Office 12 UI
I have been playing around with the second beta of Microsoft Office, and I am very impressed with the changes made to the user interface.
In attempting to design a fresh new UI and distinguish it from those of other software companies, though, Microsoft is in a weaker position than ten years ago, partly from its own doing. Ten years ago, when Office 97 was introduced, it took years for software companies to replicate all the new controls like commandbars. Now, because of advances like .NET and Windows Forms and a flourishing ecosystem of component providers, thousands of applications may sport the Office UI even before Office 2007 ships.
To demonstrate my point, I will completely redo the user interface of my own application in the next three days to incorporate Office 2007–style ribbons instead of the menus and toolbars of yesteryear. In addition, the icons will be more stylish and Vista-compatible than those in Microsoft Office. My application UI was starting to look stale, despite the additional graphics, controls and animations I added this month. I’ll have screenshots of the new Office look by Sunday morning.
With Avalon coming in the horizon, things get even murkier. Component developer, Phil Wright, speculated a while back on the disruptive impact of Avalon on the marketplace for controls in his post, WPF Tidal Wave. With Avalon, third-party software applications may even look flashier than Microsoft Office. Some may say that was already the case with the last couple versions.