Document Themes Part II

Last time, we looked at what a Document Theme (“theme”) was, some of the places it shows up in the Excel UI, and a few examples of why themes are useful.  Today I wanted to cover how to change, create, and modify themes, how to tweak themes, and themes and templates.

Changing and Creating Themes

Not everyone is going to like the default theme we ship out of the box, corporations and individuals are going to want to create their own themes, and some users will want special themes for special purposes (for example, grayscale for printing certain sorts of documents).  Accordingly, users can easily switch between themes, create their own, load them from disk, etc.  Here is a look at the UI for performing those tasks.

(Click to enlarge)

Changing the theme for your document is as simple as selecting a new theme from the gallery of options.  As soon as you select a new theme, any themed content in your document is updated accordingly.  For example, here is what the document from the previous post looks like after I select the “Academic” theme. 

(Click to enlarge)

For reference, here is what the document looked like before the theme was changed

(Click to enlarge)

You can see all the theme elements – font, colours, effects – update to give the document a new, but still consistent and pleasant look.  In addition, the colour pickers, font picker, and other galleries also update to reflect the new theme.

Two of the most common complaints about the “auto formatting” that we shipped in current versions of Excel were (1) that it got old and stale very quickly and (2) that it wasn’t possible to tweak it so that it looked exactly how you wanted it to look.  In order to address these problems, we made sure that themes were “tweakable” on many levels.  Users can change the colours, fonts, or effects used by a theme by using the appropriate controls on the Page Layout tab …

(Click to enlarge)

Users can also create their own colour schemes and font schemes, mix and match various built-in and custom colour, font, and effects schemes, and even save the combinations as new themes for use in other documents.  Finally, new themes will be available for users to download from Office Online.

Themes and Templates

One of the things we wanted to enable with this set of features was corporations deploying a standard “look and feel” to their documents across their organization.  Themes, in conjunction with templates, should help considerably in this regard.  Let me quickly clarify the relationship between themes and templates. 

A theme file is a standalone file (you probably spotted that when looking at the Save As dialog above) that contains the colour, font, and effects information about the theme.  Every document created with Office 2007 has a theme inside it; the information comes from a theme file.  When a user applies a new theme, the information in the document is updated. 

A template (.xltx in Excel 2007) is a special document type that has existed for many versions of Excel.  Templates can contain content, layout, formatting, and, in Excel 2007, a theme.  Accordingly, if a corporation (or an individual for that matter) wants to have a consistent look and feel for its documents, they simply need to design a theme (with the company colours in mind perhaps) and make that part of a template.  The template can then be deployed to users at the same time as Office.

Shared Architecture

One other point I want to make about themes is that Excel 2007, Word 2007, and PowerPoint 2007 all support the theme architecture.  This means they all can read and write the same themes and theme files, which in turn means that it will be very easy to create spreadsheets, presentations, and documents that closely match each other.  Additionally, since all three applications read the same theme files, updating the look of your spreadsheets, presentations, and documents is as simple as changing the theme file – the rest is handled automatically by the applications.

That’s it for themes.  Next, I will cover styles in a bit more detail (which is another set of features that show off theme capabilities).

For You Video Hounds …

This week in Redmond we hosted the Microsoft Office System Developers Conference 2006.  Here is a link to the keynote … there is lots of stuff, including a neat demo of accessing data from an Excel model running on the server from a Word 2007 document …