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Tabs in Microsoft Word?


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#16 notchinese

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 21:12

I agree with the OP. Tabs have proven to be indispensable for web browsing, yet remain conspicuously absent from Explorer and Office. Switching between multiple instances of Explorer or Word has been incredibly tedious since Microsoft introduced the superbar in Windows 7. If you have several windows open then when you click on the taskbar icon it brings up Aero Peek rather than displaying the active window and the window preview is utterly useless given that most Explorer windows look the same and can't be easily discerned at a quick glance.

Microsoft was late to the game with a tabbed web browser and doesn't seem to care about multi-tasking on the desktop. In fact Windows 8's Metro interface demonstrates that Microsoft is actually moving away from multi-tasking, which is quite concerning. The success of tabs in web browsers clearly demonstrates that users understand and benefit from tabbed interfaces, so why is the company so reluctant to bring tabs to Explorer or Office?


If you hate the task bar so much you can change it to not group the items....


#17 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 21:15

If you hate the task bar so much you can change it to not group the items....


I know, but then the labels are displayed and it looks horrible.

#18 OP jebus197

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 22:15

I don't think you can really compare a content creation application like Word with a content consumption application like a browser because people use them differently. Tabs might be useful in Word sometimes but there are other times where they would be a real pain. For instance, I often have multiple documents open side by side so I can easily cut and paste from one document to another using ALT+TAB to switch back and forth between documents. This would be difficult to do without using your mouse if all documents opened as tabs in a single instance of Word. Excel behaves in this way (without tabs - it acts as a sort of MDI interface) and it always annoys me.


Yes, like I said, I heard all of the same arguments for browsers back in the day. Heck it even took me a while to get used to tab web browsing. But now I can't imagine life without it. The take home message I think is if it's done properly, tabbed interfaces can work in a number of scenarios. I wouldn't want MS to take the approach that they did recently with Windows 8 and make it so that a somewhat different way of working was forced on those who didn't care for it. (I.e. the "do it my way, or the highway" approach to interface design.) Users should still have a choice, just as they do with tabbed web browsers, where in theory if you don't like tabs no one forces you to use them. However most people would agree that it would barely make any sense not to use tabs for this purpose now.

You are correct to some extent however. It depends on the usage scenario and on user preference. My frustration is born of the need to frequently have several tens of Word documents open, or PowerPoint slide shows, or indeed as someone else mentioned Explorer windows. My usage pattern under these conditions is often very browser like, with the need to frequently switch between different windows and documents.

The take home message is I think that if done right (and the 'done right' part should not be underplayed I think) that a tabbed user interlace could have many uses. Not so long ago people would have thought it was crazy to have a tabbed email client. However Thunderbird (although I rarely use it as my main client), appears to have implemented this rather well.

As another poster commented however, MS has seemed to 'lose the plot' a little with Windows 8, and have almost abandoned the paradigm of multitasking entirely, particularly with their new touch screen interface and lack of focus on providing a great desktop experience. It is not a helpful direction, particularly with those who may often be presented with the need to perform several complex tasks at the same time.

PS

Just a closing note too. It might be worth thinking that added travel time to the taskbar may only equate to a couple of seconds at a time. But add those seconds up over a lifetime and they will probably equate to hours. Hours that you probably could spend doing something else far more enjoyable!

#19 +Nik L

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 22:21

You don't need tabs. The OS manages switching between instances of documents just fine with the aero popups.

Also the tabs in Excel are not to separate documents, but sheets within one document. The mapping is not valid.

#20 +DonC

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 22:35

I've not found myself wanting tabs in Office but I agree with some of the sentiment here that it's something that should be Windows-wide rather than specific to Office.

I use Switcher (http://insentient.net/) to search for windows by window title text but it can become quite a hog when you've got 50+ windows open.

Ideally I guess I'd like open windows to appear as results in Windows search.

#21 OP jebus197

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 00:09

You don't need tabs. The OS manages switching between instances of documents just fine with the aero popups.

Also the tabs in Excel are not to separate documents, but sheets within one document. The mapping is not valid.


Fair enough. Oh BTW welcome ... I hope you're enjoying life in the 1990's. ;)

Someone should at least give this tabbed interface thing a crack. Those who feel they would not like to use such an interface should certainly retain the means not to do so, or wear bags on their heads. Which ever they prefer, lol.

To be fair someone else would probably have to give it a go first prove to the doubting masses if it could work or not and then wait for MS to steal the idea. After 25 years working in the IT sector, this does rather seem to be the way things tend to get done.

#22 +Nik L

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 00:13

What the hell are you on about 1990s? This is an OS addition since Win 7 as I recall!

The implementation of multiple documents within one MDI container has been available for a long long time.

Win7 allows a group of instances of one application (such as Word) to be available from one taskbar entry, which when hovered, allows access to any, with live previews.

A tabbed interface is much more old-hat than this!

#23 link6155

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 00:44

http://www.windowtabs.com/

This basically adds tabs to not only office, but to every applications.

#24 OP jebus197

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 00:45

What the hell are you on about 1990s? This is an OS addition since Win 7 as I recall!

The implementation of multiple documents within one MDI container has been available for a long long time.

Win7 allows a group of instances of one application (such as Word) to be available from one taskbar entry, which when hovered, allows access to any, with live previews.

A tabbed interface is much more old-hat than this!


Yes indeed. So much old hat that it doesn't even exist, yet. However I would wager if it ever did happen - and particularly if it was implemented well, that within a few years, after some possible initial resistance, you would probably find yourself quite happily using it and wondering indeed how you ever managed without it, just as many did (including myself) when tabbed web browsing was introduced. I think the game changer for people like you might be how well it was implemented and how well it really worked however.

In any case I can give you one immediate advantage (in addition to reduced travel time for your mouse), which is that right now I have aproximately 19 separate web pages open in tabs in my immediate view. This is a rather low number for me and is because I am working at present with a small screen. However as I sit here I can glance at each of the tabs without moving my mouse at all. This enables me to move straight to a document of interest with exactly zero investment in time or effort whatsoever. A single glance is sufficient, with no eye scanning or mouse travel at all. I would argue that this is quicker and more efficient than the peek functionality of the task bar. Live previews in any case have only ever seemed like a gimmick and a probable memory hog to me. If I can monitor a dozen or more documents at no net investment in time and additional effort, I would take this option first every time.

It is of course as I said, a matter of preference and it would depend how well it was implemented, but done right and under the circumstances I often find myself in, I'm certain a lot of people would find it extremely useful, even if you did not. Tabbed browser interfaces tend to be more memory efficient than their separate window counterparts also.

PS

It is all rather academic anyway. As I said MS don't have a great track record for innovation, so unless someone tries to implement it and does a really good job of it, I doubt MS would be interested in stealing it.

#25 +Nik L

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 01:02

The usage of a web browser and a word processor are vastly different from the physical interaction through to the use case. Comparing apples and oranges doesn't help anyone.

I'm not against the use of tabs for those who would rather interact that way, but any argument that "One office app has it why don't they all" (which is what the OP wrongfully asserted is what I'm picking up on here.

Moreover, the Windows interface is obviously aware of multiple instances of one application, so whether tabs or any other mechanism, this should be a Windows feature and not an app-specific feature.

#26 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 01:14

You don't need tabs. The OS manages switching between instances of documents just fine with the aero popups.


Nonsense. Browsing websites would be horrible if you had to rely on the superbar to change between webpages and that's the experience people have to put up with for Explorer and Office. There really is no decent reason not to have tabs in Explorer or Office - people wouldn't have to use them but it would greatly benefit those who do. The superbar is very poor when it comes to multitasking.

#27 OP jebus197

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 01:15

The usage of a web browser and a word processor are vastly different from the physical interaction through to the use case. Comparing apples and oranges doesn't help anyone.

I'm not against the use of tabs for those who would rather interact that way, but any argument that "One office app has it why don't they all" (which is what the OP wrongfully asserted is what I'm picking up on here.

Moreover, the Windows interface is obviously aware of multiple instances of one application, so whether tabs or any other mechanism, this should be a Windows feature and not an app-specific feature.


Well that's kind of nitpicking really, don't you think? Excel kind of has something that works a bit like tabs, but that isn't really tabs in the true sense of the word. I had that in mind, but it was just a very thumbnail example of where something similar kind of exists and that people in general don't hate. But I didn't feel like being that pedantic about it.

I tried the app that was pointed to by Link6155 above - and I have to say that it works rather well - and works throughout the OS like some of the guys here are saying they would prefer. I'm not sure if it's the last word on a tabbed user interface design or if it couldn't be improved, but I sure do still wish that MS would pick up the ball and make it a default feature - and implement it in a way that would make even the doubters here happy. I'm sure it could be done if they tried.

It would at least be a nod in the right direction for the many people among us for whom multitasking is a fact of life. A fact that as has been pointed out, MS has rather neglected recently.

#28 +Nik L

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 01:20

Well that's kind of nitpicking really, don't you think? Excel kind of has something that works a bit like tabs, but that isn't really tabs in the true sense of the word.

Absolutely not. The tabs do not represent different instances, they are to different pages in a worksheet. Wholly different.

I multitask all the time, and I do agree a more unified approach is necessary. Some apps use tabs, some still use multiple taskbar entries, some use window managers of their own.

I just tend to use CTRL+Tab

#29 primexx

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 01:45

I don't think you can really compare a content creation application like Word with a content consumption application like a browser because people use them differently. Tabs might be useful in Word sometimes but there are other times where they would be a real pain. For instance, I often have multiple documents open side by side so I can easily cut and paste from one document to another using ALT+TAB to switch back and forth between documents. This would be difficult to do without using your mouse if all documents opened as tabs in a single instance of Word. Excel behaves in this way (without tabs - it acts as a sort of MDI interface) and it always annoys me.

yea, i don't get why excel only lets you see one window at a time, when people have multiple widescreen monitors to tile windows on. it's super limiting. fortunately, i don't deal with excel that much.

#30 OP jebus197

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 06:19

Well I'll give you all another reason why a tabbed interface in Office (and perhaps in Windows at large) would be a compelling advance on the current state of affairs, although this one I'm afraid is officially copyrighted. I had a little think about how far a paradigm like this could be pushed - and eventually I resolved on the idea of office 'workbooks'. In this case rather than just being able to open several word documents in tabs, there would in theory be nothing to prevent one from being able to open any office document in a tab alongside any other document. Therefore you could have a word document open, a PowerPoint Presentation and an Excel spreadsheet showing a chart or a graph, or any number of combination of these together all side by side in tabs. In order to save these you would then go to a traditional type 'file menu' (or equivalent) and select to either save the current in view document as a single file, or to save all of the open documents in your tabbed view 'as a workbook'.

Now the advantages of this to me are immediate and obvious. For example how many companies have files for clients scattered around several locations on their internal systems? How many college students have papers from different sources on the same subject, jumbled up in a folder? How many people working on a myriad of projects, find it difficult to keep track of all of their source material? Workbooks with a tabbed interface immediately solves all of these problems. Of course you can still have folders - and you can click on each file individually and try to keep track of everything that way, but with a tabbed workbook - everything you need to manage and complete a project could be at your fingertips instantly.

People of course might still like to do things the old school way, but I'm certain that an idea like this would enable those who used it to beat the old timers hands down in terms of productivity and overall time saved.

This idea was born out of a similar desire to be able to save individual multi-tabbed web browsing sessions, so that I could return to these and review them at a later date. But heck if it makes sense for a web browser, why not extend a similar principle to Office? You could even throw a web browsing session, or an explorer session running a traditional windows app on to one of the tabs in your workbook and use a pages type feature similar to the one in Excel to switch between different web pages/browser tabs and explorer windows. This might/might not be pushing the idea too far, but certainly having a multi-tabbed, single integrated office interface, instead of the several separate non-integrated apps that exist now, would almost certainly be a significant step forward.

Also I think I should drive home the point I made previously, in that when multi-tasking it can be very difficult to keep track of everything via the Superbar, as this still requires that I remember everything that I was doing. perhaps some several moments (or minutes ago). A typical useage scenario in this case would be that I am writing a scientific review of several papers on a specific topic. My memory isn't as great as it once was, so to keep track of everything I'm doing at any given point of time via the superbar is not as easy or as simple as it seems. With clearly labelled tabs however, I can see at a single glance exactly what I have opened and this serves as a visual aid regarding where I am supposed to be at any given point. I am less likely to forget a paper containing a quote, or a set of statistics I meant to include if it is sitting right there in front of me.

As previously, a lot depends on how these things are executed. But it is notable I think that we haven't really had any significant advances in interface design for some considerable time. There are of course touch screen interfaces, but in terms of productivity, if anything they are a step backwards - and not very helpful at all to the majority of non-home users, or users in business or academic environments. The question here is 'how do you increase productivity?' and this is a question I feel despite all of the new bells and whistles it keeps adding with each iteration of Office, that MS has not addressed for some considerable time.

PS

If anyone out there thinks this is as neat an idea as do and they either have some graphic design skills that could enable them to do a basic mock-up of the idea or if they have some contacts within MS who they think might be interested, feel free to drop me a note. There are many areas of Windows I feel that could benefit from similar improvements.



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