Making features easier to find and quicker to use

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One of the things the ribbon afforded us a chance to do was to make existing Excel functionality (meaning functionality already available in current versions of Excel) easier to find and quicker to use.  Today I thought I would walk through a few (but in no way exhaustive) examples.

Find can be more than just find
Most users are likely familiar with Edit|Find, which allows users to look for text in their Excel document.  Not as many are familiar with the fact that you can find all cells that have conditional formatting applied, all cells that contain formulas, or all cells that contain comments, primarily because there is a separate UI path to get at these capabilities (Edit|Go To … and then the “Special” button).  In Excel 2007, we have merged “Find”, “Go To Special”, and a few other capabilities in one control in the Ribbon, which our research shows helps users discover and take advantage of functionality they did not previously know existed.

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Paste can be Special too
In a similar vein, we have taken the most heavily used Paste Special commands and merged them into the Paste control in the Excel 2007 Ribbon.  Again, we believe that this will serve two purposes – advertising capabilities like “Transpose” to users that may not have otherwise discovered the feature, and putting commonly used Paste Special commands fewer clicks away.

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Wrap text to the forefront
Our research shows that “Wrap Text” is a very heavily used command in Excel, yet in current versions of Excel, it is only available as a checkbox on one of the tabs in the Format Cells dialog.  In Excel 2007, we have added a button on the first Excel tab that allows users to toggle “Wrap Text” on and off.

Users simply need to jab the button or use a keyboard shortcut to toggle “Wrap Text”.  Again, the benefits are feature visibility and efficiency.

Text orientation too
Another example of a commonly used feature that is only available on the Format Cells dialog is text orientation.  We have added a drop-down to the first Excel tab that allows users to orient text with one or two clicks.

Note that these features are still available on the Format Cells dialog; we have simply made them available front and centre on the Ribbon.

Number format
The final example from the front tab of the Excel Ribbon is setting number formats.  Excel 2007 has a control that allows uses to set the most common number formats without needing to launch the Format Cells dialog.

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Paste Names Renamed … A “Formula” tab example
Folks that use names frequently may be familiar with Excel’s Insert|Name|Paste feature.  In its current incarnation, the feature brings up a dialog listing names available in a workbook which users can then insert into formulas they are building.  In Excel 2007, we have shifted the UI to the ribbon, again making the feature (hopefully) more discoverable and more efficient to use.  To build a formula using names is as simple as clicking the drop-down control in the ribbon and picking the names that you want to use.  Here are a few screenshots that should give you an idea of how this works … in this case, I am building a formula that subtracts “Cost” from “Sales” by simply picking those two names from the “Use In Formula” drop down in the “Named Cells” chunk.

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That’s it for today.  Next week, I will start a series of posts on work we have done to make producing professional-quality documents simple and fast.