Saturday, August 19, 2006

Learning by example

Marcin Wichary has put together a wonderful collection of screenshots from more operating systems and applications than I think I've ever heard of.

There's something fascinating about wandering through these examples of how a generation of interface and interaction designers have presented functionality to their users - particularly in comparing early examples to the current state of the art.

Well worth a look...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Msft Office 2007 Beta

If you visit Microsoft's site even occasionally it's hard to miss the fact that Office 2007 is now in Beta. As a veteran Office user and someone who's come to know the ins and outs of PowerPoint particularly well I've got to say I was intrigued - couple that with the promise of a complete overhaul of the interface and interaction design (aka the user experience) and the temptation to take a peek was too great - I clicked that download link.

Now I had fears of being trapped in that no-man's land between the newly installing Beta and the rapidly disappearing installation of 2003 (given I'd opted to replace the one with the other) but I was pleasantly surprised: installation was trouble free. So far so good - now to power it up.

First thing to say is that I was impressed by the effort put into the visual presentation - it doesn't have the practiced visual polish of an Apple interface but it is a step up (must confess at this point that my Windows XP desktop, after briefly relishing the new XP look and feel, was returned firmly to the Windows 2000 skin and has remained there for the four or so years since).

The next thing I was aware of was the performance - the Office Beta is slow, too slow - something which seems to be a general conclusion among those who have downloaded and played with it, to the extent that Msft are delaying launch to allow time to improve it.

This is a shame because, skeptical as I was about the changes to the interface design, I can't wait to get my hands on a performing copy. It's not just the good looking 3D effects that are now front and centre (something at least with which to beat back the smirks of my Keynote toting friends) but the success Msft have made of virtually removing all menus from the interface.

My biggest fear moving to any new piece of software (particularly from one you've - probably painfully - become used to) is learning where the designers have decided - often arbitrarily for all I can tell - to put all the tools and commands this time around. But, much to my surprise, I found the context sensitive panel (a sort of super toolbar) provided the right tools and commands at the right time. I hardly noticed the missing menus or the carefully customised toolbars and palettes of my 2003 version. Remarkable.

So roll on PowerPoint 2007 - now what about Word...