I’ve upgraded to Office 2007 Pro and have been adjusting to the “Office Fluent User Interface”, sometimes known as “the Ribbon”.
For decades every application interface has had those comforting File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Help Menus. Maybe there were a few more, specific to the application, but the basics were always there as a familiar reference.
Launch Office 2007 you experience what I term “Ribbon Shock”. It’s all changed with the “Office Button” replacing many of those menu functions, others moved to context sensitive “tabbed ribbons” which replace toolbars.
If you’re familiar with the old interface it’s a little strange but the adjustment doesn’t take long. After a while going back to earlier versions, I still use Office 2003 at work, makes you realise how fluent the “Fluent UI” really is.
That’s all wonderful but what about other applications? Microsoft are licensing the “Fluent UI” for “non-competitive applications” so it’s possible you’ll see it outside of Office. Given it’s the result of thousands of hours design, testing, and user feedback it’s great it’s been shared at all, understandable you can’t use it to build a direct office competitor.
Take a look at the Fluent UI’s below (click for full size image). One of them isn’t from Microsoft, yet in my opinion it’s the best “office application” there is…
PS: It’s a pity the Ribbon didn’t make it to the Outlook 2007 main window (it’s there in the mail editor and other interface elements)….
UPDATE 09–06–2007: Jensen Harris discusses Outlook UI in his post: Outlook and the Ribbon