Intelligence is like good taste. If you don't have it, you don't miss it.
-- John C. Dvorak, PC Magazine October 4, 2005
This morning I read an article about the new Microsoft Office 12 that will be coming out some time in 2006. It seems that Microsoft has discovered that no one uses all the new features they've added to Office over the last 10 years or so. The theory is that the features are all buried in menus and are now too hard to find.
Some of us were offended by their last "solution" to this problem, which was to by default turn the menus off. Of course, this non-solution means that anyone who knows what they are doing immediately goes to great lengths to figure out how to turn all their menus back on. (Just because you don't use a feature often doesn't mean you want the command to disappear for heaven's sake!) The uninitiated just remain confused and wonder where all the features are.
The one screen capture I saw from Office 12 was from Word. The new Office sports new context-sensitive "ribbons" that show the most frequently used commands based on what you seem to be doing.
I can report that Quark XPress has pretty much had this functionality built in since about 1990, so I'm not impressed by this "innovation." Since version 3.3 or so, the options in Quark's measurements palette change depending on the tool you have selected.
However, there's an important distinction here. You, the Quark user, are controlling what appears in the measurements palette by selecting a tool. Given Microsoft's recent user interface track record, I suspect these ribbons may be really stupid. The 'softies seem to have little clue when it comes to anticipating user needs using any type of artificial intelligence. So pretty much every "helpful" user interface enhancement has been awful. I can't count the number of articles I've read over the years branding Microsoft's "IntelliSense" technology as IntelliNonSense.
The amount of words that have been devoted to explaining how to turn OFF IntelliNonSense features must be staggering by now. The first questions every new Word user seems to ask invariably relate to turning stupid stuff off. They want to get rid of the paper clip, the annoying squiggly lines, the Task Pain, the autocorrect, the autoformat, and so on. All this garbage just gets in the way of doing actual work.
In the article I read on Office 12, it intimated that current Office "power" users probably will not like the new interface. If history is a precedent, I suspect that's one prediction that may come true for me. Right Clippy?