Thursday, June 15, 2006


Quite a lot of my IT degree is excruciatingly boring to me: programming, computer architecture, discrete mathematics. Oh-my-god-kill-me-now kind of stuff.

Some of it, however, I do find truly fascinating; usually anything to do with web-design, and/or user interfaces and experience. We did some stuff last year on designing websites that are accessible for people with disabilities, and not just vision impairment: you also need to consider, for example, those with motor-control problems, who might not necessarily be able to use a traditional keyboard or mouse to navigate around the web. And what about people who can have seizures because of photosensitivity? That flashing ad on the front-page of your site could cause some serious issues. There's a long and detailed checklist put together by the W3C that covers all of these kinds of things.

So right now I'm finding this Office User Interface blog particularly interesting. Jensen Harris, the author, is part of the Microsoft team working on the user interface for the new version of Office, which is due to be released soon, and he details the processes etc. that they're going through in refining the user interface. There's a great post on how they tried to remove the feature that allows you to double-click the top-left hand corner of windows programs to close them, a legacy from Windows 3.1. Turns out that it's really hard to 'retrain' people who 'grew-up' with feature to start using the right-hand X button to close a program. So the feature remains. It's cool to be able to see the level of thought and consideration that goes into seemingly tiny details like this when designing the interface for such a popular program.

Also intriguing is his discussion of the new Office feature 'contextual spelling'. You'll still have the red and green squiggles under bad grammar and spelling, but in 2007 there'll also be a blue line, which will indicate that while the word that you've used might be spelt correctly, it might not be the right one for the situation. So it'll pick up a sentence like "This is one battle I'm not willing to loose", and suggest that you use 'lose' instead. I can imagine this being crazily, incredibly useful.

And just to finish up my discussion of my new-found obsession with everything Office 2007 related: apparently the reign of Times New Roman as the default font-of-choice is about to come to an end. The default font in Office 2007 will not be good old Times, but a new one called Calibri. You can see samples of Calibri, as well as other new fonts which'll be introduced, in this article.

I'm not ashamed to say that I am ridiculously excited about the new edition of Office. I love Office, particularly Word, and I can't stand people who rubbish it simply because it's a Microsoft product. Office works, and as I've learned various features and keyboard shortcuts over the years, I've got pretty efficient in using it. Bring on Office 2007, I say!

1 comment:

matthewonlocation said...

Sing it to me sister...Uh huh!

I don't quite know where that came from.

Firstly, I have to say, that I really enjoyed this post. I am not sure why. I just did

Secondly, I completely agree with your comment about rubbishing Office simply because it is Microsoft. I have tried other wordprocessing products and none have ever matched the brilliance of Word. As a person who follows the stockmarket. I find that Excel fits my everyday needs with ease. Powerpoint, although I don't like using the concept of powerpoint, is easy to navigate and only marginally wastes my time.

I, however, am not looking forward to the release of Office 2007. I am equally not looking forward to the release of the next Windows (Vista). The is mostly due the harsh reality that the products I enjoy so much using and have gotten comfortable with are going to the superseded.