Office 15 steals OVERLARGE font, design vision from Windows PHO
Large corporations which find themselves with an unexpectedly popular feature tend to go overboard with it. So it was with Java, which in the mid-1990s rapidly evolved from a programming language into an environment, then a platform, and then an embedded OS – so we got "Java for lightbulbs" - and finally a corporate philosophy.
In my view, Sun never quite recovered from having to repeat the WORA (Write Once Run Anywhere) creed. It lost sight of the fact that it earned its crust from people paying to run their applications on Sun's hardware and Sun's software. In its last few years as an independent company, you wondered Sun really wanted to do most – sell gear, or become a hippy NGO?
After years as the butt of industry jokes about user interface design, Microsoft has an unexpectedly positive reception to the "Metro" UI it introduced in Windows Mobile Phone 7. So it's sticking the Metro UI everywhere – including future versions of Microsoft Office.
Microsoft says the Metro UI was inspired by public transport signs in Seattle, although I have my doubts. King Country bus signs are resolutely un-Metroish, and the design owes much more to modern magazine design. So the transit story sounds like a "backspiration" (the design version of a backronym).
Metro features tiles, lots of white space, and a font deliberately large, so large that it frequently OVERSP
ILLS the right margin of the page.
Rather than being considered a bug, this is apparently a feature. But all joking aside, the new WP design does work very well in practice.
Judging from the screenshot, the new design has removed most of the clutter that plagues Microsoft Office, using advice from the PJ O'Rourke handbook for bachelors on how to tidy a room: move everything to the side of the room, or under the sofa.
Only testing will tell if it's as well received as the Phone UI revamp. But the Windows Phone isn't popular because of the typography, or even the tiles: it's popular because (like the iPhone) it makes a subset of very common tasks available and easy to access.
If it makes common tasks (even) harder to access, then it can't be considered a design success. The obstinate punter rules, here.
Microsoft Office 15 will also feature the now traditional No One Knows Quite What It Is™ application - following in the footsteps of Binder, and One Note. These applications typically bundle together files of a different type, and you need to install another Microsoft Office tool, or hire a Certified Professional, to unbundle it for you.
This one is called Moorea – of which there's more 'ere.
Office 15 builds began to float around late last summer, but since then the runaway success of the iPad has prompted Microsoft to make its next version of Windows much more tablet-friendly than it otherwise planned. Windows 8 will run on ARM chips, and work better with direct manipulation input, and touch. So it makes sense for Microsoft to design its key applications so they look better on a tablet too.
We must point out that 10 years ago Bill Gates predicted the tablet would become "the most popular form of PC" by 2007. Microsoft's idea of a tablet, though, was one that was so expensive and horrible to use, only a hardy few ever bought one. ®
I've said this about 100 times...
Microsoft's main problem with design is that they're usability group is focused on "statistics" rather than actual design. For instance, when they do usability testing they're interested in how long it takes a user to complete a task... this isn't an unreasonable metric, except that it forces their designs to cater to new users. Which means that in a lot of cases, they don't cater to the vast majority of software users, who are neither novices nor power users. The "ribbon" and the "hide unused menu items" are just the most egregious instances of this. The first tries to show everything a new user might want to do in a giant jumble, where the second causes interface changes (to a lot of users this change appears to be semi-random), hiding items.
A second and not unrelated problem is that Microsoft tends to have the "hammer/nail" mentality. When the "Start" button worked out on the desktop, where it really did have some utility, they crammed it into their smartphone UI, where it was a hindrance. Now that their phone UI has garnered some praise, they're moving that model over to the desktop. Whatever tool they're currently enamored of makes every problem a nail.
Most places seem to still be on Office 2003 because no one likes the ribbon ui and this one looks even worse. MS please just go back to normal menus and toolbars where we all know the shortcuts and scrap all this must look hip and trendy crap that gets in the way of doing our jobs.
"But the Windows Phone isn't popular...."
Everything after that bit of that sentence was redundant....