2010 technology lets you easily connect, share and collaborate across the PC, phone and browser. You can learn about some of these cool new features by checking out these blog posts:
People from all walks of life use Office everyday to work, keep up with school projects, and stay in touch with friends and family. With Office 2010 we are adding new features and functionality that will take collaboration and the ability to work from anywhere to the next level. We are excited to share that, and the Vancouver Games, with everyone.
The Microsoft Office team, with support from U.S. Olympic Committee, is sending one female blogger and one student blogger to the Games, as winners of our Office Winter Games online contest. The winning bloggers will use the latest Microsoft technologies, including Microsoft Office 2010, to report daily right from the Olympics, alongside members of the credentialed press corps.
Winners will have access to places normally off-limits to spectators, including the hospitality center for the USOC, called the USA House, where athletes and their families are, and the official Olympic Media Centers. In addition to a week at the Olympics, they will also get the technology (including a new Acer Aspire 4810 Timeline laptop) and the press access needed to report from the Games - plus a trip to the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
If you’re a blogger, enter the contest by going to www.officewintergames.com before November 1, and submit a short, 250 word blog post telling us why you should go to the Olympics. Our panel of judges, including Olympic gold-medal speed skater Bonnie Blair and CollegeHumor.com stars Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld, will select the top candidates. The semi-finalists will be posted to contest site where everyone will have the chance to vote to send their favorite bloggers to the Vancouver Games.
You have less than six days to enter, so submit your entry today.
May the best blogathletes win!!
In the Project 2010 client release, we’ve concentrated on making it easier to get started, easier to plan, and easier to report. This post gives a few quick highlights of Project 2010 and you can find more detailed posts on the Project team’s official blog.
Easier to Get Started
One of the first things you’ll notice is that the menus and toolbars have been replaced by the Office Fluent UI, which makes frequently used commands easier to find. Here is the Task tab of the Project ribbon:
Additionally, we’ve improved copy/paste so now when you paste a bulleted list into Project, we maintain the hierarchy and formatting. Also, take note of task 11 - yes, we now support word wrap.
Easier to Plan
Nope, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. The tasks in the above picture really don’t have durations or dates. That is because we’ve added a new feature called User-controlled Scheduling. User-controlled scheduling brings together control and ease of use so you can now be completely in control of your schedule. If you don’t know all the information about a task, Project won’t force you to enter values. If you don’t want a task to move, Project won’t move it but will warn you when there are potential scheduling issues.
In Project 2010, tasks can be automatically scheduled or manually scheduled (using the new user controlled scheduling feature). Auto scheduled tasks behave exactly like tasks in the previous releases. Manually Scheduled tasks (designated with the pushpin icon) won’t move unless you explicitly tell them to.
In the picture:
As I said above, task 3 won’t move even if task 2 does. In this case, task 2 has increased in length and while task 3 doesn’t automatically move out, Project does warn you that the task needs attention by adding a red squiggly to the finish date and updating the bar style. From here you can decide what needs to be done – move the task out, ignore the warning, etc.
Additionally, we’ve added a new view called the Team Planner. You can think of this as a resource Gantt chart. It allows you to easily see how your team’s work is laid out over time, quickly spot problems, and drag and drop to resolve those problems.
Easier to Report
We’ve added another view to Project 2010 called the Timeline View which allows you to summarize your project quickly and then share the timeline into other Office apps. Using the above schedule, I can create a simple timeline in Project:
And then when I paste it into another Office app such as Outlook or PowerPoint to share it with others, the tasks are pasted as individual shapes so I can then apply additional formatting and polish.
The final feature I’d like to call out is Sync to SharePoint. You can synchronize the tasks from within a project plan into a SharePoint tasks list, or open a tasks list directly in Project. Any changes to the plan in Project can by synced to SharePoint and vice versa. This allows you to share your plan with users who don’t have project or to collect status updates automatically from your team.
This really is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to features we’ve added/updated in Project this release and I haven’t even mentioned Project server yet. Continue to check out the Project team blog to learn more about the updates we’ve made to Project 2010 this release. Additionally, sign up now at www.microsoft.com/project/2010 and be notified when the Project 2010 beta is available!
SharePoint Conference 2009 is underway and the Business Connectivity Services (BCS) team is getting ready to talk about the new capabilities in SharePoint 2010 that we’ve been working on. Taken from Brad Stevenson’s overview post:
“BCS is an evolution of the Business Data Catalog (BDC) capabilities of SharePoint 2007 that enhances the capability of SharePoint as a platform for developing composite applications. It provides out-of-box features, services and tools that streamline development to deeply integrate external data and services. BCS provides the capability to connect SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 applications to any external system, whether it be a Line-of-Business (LOB) system, (such as Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, or Siebel) a web 2.0 service, or a custom home-grown application.“
Sr. Lead Program Manager
“BCS is an evolution of the Business Data Catalog (BDC) capabilities of SharePoint 2007 that enhances the capability of SharePoint as a platform for developing composite applications. It provides out-of-box features, services and tools that streamline development to deeply integrate external data and services. BCS provides the capability to connect SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 applications to any external system, whether it be a Line-of-Business (LOB) system, (such as Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, or Siebel) a web 2.0 service, or a custom home-grown application.“
Sr. Lead Program Manager
Check out the rest of the overview post on the BCS Team Blog. Be sure to bookmark the blog and subscribe to the RSS feed to get informative “How To” guides, insight into features, and demos of what we’ve been building. In the following weeks you’ll find updates from our sessions at SharePoint Conference and a guide on how to get your current Web services ready for BCS, with more to come.
- Lionel Robinson, Program Manager
Hi, I’m Tucker Hatfield and I’m a Program Manager on the Office Graphics team.
Pictures are great – worth 1,000 words they say – so it’s a great idea to use them to spice up a document or add some flair to a presentation. The problem is that they usually end up being self-contained rectangles in the middle of things, and they don’t really flow into the content. You can put borders or effects on them to make them look more artistic, but up until now the only way to isolate part of the picture was to go into an expensive photo editing package and learn the cumbersome process of selecting and removing portions of the image.
Background Removal is a new feature in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook that makes this process quick and easy for any picture. Unlike similar tools, the Office Background Removal tool doesn’t just select color ranges or trim to a border you draw. Background Removal uses new capabilities and algorithms from the Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK to achieve better results automatically with very little effort or fine tuning from the user.
So, how does it work?
Even though I can’t explain the deepest secrets of how the code works, I can show you how to use it effectively. Let’s start with this picture and assume that we want to remove the background and keep only the flower.
Clicking the Remove Background button in Picture Tools will start the process. First off, Background Removal tries to figure out what portion of your picture is the foreground, the portion to keep, and which is the background, the portion to remove. The first step in this process is the marquee selection area that gets drawn when you first start Background Removal. When you first start the tool, you’ll see the marquee and portions of the image are overlaid with magenta. Everything marked with magenta is what Background Removal has marked as the background. The normally colored portions are foreground, and will be kept.
You’ll probably notice that the marquee is inset slightly by default. Why is that? Well, it’s rare that the subject of a photo fills the picture completely, and insetting the marquee slightly makes it easier for Background removal to figure out what is the foreground and what is the background. In general, the less background included inside the marquee the more accurate Background Removal will be.
As you can see above, if the goal is to isolate the flower, the default marquee size doesn’t really get the desired result. As it stands, the result would look like this:
To further refine what we get, we’ll need to adjust the shape and size of the marquee. The important rule to remember is that you want the marquee to contain everything you want to keep. It’s okay if there are portions of what’s in the marquee that you don’t want to keep – the magic will do its best to figure out what to keep and what to ignore – but nothing that sticks very far outside of the marquee will be kept, so it’s important to make sure everything you want is inside. Let’s size the marquee so that it is just slightly bigger than the flower. The marquee is sized just the same as any shape or image, by grabbing the handles and resizing or dragging the whole shape to a new location.
Background removal figures out what you wanted and isolates the flower, which results in everything but the flower being removed.
Since the system Background Removal uses to isolate foreground objects from the background isn’t simply based on color choices or contrast values, it can extract even similarly-colored objects from the background.
Or you can even choose to keep something other than the obvious…
Of course, no matter how good the logic is that’s trying to figure out what the foreground of the picture is, there will always be some cases where simply adjusting the marquee can’t figure out what should be kept and what should be discarded. For those cases Background Removal has some simple tools to mark up and refine your selection. We’ll talk about how to use those tools remove the background from an image that presents a problem in a future post. For now, let me close with a couple of quick illustrations of how you might use that flower we removed in the first example.
Hi, my name is Alan Myrvold, and I am a security tester on the Office Trustworthy Computing Team (TWC). This post introduces the new password rules feature in Office 2010.
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have been able to password protect documents for several versions by setting the “password to open”. What we felt could be improved was the ability to enforce password strength rules, similar to what may be required when logging into your computer at work.
In Office 2010, the encryption password can be set using the Office Backstage View:
This password can also be set on the General Options dialog from the Save As dialog, as the “Password to open”, just like in previous versions of Office.
Password encryption is just one way to protect sensitive information. Depending on your business needs and risks, using IRM or BitLocker might be better choices.
Although historically Word and Excel used 40-bit RC4 encryption, faster computers mean that 40-bit keys are now considered weak. The Office Open XML format (*.docx, *.xlsx, *.pptx) introduced in Office 2007 provided an opportunity for us to improve our mechanism and algorithms used for password based encryption of documents. The Office Open XML format uses 128-bit AES encryption. We also use a slower key derivation algorithm to make brute force password cracking slower. RC4 is still used when saving in Office 97-2003 binary formats. For encrypted Office Open XML documents, the password is the weakest link. A short or commonly used password makes the document less secure, since it is easier for an attacker to guess it.
If an attacker needed to try all possible passwords of 5 lowercase letters from a-z, there are only 265, or about 11 million total passwords to guess during a brute force search. Searching dictionary words might even more quickly find the password. An 8 character password, chosen from lowercase and uppercase a-z, plus digits 0-9 is a much larger space of passwords to guess by brute force, 628 or about 200 trillion, and is more difficult to find with dictionary attacks too. These are all worst case efforts, and NIST estimates far less entropy in user chosen passwords. Having less entropy means that attackers can use heuristics to search the password space more intelligently than brute force.
Attackers can also harness the parallel processing power of graphics cards to help with their attack.
But, for brute force attacks, assuming 10,000 password attempts per second, the length and character set of the passwords can make a big difference.
Enforcing a minimum password length and character set complexity requirements can make passwords more difficult for attackers to guess.
How do I enable password complexity?
By default, complexity settings are not enforced, and registry settings are used to control this feature. Although I am describing the registry keys here, the Office Customization Tool (OCT) will be the easiest mechanism to deploy these policies within an organization, but these settings aren’t present in the OCT yet.
There are 2 registry settings to control this, PolicyLevel and MinLength.
When the policy level is 2 or 3, then the password must contain characters from at least three of four character sets, lowercase a-z, uppercase A-Z, digits 0-9, or non-alphabetic character. When this complexity is enforced, the minimum password length needs to be at least 6, but can be more depending on the MinLength.
When the policy level setting is 3, then Office will use the Windows domain policy as well as all the settings at level 2. This allows a custom password filter that is installed for Windows passwords to be used. If you are offline or a domain controller cannot be contacted, then the Windows password settings aren’t used, and only the level 2 settings are used. If you don’t have a custom password filter, then using level 2 saves a trip across the network, and would be the best choice.
Depending on whether the password is too short, or not complex enough, an error dialog will appear
and then you can re-enter the password.
Oh dear. We’ve designed the Office Open XML password encryption to be strong and difficult for attackers to crack, which makes password recovery slow. There is no back door, no key escrow, and the 128-bit AES key makes guessing the password the best option.
Unfortunately Microsoft support cannot assist you, as described in KB article 189126.
Microsoft support engineers cannot help you retrieve passwords of files and features in Microsoft products that are lost or forgotten.
Microsoft support engineers cannot help you retrieve passwords of files and features in Microsoft products that are lost or forgotten.
Because a forgotten password might result in the loss of critical business information, it is possible to disable setting new passwords in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, using the DisablePasswordUI setting.
HKEY_CURRENT_USER \Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Common\Security HKEY_CURRENT_USER \Software\Policies\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Common\Security
This setting only prevents new passwords from being set. Existing password protected documents can still be opened. The DisablePasswordUI setting, along with the password complexity settings are designed to help balance the need to secure information with the risk of information loss.
The password rules feature is just one security enhancement in Office 2010, and future blog posts will cover more improvements we’ve made.
Thanks. Alan Myrvold Security Tester, Office Trustworthy Computing
There have been several improvements made in Excel 2010 to the function library and the Solver add-in. The function improvements have been made to address issues reported in academic papers as well as customer feedback. To quote the Excel team blog:
“In Excel 2010, we made many improvements to Excel's function library. Excel 2010 will feature an accurate and consistent function library while remaining compatible with previous versions of Excel. “
In addition to the accuracy improvements, we also have introduced various new functions to the Excel function library to ensure that users have a consistent function library with implementations that match standard practices. As are result of these improvements, we have also made some UI changes to help users adopt the new functions.
Here are the blog posts that describe the function work in detail:
Excel 2010 will also provide an updated version of the Solver add-in:
“In Excel 2010, we have made a number of improvements to Solver that make it easy for beginners to get started and more advanced ones to find solutions to all types of problems. “
The Excel 2010 Solver will offer a new user interface, new solving methods and new reports. The UI for the Solver Parameter dialog has been improved to make it easier for users to navigate.
In addition to the UI changes, the new Solver will also feature 3 solving methods for solving spreadsheet optimization problems:
New reports added in the Excel 2010 Solver are:
We’re thrilled about the growing number of people who are using Microsoft Office every day to get things done at work, at home, at school and on the go. For instance:
On the heels of such positive momentum, we’re excited to talk about big improvements in the way we’ll deliver the next version of Office to consumers.
Along with the great product innovations we’re delivering in Office 2010, we’re introducing even more choice and flexibility for consumers in how they can try, buy and experience Office 2010 on new and existing PCs. This includes:
For consumers who purchase a new PC, Microsoft is working with major PC manufacturers and our retail partners to make it simpler than ever to try and buy Office 2010.
Through our retail partners, Microsoft is introducing an all-new Product Key Card to help consumers more easily access and experience Office 2010 on new PCs that have been pre-loaded with Office 2010. The Product Key Card is a single license card (with no DVD media) that will be sold at major electronic retail outlets.
An added bonus: The card’s packaging is smaller than the full package (DVD) product, and is eco/retail-friendly. The key number contained on the card will unlock Office 2010 software that has been pre-loaded by the PC manufacturers on their PCs, and enables a simpler and faster path for consumers to begin using any one of three full versions of Microsoft Office – Office Home & Student 2010, Office Home & Business 2010, or Office Professional 2010.
As part of Office 2010 software that will be pre-loaded by the PC manufacturers on their PCs, we’re introducing Microsoft Office Starter 2010. Office Starter 2010 is a reduced-functionality, advertising-supported version of Office 2010, available exclusively on new PCs. Office Starter 2010 will provide new PC owners with immediate exposure to the Office 2010 experience on new PCs right out of the box.
Office Starter 2010 will include Office Word Starter 2010 and Office Excel Starter 2010, with the basic functionality for creating, viewing and editing documents. Office Starter 2010 will replace Microsoft Works, offering a consistent Office user experience, such as the Ribbon, with a simple path to upgrade to a fully-featured version of Office 2010 directly from within the product.
For people who want to try or buy Office 2010 on existing PCs, Microsoft is unveiling Click-to-Run, a new and enhanced download experience for consumers. Click-to-Run makes it easier than ever for customers to try or buy Office digitally by significantly reducing the time and effort required to download Office 2010 over the Internet. Click-to-Run automatically downloads and installs any software patches when connected to the Internet, helping people maintain and keep their Office software up-to-date. Click-to-Run uses virtualization technology so it allows customers to maintain multiple versions of Office. This enables them to try Office 2010 side-by-side with the existing version of Office.
We will have the broad beta of Office 2010 later this year and invite people to become familiar with Office 2010, in the way that works best for them, and then easily upgrade to a full version of Office Home and Student 2010, Office Home and Business 2010, or Office Professional 2010 when they’re ready to buy. To find out more information about Office 2010 visit www.microsoft.com/office2010.
Takeshi Numoto, Corporate Vice President, Office
My name is Shawn Lipstein and I work in Microsoft’s Office Design Group (ODG) as a User Experience Research Lead. I wanted to take the opportunity in today’s post to both introduce ODG and share a bit about what we do. I’ll also give you a peek at future posts we’ll be writing.
The Office Design Group is made up of both User Experience Designers and User Experience Researchers. Our job is to represent you, the end-user of our software products. We partner with product teams within Office to identify user needs and create compelling experiences. By understanding who you are and how you work we can build better software.
We identify user needs and create compelling experiences in a number of ways. For example, User Experience Researchers work to understand user needs early in the product development cycle using methods such as Field Visits. A field visit is when Researchers visit with users in their own environment and observe how they work with software to get their tasks done. Researchers also utilize methods such as Lab Studies (see image below) where we bring users into controlled lab environments and have them work through real world scenarios. While doing so, we use prototypes as primitive as paper drawings to actual working builds; depending on the phase we are at in the product development cycle.
The above image is a photograph of a Lab Study conducted using an early working build.
As another example, User Experience Designers work to solve difficult design issues in innovative ways by using methods such as Wire Framing where the basic idea of a design is blueprinted. Designers also produce many iterations of a solution using high fidelity drawings and even working prototypes to ensure that all possibilities around the interaction, visual look and feel, and animations have been considered.
The images below show an example of the ‘Office 2010 Backstage’ going from a sketch to a working build (click on the images for a larger version).
1. Early on in the development cycle Designers will develop a multitude of hand drawn concept sketches.
2. Wire Frames are made to explore layout and proportion as we begin to refine our ideas.
3. A high fidelity rendering is created to finalize the look and feel and to clearly communicate the design intent to the rest of the team.
4. A screenshot of the final build shows the accuracy that is achieved in relation to the high fidelity rendering.
As you’ve read above, the Office Design Group - made up of both Designers and Researchers - use a number of techniques to identify user needs and create compelling experiences. I’m excited to get feedback from a broader set of customers as we begin to make 2010 available. This feedback helps to ensure our software is intuitive and usable.
ODG plans to post more topics in a series on this blog about ‘Office 2010 User Research & Design.’ Some questions that my colleagues are planning to answer are:
I look forward to reading your comments and questions about this and subsequent posts.
Visio 2010 brings many new features that make Visio more powerful and easier to use. This post gives a few quick highlights on Visio 2010, along with links to more detailed posts on the Visio team’s official blog.
One of the first things users of Visio 2010 will notice is that menus and toolbars have been replaced by the Office Fluent UI, which makes frequently used commands easier to find. Here is the Home tab of the Visio Ribbon:
The new Ribbon UI is accompanied by a redesigned Shapes Window—shown below in both expanded and collapsed mode—which lets you easily combine your favorite shapes from multiple stencils into one view.
Visio 2010 also includes many enhancements to the diagram creation experience. One such enhancement is the Quick Shapes Mini Toolbar, which allows you to hover over a shape and click to AutoConnect a new shape, as shown in the below screenshot. This is one of the ways Visio has integrated Live Preview into the diagramming experience.
For more information on Visio 2010’s features for editing and organizing the information in diagrams, see the following posts:
Visio 2010 makes it easier to give a polished, professional look to your diagrams. The “Auto Align & Space” command is one of our new layout features; it cleans up your diagram’s layout while preserving its basic arrangement, as illustrated below:
For more information on how Visio 2010 makes it easier to create visually appealing diagrams, see the following posts:
The above are only a taste of the new features in Visio 2010. Head on over to Visio Insights and stay posted for more exciting updates!
Hi, my name is Maithili Dandige. I am a Program Manager at Microsoft working in the Office Security team. For this release, I’ve worked on several security and privacy-related features such as Office File Validation, Recommended Settings, improvements to Document Inspector, and Trusted Documents. I will be talking about all these in the upcoming months. Today, I am here to give you some insight to the Trusted Documents feature, a simple enhancement that improves the user experience when interacting with our security features. You can go here if you are interested in reading about other security features on our team. Trusted Documents alleviates my personal long-term frustration as an end user by reducing the number security prompts seen when working with Office documents containing Macros, ActiveX controls, Data Connections and other types of active content that are blocked by Office Trust Center.
Before we go into the details of how Trusted Documents work, I’d like to spend a few minutes on why we built this feature. Versions of Office before Office 2007 showed you modal prompts for macros and other types of active contents before opening documents. Those dialogs were useful but problematic; you were shown the prompt that said - “Do you want to enable macros?” before letting you interact with the file. Many users who didn’t need to enable those macros also ended up enabling them, although often all they wanted to do was read the document.
In Office 2007 we fixed that. We didn’t show you the modal prompt before opening the document; instead we showed you what we call the Message Bar. This was a significant improvement as you could read or edit your document safely and deal with the security warnings later. Unfortunately, for a document with macros you created, or a workbook with data connections that you worked on every day, you’d need to enable the content every single time from the Message Bar. This could be a frustrating user experience because now not only did it take you two additional clicks to get to your next task, it didn’t seem to provide any real security benefit for a document. This is why:
a) First, how likely are you to change your mind about trusting a document? If you enable content once, you are almost certainly going to again do it the next time round as you need your document to work properly.
b) Second, if there was malicious intent that created the macros or other type of content, your machine was probably compromised by it the first time you enabled the macros, so prompting you the next time for the same file does not add any additional security benefit.
So this motivated us to provide users with a better security experience which we call the Trusted Documents feature: In Office 14 we now remember which active content you have enabled, and don’t prompt you again the next time you open the same document.
So what are Trusted Documents? – Trusted Documents provides a simple one click step to always enable active content (e.g. Macros, ActiveX controls etc.) in a document. We remember your trust decision on the file and don’t show you the security prompt the next time you open the file.
It more closely reflects how people work. If I create a document with a macro in it, I don’t want to be prompted to enable the macro the next time I open it. Or, if I get a document with daily reports from my co-worker that has a pivot table, I don’t want to enable the data connection to our trusted server every time I want updated numbers. Also, I may be opening documents from multiple folders (SharePoint, network shares, desktop, attachments received in email). I don’t necessarily want to put them into a trusted folder every time I open them. Trusted Documents helps with all the above. It remembers the first time you enabled the content and unless the trust record for that document changes, it doesn’t bother you with a security notification for the content anymore.
With Trusted Documents, the trust is recorded on a per file basis. The trust record is added to the Current User section of your local registry and contains the file’s full path along with other data such as the created time for a document. Note that because ‘trust records’ are stored on a specific machine you’ll get prompted again if you open the file on another computer. Also since the trust record consists of more than just the file’s path it protects against social engineering attacks such as replacing existing trusted documents with malicious documents that have the same name.
Protected View helps us create a good security boundary between documents that are on your machine which you may have trusted vs. new incoming untrusted documents opened from the Internet, attachments, etc. For example, an attachment containing macros is first opened in Protected View. If you trust the file and exit Protected View we do not enable the macros automatically. Instead we show another Message Bar to enable the macros. By disallowing macros from running automatically while exiting Protected View we prevent opening up the computer to additional risk where the user may have intended to just reply to the document with comments and not run the macros. Now, if you explicitly save the attachment and also enable the macros we make it trusted and the next time you open the document it does not open in Protected View and active content is enabled for that document.
In Office 2010, you will continue to see the Message Bar when a macro, data connection, ActiveX control or other type of active content is in the document. Here is the Message Bar that comes up when more than one type of active content is disabled (e.g. macros and ActiveX controls).
There are two entry points to make a document Trusted. If you click Enable Content on the Message Bar the document will be automatically added to Trusted Documents list in your registry. Second, you can click the Message Bar for details; it will take you to the Backstage view. In the Backstage view you can click the Enable Content button which will bring up two options.
a) You can enable all the content and make it a trusted document. This will enable macros and ActiveX controls in the document and add the document to your list of trusted documents in the registry. This option provides you with a simple one-click option to enable all the content at once and make it a trusted document. The next time you open this document you will not be shown the security warning.
b) If you are an advanced user who wants more control over the types of content to enable/disable then you can click the Advanced Options button, which brings up the Security Notifications dialog that has options for enabling content for one time (this is similar to Office 2007).
Similar to Trusted Locations we have security restrictions and settings around trusted documents. For example, we do not allow users to trust documents from untrusted locations such as Temporary Internet Files (TIF) or TEMP.
Trusting documents on a network share is riskier than trusting documents on your local hard drive as other users who have access to the network locations can modify the contents of your file. For this reason, we show you a security warning the first time you try to trust a document on a network location. In Trust Center, you can disallow documents on a trusted location to be trusted, causing Office to show you the security notification every time you open a document from a network location. We also provide you with more options in the Trust Center, such as disabling all trusted documents completely or purging the documents you have trusted. All these options can be found under Trust Center settings for an application. Similarly all these settings can also be configured by an administrator of an IT organization via group policy (e.g. an administrator can configure for disallowing trusted documents to be created on network shares thus limiting the use only to your local hard drive).
To summarize, the main security UX goal we are striving to reach in Office 14 with Trusted Documents and other security features is to make unnecessary prompts go away and to only prompt users when necessary. By reducing ‘prompt fatigue’ we hope to enable users to make better, more informed decisions when they do encounter security prompts
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