Most people would agree that the new user interface for Office 2007 is the best thing to happen to the Office suite since Clippy. It exposes powerful commands and capabilities already in the Office applications otherwise hidden within 4 layers of menus and dialogs. However religious Clippy worshipers still believe Clippy will show them the light.
But like everything else, it isn’t perfect. There are still scenarios where you know what you’re looking for, don’t know where to find it, and using help would be a sin. Contextual tabs actually solves half the problem by providing tools and commands in context with what you’re currently focusing on. The other half of the problem lies in situations where what you want to do is out-of-context. That’s where “Scout” comes in to play.
Microsoft is currently developing a new plug-in for Office 2007 under the codename of “Scout” (for internal uses). It creates a “Search Commands” tab at the end of your ribbon menu where inside it, you could search for commands and functions. Simple, like it should be.
For example, typing “pictur” would filter all available commands to a list of 9 which were all related to picturing. Results can then be access by either clicking on the commands themselves, or by using the keyboard shortcut as numbered at each command. More results are paginated as required.
This feature however is not comparable to applications such as Quicksilver on OSX which allows for powerful operations using only the keyboard. So far, “Scout” is a simple commands filtering tool and will probably remain so when released.
No words on release dates, but (if ever released) will probably come in the form of a free plug-in like “Save as PDF“. I think this should have been in the Office suite for release, however better later than never.
Update: Looks like “Scout” won’t be coming as a public plugin? “The Office team believes that users can find what they are looking for inside Office 2007 today, without the Scout search technology.” Sure, if you want to waste time poking around! Why not let people search for the features they already know about?
Microsoft’s Irena Kennedy reveals the inside information on Scout. Apparently it’s been in internal beta since September 2006, still no firm plans to publically release the plugin. Or the post can be pulled also.