Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Office 12 and Expression revealed

Well, I wasn't expecting Office 12 to be revealed yesterday. That wasn't communicated to me at all, as far as I know. But, then again, I delete a ton of mail from people I don't know that doesn't look useful. Nobody else on the team seemed to be expecting it either.

Anyway, I'm starting to hate the new UI less. It's come a long way since several months ago when I started using it. I still like the old toolbars a lot better because they were more customizable, but I guess I haven't really missed the old menus yet. I still think that the fact that some buttons are like 120x160 and some are 16x16 is pretty nuts. I'm sure that there will be a decent amount of tweaking between now and beta 1, and more after that. What I'm curious, though, is if they'll bow to inevitable pressure from large corporations who don't want to retrain their users, and include some way to get back the classic UI. If history's any indication then I think they will.

FrontPage definitely didn't get much fanfare in the new announcement. The screenshot for FrontPage in the press release must have been taken like a month into coding or less; you can just barely distinguish anything new in it, and the only feature that I could see shown has actually been cut from the product already, replaced with something better.

And, today is the announcement of Microsoft Expression Code Name Sparkle Interactive Designer ("Sparkle"), the product that Flash designers have known something about for a while but Microsoft has denied exists, and the rest of the Expression suite. The Expression suite contains Sparkle, the previously-released Acrylic Graphic Designer based on the Creature House Expression product that Microsoft previously bought, and the interesting one: Microsoft Expression Code Name Quartz Web Designer. That's right... Microsoft now has three website editors: Microsoft Office FrontPage, Microsoft Visual Web Developer, and Microsoft Expression Code Name Quartz Web Designer. (That's seriously the name they're using right now. I like to call it Microsoft Expression Code Name Quartz Web Designer with Fries and a Medium Drink, but nobody else thinks that's funny.)

The screen shots on the teaser site for Quartz are obviously very much mockups, but observant viewers may notice what currently-shipping web design product from Microsoft they look very much like. (Hint: it's FrontPage.) I don't know when real details of Quartz are going to be released; an Acrylic preview is downloadable, and there are at least a couple pages on Sparkle, but pretty much nothing in Quartz. I've gotten to play with Quartz quite a bit, and it's pretty cool.

So, there's one little secret I've had to keep for a while: Microsoft has yet another web design product in the works. I've been watching Visual Web Developer and Quartz for a while now. Hopefully things should get even more interesting in a few months.


ianonymous said...

some one has to say it, and it might as well be me ...

Wow, those screenshots look remarkably Mac OS-like. They even have the aqua effect on the selected menu element on the word screen-shot.

Travis said...

I feel that I should disagree, just on principle... but I'd really only have to disagree with the word "remarkably." There are definite similarities and ripoffs.

I think that, without the Aqua-like effect, people would be less likely to make the comparison, as there's definitely a lot in the design that's new and interesting, too. Microsoft's "glass" effect is a little different but still definitely quite similar to Apple's "liquid" effect. I like Apple's a bit better in most places just because it's simpler. Each of the small buttons (B, I, U) in the decidedly-just-like-Apple button groups has like three or four gradients going on at the same time when pushed in, which is just way too much to be able to easily discern what's going on in such a small space.

They're doing some things well, though. When unpressed and unhovered, the toolbar buttons are just white on top and grey on the bottom, and I think they look really excellent, a lot better than the more complex Aqua buttons. I've been a big fan of the mesh texture background, too; it really seems to help a little in focusing on the document and not the rest of the UI, and it looks pretty too.