December 9th, 2005 • 4:59 pm
Microsoft’s Jensen Harris has a blog about the Office user interface. It is primarily about the Windows version of Office, but is obviously of interest to Mac users of Microsoft Office as well, if only as a possible indicator of things to come in future versions of the Mac software.
Apparently, the big deal in Office 12 is what they call “ribbons” or “chunks” or “tabs.” I am not sure I like the sound of it, but… What I find particularly interesting is this recent post about another example of “Office 12 Coolness” (sic).
Apparently, even though he’s a Microsoft employee working on Office, Mr. Harris has only just discovered that Word has a “Sort” command that can be used to sort paragraphs of text alphabetically…
You see, this command has been available in Word for years, but until now it was located somewhere in the “” menu. And apparently even experienced Microsoft Office users like Mr. Harris (presumably) still think that the fact that a command appears in the “ ” menu in Word means that it’s a command that only applies to tables.
Apparently even people like Mr. Harris still haven’t realized that the Word interface is a complete and utter mess and that a great many commands are not where you’d expect them to be! As Mac users who are used to a certain amount of interface tidiness, we have been aware of this for years. But apparently it’s news in the PC world.
And apparently finally moving this “Sort” command out of the “ ” menu and putting it in the “Paragraph” “chunk” is a good example of “Office 12 coolness.”
Wow. I am impressed. Honestly.
It’s funny, though, because it seems to me that, since Word 6 (in 1995), we have always all been able to customize Word’s interface and actually move commands from menu to menu ourselves if we wanted to. And we’ve always been able to add the toolbar button for the “Sort” to any existing Word toolbar ourselves as well…
(I would have moved the “” command out of the “ ” menu myself a long time ago, but really I am so used to Word’s incoherent interface that I just leave it there and use it from there, even when I am not in a table. I know, I know, I am a transgressive, masochistic user interface pervert. That’s what Microsoft does to you.)
So now Microsoft finally moves that button to the appropriate toolbar by default—and it’s a big breakthrough!
Wow. Like I said, I am very impressed.
Of course, there will probably not be any other improvements made, like a “smart” sort command that actually sorts numbers properly as well (and not alphabetically), or a sort command that can also sort lines separated by manual line breaks, etc.
No, that would probably be too much to ask. After all, moving the “Sort” command to the “Paragraph” chunk/ribbon takes a huge effort. It probably requires hundreds of hours of coding and testing by dozens of Microsoft engineers.