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Office 2007 UI License 281

MikeWeller writes, "Microsoft has recently announced a new licensing program for the Office 2007 user interface. This page links to the license and an MSDN Channel9 interview about the program (featuring a lawyer). The program 'allows virtually anyone to obtain a royalty-free license to use the new Office UI in a software product. There's only one limitation: if you are building a program which directly competes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Access (the Microsoft applications with the new UI), you can't obtain the royalty-free license.' What does this mean for OpenOffice? Will traditional menus/toolbars hold up to an ever-increasing number of features, or will OO be forced to take on a new UI paradigm? With the gap between OO and MS Office widening, how is this going to affect users trying to move between the two platforms?" You need to sign the license before you can get the 120-page UI implementation guidelines, which are confidential.
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Office 2007 UI License

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  • how about prior art? (Score:5, Informative)

    by p80 ( 771195 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:49AM (#16948670) Homepage
    the funny thing is that Quanta+ in KDE has had a similar UI with a ribbon for years now:
    http://quanta.kdewebdev.org/screenshots//shot2.png [kdewebdev.org]
    http://quanta.kdewebdev.org/screenshots//shot13.pn g [kdewebdev.org]

    Do they need a license too?
  • by ardor ( 673957 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:52AM (#16948700)
    Well, obviously, X has *NO* consistency because it has no standard widgets. Windows has. WINAPI contains buttons, sliders, scrollbars, text edits, menus etc. So the *base* for consistency is there, which cannot be said for X.

    But MS violate their own standards by creating custom widgets for Office and IE. This is something widely criticized by UI designers.

    However, usually the WinAPI widgets are the core of Windows GUIs (tweaked buttons, menus ...) Very little programs create their own widgets from the ground up. In X, Qt does everything from scratch, just like GTK, FOX, Athena, Motif, etc. The important thing is that their behaviour is not fully consistent. Aside from funny Office/IE widgets, I can reuse my knowledge with one Windows GUI when using another. Most Windows apps do NOT use custom widgets.

    However, nowadays GTK and Qt have little custom quirks of this sort. Their differences are mostly optical (but it is a visual inconsistency when 90% of all apps are Qt/KDE-based and only one program uses GTK). However, the presence of two major TKs is a problem because distros tend to choose only one of these two. In this case you end up with a dependency that may be big enough to turn users and more importantly distro makers away (like "oh no, my system is purely GTK-based, I dont want Qt anywhere").
  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:03AM (#16948828)
    Nope, nothing to do with the library. It's the User Interface they're licensing.

    From the announcement:

    "For those that want to build their own UI that takes advantage of our design guidelines, they will need a license."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:36AM (#16949486)
    Most Windows apps do not use custom widgets? Rubbish. You'd be hard pressed to find any Windows app made in the last decade that doesn't use custom widgets.

    Why? The Win32 API's widgets are pathetic. Basically, they do slightly more than Windows 3.1's widgets did, and nothing more.

    At the very least, most Windows programs implement their own menus, toolbars, buttons, tab boxes, scrolling panes, status bars, text input areas, and often a huge list of weird custom widgets that no other program uses (like the URL box in most web browsers, or even simple things like a directory listing). The default widgets are unusable, and hideously ugly. About the only widgets that are used without major modification are checkboxes, radio buttons, and scroll bars (the parts that don't do anything).

    Windows can't even manage a consistent text editor field. Standard editing shortcuts (like Ctrl+Backspace, or Ctrl+Del), or even standard features like the insert toggle, cut and paste and undo are not implemented consistently across applications, or even within one application.

    There is basically no consistency. The only case where you get ANY consistency is where developers imitate the latest Microsoft GUI.

    At least in X GUIs, the base toolkits (commonly Qt and GTK) provide a rich set of powerful widgets, almost completely negating the need for a developer to ever feel tempted to write their own.
  • by WhitePanther5000 ( 766529 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:40AM (#16949560)
    Yeah, not to mention Bluefish [homeunix.org] or Dreamweaver [sourceforge.net]... It's a pretty common concept in web development applications, and I guess MS just decided to be "original" and throw it into an office suite.

    Stealing ideas has gotten them this far... why stop now?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:42AM (#16949602)
    No, not anyone can copy your UI. UIs are patentable, and a great many patents have been issued by USPTO for software user interfaces. These are called design patents specifically because they specifically refer to the non-obvious visual elements of the software. Office makes use of a new paradigm. Whether or not you like it it is the result of a great deal of investment in focus groups and user interaction studies. Microsoft spent money to develop the paradigm and stands to benefit from their investment.

    What Microsoft has done here is offer to component vendors the right to build third-party components to mimic the behavior in it's entirity. It is correct that Microsoft is not giving out any code, but to these vendors that isn't material anyway as they all have functional prototypes if not products at this stage. Microsoft has "blessed" them to release their implementations and given them access to the usability information they determined during their testing phases as well as the explicit behaviors that the Office implementation adopts.
  • Re:What gap ? (Score:3, Informative)

    by alexhs ( 877055 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:00AM (#16950008) Homepage Journal
    I was talking about the Microsoft Office 2003 I need to suffer at work. Sorry if it wasn't clear.

    If you want details :

    Paragraphs numbering : MS Word. Most people here are using old canvas where numbering works. I asked to one guy how it was achieving it. He did tenths of tries clicking everywhere until it worked. Couldn't get a straightforward procedure. Out of curiosity, launched OpenOffice.org 2.0 at home. Did what seemed straightforward to me (selecting 1.1 scheme in bullets and numbering), almost same place as in MS-Office, and it just worked.

    Locks : MS Excel. Import an XML file. Close Excel. Try to delete the directory in which the XML file belongs to. Doesn't work. XML file goes away but not the directory. AFAIK only two solutions : reboot MS-Windows or restart excel and import another document in another directory, to move the lock.

    Document corruption : MS Word. It implied the integrated drawing tool. Just before crashing, funny things happened. I was writing in a text box and the text would be written to another text box at the same time. Seems two objects had the same index...

    While I'm at it : Why does an Acces DB always grow, even when you're removing entries ?
  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:06AM (#16950102) Homepage Journal

    Well, Apple did kind of think about it, and spent a lot of time suing Microsoft in the mid-eighties and early nineties (which was rather odd because pre-'95, Windows looked nothing like Mac OS, and even Windows 95 has significant differences.)

    Different people have different takes on it. Some say Microsoft resolved the suit when it paid Apple the millions of dollars it did in the infamous Steve Jobs "Microsoft is our friend, Microsoft has always been our friend" keynote in the late nineties. Others say that Apple lost the suit, after successfully bullying companies for long enough using the suit that it didn't really matter (Digital Research is a famous example, who rewrote GEM's "Finder" equivalent to be completely un-Mac like after Apple sued, but after they'd already sold the earlier version to Atari, who continued to bundle the Mac-like version of GEM with the ST for years.)

  • by discojohnson ( 930368 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:34PM (#16951772)
    I genuinely hope that the public don't buy this latest round of Msft. bullsh-t, Office 2003 is still perfectly capable, why should users be forced to upgrade?

    three letters: XML [microsoft.com]. have you ever tried to generate an excel document with charts without using an office object? can't really be done in a secure (read: won't potentially crash your IIS box) manner due to needing office installed. in an environment where reports (excel, ppt, word) are generated by a site this is priceless.
  • by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:47PM (#16952036) Homepage
    No offense dude, but static tabs running across the top of the screen (which is essentially what Quanta+ uses) is nothing like the ribbon in the new Office.

    The new Office UI dynamically changes based on what you're doing. The ribbon starts with some common (and buried) features for the task you're working on (like changing a font). As you use it, the ribbon drops what you use infrequently and presents new choices. This is nothing like Quanta, and it's clear you haven't used Office's new UI at all.

    That's not to say it's a *good* UI. I personally have had a rough time getting used to it. But comparing it to stuff like Quanta makes no sense whatsoever.
  • by shaneh0 ( 624603 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @05:31PM (#16957488)
    "If I implement something which looks like their look and feel, but I have never seen their best-practices document, then what basis does MS
    have to say that I'm not allowed to do that? I would argue, none at all."

    And you would probably be the winner of that lawsuit.

    A good example of this is when Jeep sued GM based on GM copying the grill used in the Jeep Cherokee for the Hummer H2.

    Jeep lost that lawsuit. The Hummer H2 sold great. Now Jeep has an SUV that looks a LOT like a mini Hummer.

    The moral of the story: A corporation doesn't concern itself with hypocrisy. It lives for one reason online: to be an engine of profit. If Microsoft using that defense against apple helped Microsoft make profit, it was the right thing for the company to do. If this caveat in their gui license helps them make profit, again, it is the right thing for the company to do.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal