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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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  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:22AM (#16948350)
    You can copy any UI that you want to.

    This is just a clear threat to competitors that they're going to be spending millions defending frivolous law suits. Interesting that Microsoft have decided that their business model is now to sue competitors.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:35AM (#16948520) Homepage
    I think that most reviewers had problems with the new UI because many (most?) people who use MS word have enough trouble with moving between different versions when there is very little UI change. A complete overhaul such as this would be terrible, especially when all the other applications they still use have a completely different UI. I think this is a method of getting more applications that work the same as the new MS Office, so that people start to think that it's more worth it to learn the new UI rather than just stick with the old software, or switch to OO.o, since it's more like Word 2003 is than the new MS Word. I think that MS is taking a brave stance by trying to move away from the tried and true UI, but I think that many users will have a lot of trouble learning the new interface. Remember the UI hasn't changed this drastically since the move to windows in MS Word 6(?).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:36AM (#16948548)
    Yeah, I agree, this is a fucking joke. MS are not giving away an implementation of the UI. Just the "right" to copy it. Well ffs Microsoft, you copied the entire Windows UI from Xerox. As the OP says, anyone can copy your UI. In fact there's a ribbon bar in at least one commercial UI Windows toolbox I know of - what are MS trying to say to that company?

    Basically what this says is, IF you download the document, you CAN'T implement the UI unless MS sign off on your implementation. But if you ignore this propagandist nonsense, you can implement any UI you like including a poorly implemented version of the Ribbon UI.

    Jeez. Wake me up when it's in the Win32 API.
  • by davecb ( 6526 ) * <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:54AM (#16948710) Homepage Journal
    Many moons ago, I worked on a product which started out using a "lotus 1-2-3" menu structure: one typed "/" then selected from a one-line list of options by typing individual characters.

    My Smarter Colleagues noticed that from the same data structure we used for the lotus menus we could build PF-key menus, modern cascading drop-down menus and right-mouse-button pop-up menus.

    Which means that for any menu sequence of head->middle->middle*->tail, you can change the visual appearance of the menu without changing the application-level calls used to create it. And that in turn means you can make "ribbon menus" a user-specifiable "skin".


  • by mcn ( 112855 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:56AM (#16948748)
    I am not a programmer/developer/UI designer. But to me, it seems like the new UI is just the horizontal equivalent of the vertical pull-down menu, with some sugar coating here and there. "Transpose" all those pull-downs and it more or less becomes a ribbon. It seems like the equivalent of the lotus 123 slash ("/") command, where pressing "/" brings you the horizontal menu.
  • by sbraab ( 100929 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:58AM (#16948772)
    Did you look at the UI preview guide? Maybe it is just me, but it looks yet another attempt to change the UI for the sake of change. They have taken the concepts of menus, toolbars, dialog boxes and palettes and combined them in to one big tabbed blob that takes ups even more of the top of each window. Of course it is similar to, but in no way consistent with that annoying new interface they put on IE7. The only thing they have managed to keep consistent in windows is the need to press ^-alt-Del to login. They just don't get it.
  • by Randolpho ( 628485 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:19AM (#16949176) Homepage Journal
    I think that MS is taking a brave stance by trying to move away from the tried and true UI, but I think that many users will have a lot of trouble learning the new interface.
    I tend to agree with you on both points. Changing UIs like that is a gutsy move. Even the switch to the windows 95 OS interface didn't change much about the overall window UI from 3.x. This is a huge move.

    That said, I've asked folks at MS several times at conferences about the switch, and they all give a similar answer. Their research indicates that users overwhelmingly prefer the new UI over the old menu-driven approach.

    It's a gutsy move, but they're sure it'll be a welcome one.
  • Ingenuity? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:41AM (#16949590) Homepage

    The words "Microsoft" and "ingenuity" hardly belong in the same sentence. Considering the billions they allegedly spend on R&D, and I personally don't believe they really spend that much, you'd think they could deliver a better, more reliable product. MSFT has purchased its most innovative products. They haven't developed anything internally that's a home run product in nearly a decade. Their market position is more the result of file formats and OEM agreements than any creative development. They're sort of like Disney after they got rid of all the animators, costume designers and set builders. Just a shell with the name of the imaginative company they used to be.

    The open source development model offers a more competitive approach to developing a UI and final product can be configured to user preferences and specific needs. There's no way a focus group will ever be able to compete with an arena where survival of the fittest determines the most useful products and configurations.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:07AM (#16950110) Journal
    Any competent HCI person will tell you that this is a bad idea. GTK and Qt applications do not behave quite the same way, and by making them look the same way you remove a visual clue from the user that they are going to be different.
  • Re:Compatibility (Score:3, Interesting)

    by udderly ( 890305 ) * on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:26AM (#16950438)
    That's definitely true for medium and large entities who can afford an IT staff. I'm not so sure about small businesses like most of my customers. Many of them use odd mismatches of Outlook Express, webmail and Lord knows what else to do their email.

    Not that it contradicts what you are saying, but my experience working for many years at a Fortune 100 company is exactly the opposite. I worked as a copy writer at the regional headquarters for this outfit but spent most of my time addressing the rest of the computer-illiterate staff's technical issues--like finding documents they saved and assuring them that the color of the floppy disk was not related to its function. Why floppy disks? Because nobody could understand how to save anything on the network shares.

    Don't even get me started about some of the stupid computer conversations that I had there. Needless to say, they didn't exactly make full use of the Exchange server that they had. No calendaring, no tasks, no contact lists--only email.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:53AM (#16950936)
    From main post:
    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?

    For starters, it means OOO will have to stop ripping off MS's ideas.

    Oh, and a quick translation for the non-bullshitters out there: "forced to take on a new UI paradigm" is code speak for "creating your own ideas". Something OOO, with their "follow the leader" design model, has not displayed any ability for.

    Nothing was stopping OOO from creating an innovative new interface. Aside from their own inability to innovate, of course.
  • by Schraegstrichpunkt ( 931443 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:54AM (#16950958) Homepage
    Perhaps they recompiled it without changing anything?
  • by EXTomar ( 78739 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:03PM (#16951120)
    For User Interface, the best option is to let the user decide. When the user feels like they are in control, they embrace the application. If a user can make sense of this "ribbon style" of application control, why shouldn't Open Office give it to them? Even saying that this feature shouldn't come at the cost of hosing over those who think that a minimalist, classic style menu works best for them. A user should be able to use Open Office in either style but the goal is still the same: being productive.

    One of the big points of Open Source is to empower the user. Instead of making draconian decisions about this sort of stuff as edicts handed down from the mountain at Redmond, Open Office should be allowing users to pick any style. Their is value in making Open Office look and behave like Office 2007 or like Lotus 1-2-3 or like any number of other configurations out there. Being able to give the users a choice is what is supposed to be an advantage against Microsoft.
  • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:13PM (#16951296)
    On the flip side, while the "open source community" can probably outdo Microsoft in terms of developer numbers, there is no effectve way of mobilising that "workforce" towards a common goal. Even Sun has been unable to create a usable GUI for Openoffice. It sucks terribly in comparison with MS Office...

    ...I'll be the first to cheer when someone comes up with a more usable interface. I won't be holding my breath though.

    I'm not so sure it's as bad as all that. For example, look at the OOo 2.0 icons. They look great. I know an icon is barely a UI element, much less a whole UI, but you know a a regular ol' programer didn't do that. It took someone with more than a little artistic talent to pull that off.

    For that matter, look at the visual elements in major Linux distros over the last few years. Visual quality and consistency have improved dramatically across the board. Some areas are still rough, but if you've ever looked at the mess that's in most Microsoft "options" menus, you know theyr'e not alone.

    I have to admit that I've been lulled into looking for the next clone of an MS feature. When they put the format painter in OO.o 2 I was very pleased. But it's not the clone features that get me comming back to open source. It's the things that only those products offer.

    Wasn't it tabs. popup blocking and the small footprint that got you hooked on Firefox? MS didn't have 'em. I know I like being able to have more than one true window in OO.o spreadsheet. The guys in Redmond make me use a single window.

    Now microsoft is following Firefox's lead on tabs. They're actually following open source. Tabs are a UI element. Clearly OS has some ability to lead.

    BTW, I agree with you. Microsoft has some very bright people who often do a great job at making thier UIs work for you. Sometimes they don't. Often, even if they do, they take their good, sweet time to get there. The OS community can bang out an improvement almost at the speed of thought, and then ramp up evolutionary improvements in short months, or even weeks. I think that if it's a priority for OS to lead, MS is going to have no choice but to follow. I also think if we simply follow, we'll never be given the opportunity to lead.

  • by ericlondaits ( 32714 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:27PM (#16951600) Homepage
    I think the web (web 2.0 particularly) threw the concept of "uniform UI" out the window. Once the average user was supposed to learn to use a small, consistent and coherent set of widgets, practices, metaphors, etc. now they are exposed to different login procedures, different password schemes, captchas (an absolute UI WTF), flash interfaces, AJAX interfaces, JAVA interfaces, standard Web forms, etc. Thanks to web apps we kissed much of the work on localization, accesibility and contextual help goodbye.

    Today there are lots of inexperienced computer users who still manage to:
    • Use windows.
    • Use a browser.
    • Use an IM client.
    • Use an email client or webmail site.
    • Use some social network site, like the complete UI mess that is MySpace, or blogs, photologs, etc.
    • Use a p2p client
    Just with that basic usage they're exposed to a ton of different widgets, metaphors and procedures Even users who call the little blue icon with the 'e' "The Internet".

    So, sure... some people will feel lost at first, but I think a complete UI overhaul is much manageable now than it was before the coming of the net.
  • by VertigoAce ( 257771 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:55PM (#16952178)
    I've been using Office 2007 almost exclusively for the last six months. Every now and then I do something in Word 2003 and it is a painful transition. There are features that I started using in Word 2007 that are in older versions, but I spend five minutes trying to find each one. Most users don't have a clue about the things Word 2003 is capable of, because they are hidden in obscure menu options and dialog boxes.

    The transition from 2003 to 2007 is probably an initial five minutes to look around the ribbon and see what's on each of them. In my experience, you find the vast majority of features you've ever used pretty quickly. Then you start seeing other features that you might start using (whereas you never saw them in 2003, so you never thought to start using them).
  • by IAmTheDave ( 746256 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:01PM (#16952314) Homepage Journal
    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?

    Being someone who develops a product that is heavily integrated into Office wherever possible (because our customers demand it) I could actually see using some of these components. I know there's a lot of MS hate, but Office 2007's UI will become known - sooner or later - and riding their giant monopolistic wave to success isn't bad business.

    It may make you feel dirty, I can understand it. From a business perspective, with a product that we want to be seen as made for the business professional - it's not an entirely off-the-table idea.

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @04:54PM (#16956962) Homepage Journal

    This whole concept got me thinking about UI history overall. Let's take a romp through history of some of the UI advancements over the decades:

    Function Labels
    Old-school "green screen" standards such as IBM's user interface guidelines included the use of label displays for function keys (where supported by hardware), standardization of keystroke actions such as "ALT-F4" closing a window, and recommendations for font highlighting to indicate mandatory/optional data, read/write access, primary keys, etc. "ALT-F4" works to this day in virtually every GUI there is.

    Text Menus
    Part of the fundamental UI models going back as far as function keys with screen labels, if not farther.

    Spreadsheet Interface
    Dan Briklin's Visicalc. 'nuff said. The man never did get reasonable financial rewards for what he did.

    Edit Regions
    Text boxes have been around as long as green screens, as well as field validation. They're just fancier now.

    Drop-down Menus
    Not quite as old as the green screen, these were a display-saving alternative to screens listing menu options. Power users would just enter a dot-suffix navigation of menu options: might fire up an "Add Customer" screen, for example.

    Pop-up Menus
    I think these started with X-11, maybe even Xerox PARC. Certainly it was a key feature of Motif and OpenLook, which preceded MS Windows substantially. They were also present in the Amiga UI, several years before even Windows 3.1 was released.

    Audio Feedback
    ANSI7 defines CTRL-G as bell. Some form of ping, alert, sound effect, or other attention-getting audio signal has been around since the teletypewriter. WAVs and MP3s are just fancier ways of doing the same thing that applications have done since the Commodore PET and Apple II.

    Images and Icons
    How far back does the BMP go? Higher resolution, compressed, even primitive animations via GIF go back much farther than any GUI. Once upon a time, only an image viewer displayed an image, not the UI.

    Drawers of icons have been around at least since Motif.

    Tear-aside and pinnable menus have been around since at least OpenLook. Whether icons are displayed beside, above, below, under, or to the right of a text label, the metaphor is far from new.

    I laughed myself silly when someone years ago presented the "Wizard" as a "new" way of doing things. Ever enter a timesheet on an old mainframe form application? GECOS email (I think that's what it was called)? Wizards are just old fashioned step-by-step forms prettified.

    Bubble Help
    Green screens would display a help line to the bottom or top of the screen. Dialogue-box help showed up with the green screen as well. Even vi and emacs had help systems, though they weren't triggered by the now-common F1. Pretty laughable that anyone thought the particular shape of the dialogue box displaying the text was important, isn't it?

    Mouse Gestures
    The idea was around for a long time. I think I even saw prototypes of pie menus for the Amiga or the Mac, but I'm not sure. Pie selection is closely related to gestures -- select via stroke direction instead of precise mouse placement. Interesting, but not comfortable for everyone.

    3D User Interface
    SGI. 'nuff said.

    Personally, I can't imagine paying royalties to use the idea of a Motif icon/menu drawer opening sideways. It's kind of obvious.

  • by cloricus ( 691063 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:35PM (#16960268)
    The question I ask is are these slight borrowings defining or not. For example I look at our Vista test boxen next to our XP sp2 boxes and I simply see a poor expose` clone on top of XP with a poor attempt to change the UI 'just enough'(tm) to get the general user to believe it is any different. So they've only taken a few features like the dashboard, alt tabbing that doesn't suck (but seriously who still uses alt tab when you have f10 under Mac and Lin now?), and some glitter from around the place yet they get an OS that will impress far to many and make them a lot of money. I'm not saying this is right or wrong or that mac has never taken Windows features - I'm just saying that even taking the odd feature still makes a big difference like it did back in 95.

Loose bits sink chips.