Microsoft Fluent UI Licensed

Resources for developing applications based on the Office 2007 lineup now available royalty-free.

Microsoft has long positioned its Office productivity suite as a full-blown development platform. From Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to the release last year of Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO), the company has rolled out resources for developing applications based on the Office lineup.

This trend continued in January, when Microsoft made the Office 2007 Fluent UI available, royalty-free, to developers for use in their projects. The Fluent UI features all the eye candy and interface tweaks that helped Office 2007 garner so much attention last fall, including the innovative ribbon interface and context-aware controls.

"The licensing program enables developers to build applications that look and behave like the Fluent UI-based applications in the 2007 Office system," writes Chris Bryant, senior product manager for the Information Worker division at Microsoft, in an e-mail response to RDN. "We know from past UI developments made in Microsoft Office that there's widespread developer interest in having UI that behaves similarly to that in the Office products. The licensing program has been created to meet that demand in a way that clarifies the IP ownership but still allows for royalty-free use of the designs and innovations."

Peter O'Kelly, an analyst with the tech research firm Burton Group, says the Fluent UI gives developers a chance to leverage the considerable work of the Microsoft Office group.

"Microsoft does incredibly meticulous, detailed market research when [it builds] plans for Office," says O'Kelly, who notes that 80 percent of Office 2007 feature requests from users were actually for "features already in the product. People just weren't finding them."

Among those likely to adopt the program are component and software tool vendors, commercial application ISVs, and developers of complex, enterprise-level systems. Fluent should improve the look-and-feel of many enterprise applications, but Bryant warns that the enriched UI will demand careful focus from developers.

"... For those developers who wish to have a high-quality Fluent UI implementation, much more consideration should be given to 'how' users interact with the application as opposed to simply focusing on 'what' a user can do with an application," he says.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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