November 7th, 2008

A move towards UI consistency in Windows 7

Once a subject of heated discussions, the native vs. cross-platform skinning has not been mentioned for quite some time in Swing blogosphere. While this post by no means aims to revive the dead ghosts, i saw something quite interesting in the PDC session on the Windows 7 Explorer. It looks like (at least in the current builds) Microsoft has decided to enforce better consistency across the UI layer of its flagship desktop products, including Office and Media Player. This specific issue has been brought as one of the major arguments against using a native look-and-feel (because the lack of consistency effectively meant that there is no native look-and-feel).

The following three screenshots show (what i presume to be) the next version of Office running on Windows 7. These were taken from the video stream and the quality is not the best, but the overall trend is still quite noticeable. The landmark Office ribbon that was skinnable as silver / blue / black in Office 2007 is now consistent with the platform look-and-feel (read more about the scenic ribbon in the PowerPoint slides of this PDC session). I’m not sure whether the presenter meant to show the new look of Office, or even if this is the final look. However, the screenshots clearly show that the ribbon UI is now much more consistent with the the rest of OS, including the colors, gradients, the glass chrome on the title pane and other UI bits (click to see full size view):

The same goes for the Windows Media Player. The screenshot below (click for full size view) shows a somewhat partial UI in the top bar (no icons on the twin round buttons), but the heavy glossy black / dark blue chrome found in the current Media Player UI is (at least for now) gone:

Standardizing the UI look of different bundled and add-on programs in Windows 7 is an interesting trend that is worth following in the months to come.