Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Office muscle memory

Jensen Harris (of the Office User Interface Blog) has a new post up on the ergonomics of GUI design. I find this kind of stuff infinitely fascinating, things like how the four corners of a desktop are "magic corners" because it's a lot easier to quickly direct your pointer to a corner than to a point some distance from the edge of the screen. There's also a fascinating section on how the Start button was improved between Windows 95 and Windows XP, simply be removing a one-pixel wide banner of 'dead space'.

I've been using the Office 2007 beta for about two months now, and so far I like what I see, particularly in Word, which I use most. The lack of drop-down menus, and the new 'Ribbon' do take a bit of getting used to, but mostly because I don't automatically know where stuff is. But the interface is really intuitive, and all the keyboard shortcuts from Office 2003 work in 2007 as well, so the learning curve is not that steep at all. I don't think I've ever used Styles in Word 2003, but the support for them in 2007 is a lot better, and I've been finding them really useful - and the available styles actually look quite good too.

I have found it interesting how some Word keyboard shortcuts are programmed so deeply into my muscle memory that I now use them completely without thought. In my version of Word 2003, I had a word-count toolbar, and all I had to type was ALT+C to get the updated word count. When you're writing an arts essay to a word limit, the current number of words becomes rather important. So over time, I realised that after each sentence that I typed, I would first go CTRL+S to save, and then straight after ALT+C to get an updated word count. In Word 2007 there's a constantly updating word count in the bottom left-hand corner, so there's no more need to press ALT+C or open another dialog box to get the number of words. But I still find myself pressing the shortcut keys, every time after I save. Likewise, I memorised the keystroke combination required to insert a footnote in Word 2003 (ALT+I+N+N+Enter) a long time ago, and while I'm sure there's an easier way to do it in 2007, I still use that rather long and complicated 'shortcut', because it would seem it's programmed extremely deeply in my subconscious.

So yeah, Word 2007 = good: don't expect to instantaneously be as efficient as you were with 2003, but don't expect to spend months and months re-learning how to do everything, either.

1 comment:

The Scientist said...

Styles in Word are extremely useful, and relatively powerful to use in a document...

and the best thing is you can customise every style to look however you want it to. Then later, if you want to change the appearance of, for example, your level three headings, you simply change the style and it automatically changes everything in the document to match.

you can even import the styles from another word document into the one you are using... really good for making matched pieces of work :-)