As I am making progress with my presentation design app SlideMagic, I spend a lot of time thinking about user interfaces (UI) for office applications.

Part of the reason that it is so hard to wean people of Microsoft Office applications is that they have gotten used to the mouse/click/dropdown user interface. Spreadsheets, word processors (who uses them still?) and presentation design software all basically have that same UI.

The drop down UI started out pretty simple. File, edit, help menus. Over the years ribbons and tool bars have complicated things. Most people now use a fraction of the functionality that is available to them. As soon as a program does not have that familiar dropdown UI, people are in trouble. I had a hard time understanding the new Adobe Acrobat UI. It is beautifully simple, but it takes time to figure out how to do very basic operations (zooming in and out, combining multiple files into one, rotating mixed up pages of a scan).

Over the past years, user have gotten to know a second UI: the mobile device. The solution for office apps is super simple functionality that draws heavily on icons, UI elements that we have learned from mobile devices.

See how it can work in SlideMagic.