Office 15, will it put on the Metro clothes?

Office 15 image from March 2011 leak

There has been quite a stir kicking around the web about Office 15 and if it will truly be a Metro style product or if it will stick to its ribbon design that many adore.

What we mean by that is Metro, by its very nature, is completely different UI when compared to anything Microsoft has done in its recent past. It’s a new style of interface that works great for most applications like Windows Phone, Xbox, and soon, Windows 8, but may not fit natively with the Office suite.  

This morning, the Verge posted up a rumor that Office 15 will not go full Metro. Instead, it will receive design tweaks that will make it look a bit more native compared to the current versions of Office; there will also be a new radial menu design to make it a bit more touch friendly. Additionally, the ARM variant of applications “will also be desktop applications, running in a restricted Windows 8 ARM desktop mode designed for power efficiency.”

What this basically boils down to, apart from the source saying that it will have a close, but not a full Metro branding, is that Office will not match Windows 8 natively. Supposedly, the idea to go full Metro was pushed back as a means to save time on production. Considering Microsoft looks to release Office in roughly 3 year increments, Office 2003, Office 2007, Office 2010 and Possibly Office 2012/13-ish, it could be as late as 2015/16 before we see a fully redesigned Office application in Metro.

So what does that mean for the next variation of Office? Mary-Jo Foley speculates that Office may land in late 2012 on whispers she keeps hearing, again this is speculation at best. Because of this timing, it would not have given Microsoft enough time to do a deep cleaning of Office to make sure that all aspects align to the new Metro design language. Foley also surmises that because Office 15 will not be full Metro, it will be a legacy, or desktop, application.  

So why is this such a big deal? Microsoft is going all in to turn its products to the Metro interface. Seeing that Office is a cornerstone product for the company, leaving it out of the Metro game would have it stand out when compared to its other products.

The image at the top of the screen was an early leak of Office 15 from back in March of 2011. While certainly not representative of the Technical Preview, it is the last look we had of the product and it does show a bit of the flattening that could be apparent in the final release.

Either way, we will know this summer.

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Lets keep in mind that Metro is a design style, not a programming language. What most people complain about is the visual slap in the face that happens when you switch from Metro to a desktop app. I will guess that Office 15 will be Metro-inspired enough that if you were to hide the minimize/maximize/close buttons in the top right, you'd fool a good number of people into thinking the app was written in WinRT.

Annoying?

I often wonder if Microsoft needs to start Office from the ground-up so that when it comes to changes, they can be made wholesale.

There are so many frustrating subtle differences between Office applications - such a mature product should be way better than this. The 2007 interface wasn't ported to all applications, notably Outlook. There's still a lot of old IU in there (insert hyperlink anyone??)!

Everything should work seamlessly, yet copying smart art from PowerPoint 2007 to Publisher 2007 turns it into a raster image if I recall?!

God only knows what sort of a mess we'll get if they switch to Metro as they haven't really finished deploying the Ribbon UI yet!

windows that does not run office well. pretty visionary of microsoft. i smell a calamity in the brewing for microsoft.

coth said,
that picture above is excel 2010

This is a very early version of Office 15. There are small differences here and there.
Like in the top right. The maximize, minimize and exit buttons in Office 2010 are the same, as in Windows 7.

FMH said,

This is a very early version of Office 15. There are small differences here and there.
Like in the top right. The maximize, minimize and exit buttons in Office 2010 are the same, as in Windows 7.


only with aero. that is white office skin with non aero theme.

At least give the installer the choice of using Metro interface or traditional interface. Defaulting to Metro interface would be a poor choice for the millions of people who use Office on laptops and desktops--not mobile devices. Worse, someone would come up with a Registry hack to disable the Metro interface and use the traditional interface.

Metro since it goes well with the titles for w8 and it can look good for the desktop as well if its done right

Surely there should just be some 'lite' versions for the Metro-top that enable basic text input and soforth... really, just like Wp7.

Office is the very definition of an application suite designed for the keyboard + mouse enviornment. There is simply no need to build a full Metro UI version of office... but having fully Metro UI versions of key applications, and this is the important bit, with significantly reduced functionality could prove to be very valuable.

Obviously, there needs to be a Metro mail client that will work with Exchange mailboxes (like WP7 does) but if I'm using Word, PowerPoint, Excel on a tablet (where Metro UI + touch input will shine) all I want is to be able to read, comment, track changes etc. Hopefully, launching a document from say Outlook (or Win 8 Metro mail client) will launch Word and there should be a sufficiently easily accessible button to switch to "Metro mode" to make touch-based working more streamlined.

Why do all you people freaking out think it's one UI design, or another? It's very possible (and I think likely) that the app could contain both a classic desktop UI and a metro UI. Just like IE10. I mean, they could hardly give the app a Metro UI on Windows 7 and Vista.

Personally I think it'll launch with just a classic UI to start with, then they'll add a Metro UI in SP1 to coincide with the release of Windows 8. If Microsoft are serious about pushing Metro in Windows 8, they'd be foolish not to give their flagship productivity app suite a Metro UI at some point.

Edited by Ryster, Jan 31 2012, 9:40pm :

I would hope they would bring the Metro feel to Office keeping all of their products uniform.

To everyone complaining, I hate Metro, I would never use Metro..................... You already do and if you're blind here I'll help you, pay attention to pretty much all of the major sites you visit including Neowin where you complain about Metro every day. The new in IS the new squared style of Metro and might as well accept the fact you're already using it and enjoying it whether you admit it or not.

I think people need to chill out, wait and see. I really don't understand why people get so obsessed with hating or wanting everything metro (one extreme or the other; barely any balance). I think Microsoft is pushing really hard to gain tablet market share from Apple hence Metro - simplified ala iOS apps and the full blown Desktop for the more advanced apps. To be consistent, all they need to do is make them look good and match ...

I can easily see a flat looking Office that looks good, goes well with Metro but isn't build on Metro at all...

YES, it will but there is a separate version that will be used for the tablet component. I can tell you this with much, much reassurance. However, it won't be out this year.

The Office team is refusing to cooperate, apparently.

Owen W said,
YES, it will but there is a separate version that will be used for the tablet component. I can tell you this with much, much reassurance. However, it won't be out this year.

The Office team is refusing to cooperate, apparently.


The office team is refusing to cooperate because the office team genuinely feel that metro will flop on mainstream PC's.

I could see it, but only for home or tablet users. I hope the don't do an Office 2014 Metro Lite version or something though. If it was something integrated into the metro start screen like a Word Lite or Powerpoint lite version

Metro? Bad bad bad bad bad idea. Enterprise licensees will not go there with all the training costs, and enterprise users will resist the change.

I recently bought a Mac since I have to be familiar with them and support users with Macs, in addition to other duties. The more I see of Windows 8, the less interested I am. That includes, sadly, the new Office if it goes Metro. I took a look at Windows Phone and immediately bought an Android device.

SoCalRox said,
Metro? Bad bad bad bad bad idea. Enterprise licensees will not go there with all the training costs, and enterprise users will resist the change.

I recently bought a Mac since I have to be familiar with them and support users with Macs, in addition to other duties. The more I see of Windows 8, the less interested I am. That includes, sadly, the new Office if it goes Metro. I took a look at Windows Phone and immediately bought an Android device.

Who said they have to? Immersive can be locked out via Group Policies - the same way unwanted applicaitons, etc. are locked out today.

Nobody - and especially not Microsoft - has said that Immersive will be the default UI. Not even for tablets and slates.

SoCalRox said,
Metro? Bad bad bad bad bad idea.

I Think Metro UI is the most efficient way to show information on screen. People are saying why it looks like flat tiles? why doesn't have 3D effect? well I would say don't you think the device you are looking at is not 3D at all? I mean if you want to get fooled by looking at something that is not in fact real? shadow effect around a square or window or trimming the edge around an icon to make it look like 3D but it is in fact 2D. moreover, the traditional icons sets have dead space between them. they are simple squares without showing any information of that particular application. on the contrary, live tiles not only save space but also showing you more information from the application inside it. Also other aspect of Metro UI is displaying information which I think it does a great job showing large amount of data in a single glance. I think it would be perfect on touch screen devices. For desktop or enterprise version they will eventually come up with a more elegant view. bottom line there is nothing wrong with Metro

Hey - just because it doesn't match WinRT apps doesn't mean it won't match Windows 8 natively. Desktop apps are still a native part of Windows 8.

And in all fairness, you're probably never going to see a full version of Office in WinRT framework. You'll probably see lighter versions that work in it, but for full on productivity with *all* the Office features, that's probably going to stay in the desktop domain. And there's no problem with that... the desktop does exist for a reason, and is much better suited to feature packed productivity applications.

Also, to that effect, calling "desktop" applications, "legacy" applications is just wrong - Microsoft aren't expecting Metro applications to completely replace desktop applications, they're complimentary applications suited best for different use cases.

Also,

Microsoft is going all in to turn its products to the Metro interface. Seeing that Office is a cornerstone product for the company, leaving it out of the Metro game would have it stand out when compared to its other products.

Don't remember them ever saying this. They'll do it where it makes sense, but they're hardly going to be porting over Blend or Visual Studio for instance anytime soon. Doesn't make sense for them to become Metro applications.

I still think it's unbelievable that Microsoft incorporating and maintaining two very interfaces within the same OS. I can see this become very confusing to a lot of Windows users that aren't as tech-savvy as us. I honestly hope people won't end up switching constantly between Metro and Desktop.

.Neo said,
I still think it's unbelievable that Microsoft incorporating and maintaining two very interfaces within the same OS. I can see this become very confusing to a lot of Windows users that aren't as tech-savvy as us. I honestly hope people won't end up switching constantly between Metro and Desktop.

I don't think it's confusing, they'll just consider metro apps simply as apps. I think the biggest problem will be teaching them how to actually use Windows 8, and that's probably a challenge they should be putting a lot of focus on.

Apps = applications. And with Windows 8 you suddenly have to deal with two entirely different categories that need be operated in totally different ways due to the two radically different interfaces. That's what's going to be confusing to a lot of non-tech-savvy people.

.Neo said,
Apps = applications. And with Windows 8 you suddenly have to deal with two entirely different categories that need be operated in totally different ways due to the two radically different interfaces. That's what's going to be confusing to a lot of non-tech-savvy people.

Non-tech-savvy people will likely sooner or latter only need the Immersive UI, whilst professionals can enjoy the best of both worlds - or only classic in case of business useā€¦

if the metro UI doesn't make people more productive, I can't see a reason for it, sorry but it's true, productivity trumps UI design

neufuse said,
if the metro UI doesn't make people more productive, I can't see a reason for it, sorry but it's true, productivity trumps UI design

Well, I wouldn't complain if installing the Metro version also install the desktop one (and the other way around).

kavazovangel said,

Well, I wouldn't complain if installing the Metro version also install the desktop one (and the other way around).

if you got a choice good, but if its metro for all, corporations are going to jump ship... home users might like it, corporate people are going to cringe

neufuse said,

if you got a choice good, but if its metro for all, corporations are going to jump ship... home users might like it, corporate people are going to cringe

And Microsoft has *specifically said* - in fact, more than once - that Immersive (the UI option in Windows 8) will be just that - an option. There will be NO default UI as such; however, there will be an honest-to-goodness choice - something that Windows has never had. Immersive can be locked out via Group Policies, just as other unwanted Windows features, applications, etc., have always been in enterprises. The only place where it *won't* be an option is on ARM - and that's entirely due to the utter lack of traditional applications for ARM. (And I could well be wrong - you CAN write traditional (non-Immersive, that is) applications using WinRT - what if Office 15 will not only be traditional, but also available for ARM? There is nothing stopping traditional applications from working in the Immersive UI - other than applications - or games - that are written with specific operating systems in mind (example - games that require either the GfWL or Punkbuster anti-cheat support), traditional applications and games - including Office 2010 x64, in fact - run just fine in the WDP today - and *without* the need to use Compatibility Mode for any of it. (Number of previous Developer Previews - for any version of Windows - with that degree of backward compatibility - exactly *none*.) In fact, the *acid test* of backward-compatibiity is the Windows Developer Preview + Tools ISO. That is because of one simple fact - despite that Visual Studio can be used to write Immersive-UI applications, Visual Studio itself (the IDE) isn't one - nor are *any* of the components. You can also still use the same tools to write traditional applications.

Now to the *two different interfaces* comments - Immersive is not a subset, or even a completely separate UI; if it were, traditional applications - especially games and productivity suites, including Office and the open-source competition - would either work poorly or not work at all. If anything, Immersive is a *superset UI* - not only do Metro apps and applications work, so do the everyday applications we're long used to. Instead of HAVING to choose - which is the choice now - what Microsoft is saying *instead* is "Have both." Unless you're in an enterprise, there's no UI lock-in.

And, quite honestly, why is that - at lewast for non-enterprise users - a bad thing?

neufuse said,
if the metro UI doesn't make people more productive, I can't see a reason for it, sorry but it's true, productivity trumps UI design

What about if people are just as productive with the Metro version as they are with the ugly/legacy version?

Steelyuhas said,

Ever confirmed or assumed if that shot is actually real? I hope it is, that UI looks very nice.


It was on windows8italia -> http://windows8italia.com

And I'm pretty confident with them when news pop up. They seem to be one of the best trackers on Windows 8 development.

Steelyuhas said,

Ever confirmed or assumed if that shot is actually real? I hope it is, that UI looks very nice.

Yes that shot was definitely real! I was the.... well let's just say I was the person who brought it to the worlds attention . It was taken from an internal MS presentation

djdanster said,

Yes that shot was definitely real! I was the.... well let's just say I was the person who brought it to the worlds attention . It was taken from an internal MS presentation

Good to hear, that screeshot looks very nice.

Hoping that someone leaks this build for download, I'd love to try it out on one of my machines.

I hope they don't use Metro anything for Office. The biggest users of Office are working professionals. They don't care about "style", interactive tiles, or any other BS that comes with Metro.

They want easy-to-find, easy-to-use efficient UIs that help them get their job done faster. Metro's whole philosophy is the complete opposite, and using it in Office would be a total failure on Microsoft's part.

spacer said,
I hope they don't use Metro anything for Office. The biggest users of Office are working professionals. They don't care about "style", interactive tiles, or any other BS that comes with Metro.

They want easy-to-find, easy-to-use efficient UIs that help them get their job done faster. Metro's whole philosophy is the complete opposite, and using it in Office would be a total failure on Microsoft's part.

Metro isn't an interface, it's just a design language so the UI can look however the developer wants it to be. The UI for the Zune software is based on Metro even though it doesn't look anything like the WP7 or the Windows 8 Immersive UI.

I would, considering they've already stated it's going to be on every Windows 8 device. Also, iOS apps? *ahem*

But it's not a replacement either way, it's a complimentary UI.

MASTER260 said,

iOS apps? Seriously?!

guess you haven't heard all the rumors of office on ipad...hell OneNote is here already

MASTER260 said,

iOS apps? Seriously?!

the thing is, at no point in the immediate future are MS going to knock the iPad of its pedestal, if ever. MS knows this and from all their moves lately it seems they are focusing on trying to kill of Android and push out quality apps to iOS. I think MS believes MS and Apple can live together, and the Apple followers will be a good audience to seel office and other apps to but Android is something they dont want to have to deal with (I also think apple feels this way). So they both try to squeeze Android with patent fees and patent lawsuits and advertising and blar blar..

I really like the look of Win8, I use WP7.5, and support MS networks for a living, but I know the apple following is not going away and will always be 'brand popular' whereas Android is popular more due to the plethora of devices out there running it. I know plenty of folks with an Andoid phone who dont even know what andoid is, its just the amount of handsets on sale running andoid thats doing it and not a brand loyalty.

So my point, yes they will bring out office for iPad, its a huge market. dont forget though windows 8 tablets will have the full stack underneath, including Active directory authentication and management and for companies that is a big deal - along with the massive install base out there for windows in 'consumer land'.

MS wont shoot themselves in the foot by allowing the iPad market to pass them by, they can live together IMO.

Edited by duddit2, Jan 31 2012, 8:55pm :

MASTER260 said,

iOS apps? Seriously?!

yep. Clearly you've been living under a rock as Microsoft is making a number of iOs apps...

Welcome to 2012 my friend!

CMG_90 said,

yep. Clearly you've been living under a rock as Microsoft is making a number of iOs apps...

Welcome to 2012 my friend!


I thought he meant every iOS app....

duddit2 said,

the thing is, at no point in the immediate future are MS going to knock the iPad of its pedestal, if ever. MS knows this and from all their moves lately it seems they are focusing on trying to kill of Android and push out quality apps to iOS. I think MS believes MS and Apple can live together, and the Apple followers will be a good audience to seel office and other apps to but Android is something they dont want to have to deal with (I also think apple feels this way). So they both try to squeeze Android with patent fees and patent lawsuits and advertising and blar blar..

+1 for a logical post.

CMG_90 said,

yep. Clearly you've been living under a rock as Microsoft is making a number of iOs apps...

Welcome to 2012 my friend!

Microsoft makes apps for other platforms? SHOCKER!!!!!


Why is it such a surprise Microsoft is making apps for iOS?!
Where was Word and Excel born? It was born on a Mac. Mac OS was the first platform Microsoft made a suite of apps for, until IBM came along.

It's easy to associate Microsoft with Windows and Office, but they made other software too. Example, Microsoft made the 3rd best version of Unix with Bell Labs. Is Unix made by Microsoft? No!

Microsoft is a software giant for a reason. They make solutions for all popular and non-popular platforms. Apple and Microsoft have been working together since the late 70's. Why is this such a revelation now?

Jebadiah said,

+1 for a logical post.

That kinda goes with saying. No platform ever gets killed in its immediate future. It does happen some time in the future tho. Like Mac OS was killed off after 5 years. iOS was killed offer after 2 years. Blackberry OS was killed after more than 10 years. Some last long and some don't. Windows coming in a better way to mobile devices will eventually eat back into Apple's territory. Windows is the preferred platform in business over anything APple will ever make.