Microsoft today released screenshots and information at PDC 2005 on its future plans for Office.
The whole UI for Office 12 has been overhauled. The main user experience is codenamed "ribbon" and will provide the central place for users to author documents they're currently working on. Microsoft are removing the stack of task panes and menus/toolbars to look through, instead giving the user one place to look for commands.
A new feature named "galleries" gives users a visual representation of the kinds of formatting choices they can make in their documents. The galleries also offer "live previews" in many instances, so you can see exactly what the document is going to look like before you make the choice, which makes it easier to experiment and change content.
A feature code-named "Super Tooltips" integrates Help topics into the product in a new way.Super Tooltips are integrated Help tips that provide quick access to information about a command directly from the command's location in the ribbon. The tooltip itself will usually give you enough information about what that feature does so that you can use it.
Another feature is the "Quick Launch Toolbar," which allows you to customize the UI by adding as many commands as you like to a toolbar. It's a place where the user can collect the specific set of commands they use frequently.
Office 12 is expected to enter into beta by the end of the year with a release along side Vista in late 2006.
Screenshot: Microsoft Word 12
Screenshot: Microsoft Office Powerpoint 12
Screenshot: Microsoft Excel 12
Screenshot: Microsoft Access 12