First off, congratulations are in order for Microsoft’s agressive Metro-fication strategy that has been seen as of late. They are finally aiming for consistency across their product lines, and I am very pleased to see it.
Today, Microsoft released a preview version of Office 2013, complete with the Metro UI which complements their recent offerings, including Windows 8. I decided to give it a go today, and as soon as I hit the installer, I hit an annoying usability problem, which was multiplied 10 fold because I was particularly frustrated at the time.
Look at the ‘Accept’ button in the screenshot above – it looks disabled, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. In fact, you need to click on it to get anywhere in the installation process. This is a case of design trumping usability – although it’s forgivable since it is a preview release, although such an elementary mistake to make that it’s stupid!
Next, check out this little gem:
The question is posed as to how I want my Office to look – well, I want it to look like Office! The style names subtly change the pattern at the bottom of the window, which took me a while to notice. And what’s more, the extent of the style isn’t communicated to me – it’s such an unnecessary personalisation step that they should have just gotten rid of it altogether.
Now onto the applications themselves. A few things that stood out:
Across Office applications, we have the delightful ribbon. Clicking on a tab on that ribbon brings up a page of options below the tab. Someone at Microsoft decided it would be a good idea to have the tab instead open up a full screen page of options across the entire document, much like Office 2010. This doesn’t work! It affects recognition versus recall, making it harder to determine why you went to the menu in the first place – and it’s completely illogical. Especially since you hit the back arrow to return, instead of clicking on the tab to hide the menu again. Colour isn’t enough to differentiate here!
There’s the back button, in the top left – at least they go that right.
One more quibble – in Excel:
Clicking on another cell in an Excel workbook now transitions, via an animation, to that cell. This is both a good and a bad thing – it helps you remember where you came from, but it is also unnecessary, meaning it take a fraction of a second longer to get to the cell. The majority of Excel users, I’m sure, don’t really need this animation.
And that’s my initial view of the Office 2013 preview. Feels good to get that off my chest.