Software // Enterprise Applications
02:46 PM

Microsoft Gives Away Office 2007 User Interface

Microsoft hopes that the giveaway results in more applications that share the look and feel of Office 2007, thereby creating a more identifiable application ecosystem.

Microsoft on Tuesday announced a royalty-free licensing program so that outside developers can apply the Office 2007 interface to their own applications.

The license, which can be applied to applications on any platform, Linux and Mac OS X included, gives developers the right to duplicate Office 2007's new interface elements, including the top-of-the-window Ribbon, the Mini Toolbar, and galleries. The license is perpetual, and no fees will be charged, Microsoft promised.

"There's no fee, you don't owe Microsoft any royalties, and the license is perpetual, meaning that the terms won't change," wrote Jensen Harris, lead program manager for the Office user experience effort, in a blog entry Tuesday. "This should give you the confidence you need to build a business or product on top of the Office UI platform, secure in the knowledge that you've licensed the technology and research you're using in your product."

Developers must download and submit a copy of the license, after which Microsoft will provide a 120-page confidential guideline that spells out which elements of the Office interface must be included and which are optional. (Microsoft has posted an excerpt of the guidelines that shows the basic format of the requirements.)

Microsoft will deny a license only to developers who plan to craft direct competitors to the Office 2007 core applications of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access. "Microsoft spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the research, design, and development of the new Office user interface," said Harris, "but we want to preserve the innovation for Microsoft's productivity applications that are already using the new UI."

Microsoft hopes that the giveaway results in more applications that share the look and feel of Office 2007, thus creating a more identifiable application ecosystem. The company is sharing the interface, it said in a downloadable FAQ, so others "have the benefit of the functionality and great design of our new UI in a way that's good for the ecosystem and good for Microsoft."

Still, Microsoft won't share any interface code for the time being, a decision that requires each developer to craft the Office look and feel from scratch. "Microsoft may be distributing tools in the future to help developers build a UI," the company said in that same FAQ.

Microsoft Office 2007 will launch at the end of this month, but won't make it into retail until Jan. 30. Prices for the suite will range from $149 to $679.

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