We’ve recently announced that Office for Mac 2011 is ready for pre-orders online and will soon be available at a store near you on October 26. We’re really excited to finally get the product in our users’ hands, our latest version packs plenty of new features and significant speed improvements that will help you be more productive.
Today, I’ll be talking about a new feature called Dynamic Reorder, which helps you instantly arrange commonly used objects in your Word document or PowerPoint presentation. Our latest feature video offered a glimpse of this new tool, which has generated quite a bit of excitement. So I’m pleased to talk about Dynamic Reorder in greater detail and provide a bit of background about “the making of this feature”.
First, a little bit of insight on Word for Mac. Today, the product is used to create a wide range of documents which tend to fall into two categories:
• text-centric documents such as cover letters, resumes, dissertations, and reports
• layout-rich documents such as newsletters, brochures, pamphlets, and posters
The latter category tends to have lots of pictures, textboxes, and lines and shapes since “visual pizazz” matters for such documents. Our users have come to expect powerful page-layout tools, so they can create these documents directly in Word. In response to these customer needs, in Word 2008 we introduced Publishing Layout View, a specialized workspace that turns Word into a freeform canvas. With this new view, we were able to elevate our desktop publishing-caliber tools, all without adversely impacting the standard Word environment. So, when we released Publishing Layout View in Word 2008, it was everything we had hoped for — with one exception. There was one feature that we left behind; and that was Dynamic Reorder. The reason was a simple one (and one that may sound familiar with other industries, such as movies!): the technology wasn’t mature enough to bring our vision to life.
We wanted a simple and elegant solution to arrange the ordering of overlapping objects (such as pictures, textboxes, shapes, etc) on the page. Prior to Dynamic Reorder, Word and PowerPoint users who have tried to reorder objects found the task to be tedious, time-consuming, and often led to imprecise layout (caused moving objects out of the way to see what’s underneath). Those who have used the familiar combination of “Bring to Front”, “Send to Back”, “Bring Forward”, and then “Send to Back” again, know what i’m talking about.
So this is what we envisioned: wouldn’t it be great if users could see each layer lift off the page, then dynamically interact with each layer, and when done see all the layers glide back onto the page, as if falling leaves were settling on the ground? And let’s make sure the experience is fluid and fun! Easier said than done. What we needed was a fast animation engine that could achieve this — but the technology just wasn’t mature enough to deliver the right user experience that we wanted.
Fast forward to Word 2011, things changed. The technology matured and we were able to deliver what we envisioned (including the layers settling on the page like falling leaves part ) and more. Seeing the feature in action enabled us to fine tune the fluid animations and the real world physics used in the feature.
• We further broadened its usage to cover not only objects on the page, but also those on Master Pages, another handy feature in Word Publishing Layout View
• We also provided transient number badges for each object so users can at-a-glance see how many objects are on the page and understand their relative positioning. This has been particularly handy with the introduction of Online Templates in our Word Document Gallery. With Online Templates, you can now access hundreds of customer-created documents. Dynamic Reorder lets you quickly inspect how the document was created by other users by seeing the complete layering structure in a single glance — and make adjustments as appropriate.
• And of course, we worked closely with the PowerPoint team to insure Dynamic Reorder is available in PowerPoint for Mac 2011. All of the benefits you’ve just read are readily available in PowerPoint as well, including the ability to access online hundreds of customer-created slide templates.
In this past year we’ve seen many early ideas that started years ago as an idea and are now able to come to life through the new technology. I happen to be a movie buff and technology enthusiast — great movies like Avatar and Inception, handy features like multi-tasking on the iPhone, and last but not least features like Dynamic Reorder in Word 2011 Publishing Layout View and PowerPoint 2011 — were all ideas ahead of the technology, but are realities today— I think 2010 has been a great year so far.
Han-yi Shaw, User Experience Manager, MacBU