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Microsoft flaunts ribbon as it beats Office 2011 for Mac drum

Touts graphical template gallery, new Outlook in suite due to ship later this year

The lead user interface designer for Office 2011 for the Mac touted the software's new Ribbon interface today in a video MIcrosoft released to pump up enthusiasm the upcoming suite.

"The Office for Mac Ribbon is a new user interface built from the ground up that places the most commonly-used controls right at your fingertips," said Han-Yi Shaw, the user experience manager at Microsoft's Mac Business Unit. MBU is the Redmond, Wash. company's internal Mac development team, which spends the bulk of its time building Office for Mac.

Shaw's comments were among those voiced by several MBU developers and program managers in a two-and-a-half-minute video that gave users the first official glimpse of the new interface, and a small number of other additions and enhancements, slated to appear in Office 2011.

"The Ribbon will make it easier to find [tools and features] without digging into the UI," said Shaw.

Office for Mac 2011 will feature a ribbon similar to what Microsoft debuted with Office 2007 for Windows, and also applied to Office 2010, the Windows suite launched two months ago.

The ribbon will appear below the standard Mac menu bar and above the content display area in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Familiar interface features, including the classic Mac menu and the standard toolbar, will remain, and the ribbon and toolbar will be collapsible to save screen space.

Some users expressed their displeasure earlier this year when Microsoft announced that Office 2011 would sport a ribbon-esque interface.

Those complaints kept rolling in today after Microsoft posted its video of Shaw and others discussing Office 2011.

"Kinda weird that they talk about the ribbon like it's an UI achievement," said someone identified only as "ihxo" in a comment added to a story published by AppleInsider earlier Wednesday.

"Oh, no!! That horrible ribbon is coming to Mac!! Save the women and children first!" wrote "Jaime R" in a comment to a similar story on the Cult of Mac blog.

Microsoft has not set a shipping timetable for Office 2011 for Mac, although it has promised to release the suite in time for this year's holiday sales season.

Other than the Ribbon, Microsoft's video also featured the suite's new template gallery and the revised e-mail client -- to be dubbed Outlook to match the name in the Windows versions of Office -- that will include a new view to collect all messages in a thread for easier reading and handling.

"We think that Office 2011 for Mac is the definitive version of Office for the Mac," said Shaw.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected] .

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