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Office 2007 User Interface To Be Tweaked

The new UI, called "Ribbon," takes up too much room on screen, so it's been collapsed to provide more viewing and working space for documents, a Microsoft manager says.

When Microsoft unveils an update to the beta of its Office 2007 later this summer, it will modify parts of the user interface that have attracted criticism, the product's UI lead program manager said this week.

The Ribbon, a new top-of-the-window feature in most of the suite's applications -- including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint -- takes up too much space, say many beta users and reviewers . In response, the next Office 2007 update, a so-called Technical Refresh (TR), will include changes to the Ribbon.

Although an undocumented -- or at least unpublicized -- Ctrl-F1 key combination has "collapsed" the Ribbon since the very first beta to provide more viewing and working space for documents, Microsoft program manger Jensen Harris has outlined new ways that the feature will be called in future versions.

"In current builds, you can right-click anywhere in the Ribbon to bring up a context menu which includes an option to 'Minimize the Ribbon,' Harris wrote on his blog. "This is in addition to Ctrl+F1 and double-clicking the selected tab, which are still available." Harris also posted a short Windows Media Player-formatted video showing the new feature in action.

Monday, Harris disclosed that a feature formerly cut from Office 2007's interface options would be added back in.

The Menu Tabs tool, said Harris, activates a tab as a pop-up in a minimized Ribbon with a left-click. When users finish with the tab pop-up or click away from it, it disappears, and returns the interface to a Ribbon-minimized state.

The new feature can be seen in another Windows Media video clip posted to Harris' blog.

Late last month, Microsoft announced it was pushing back the release for Office 2007, from October for large businesses and January 2007 for others, to the end of the year for enterprises and "early in 2007" for others. At the time the Redmond, Wash. developer said it needed more time to account for feedback from customers using various beta builds.

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