“Scout” for Office 2007: search commands

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.

Codename “Scout” for Office 2007

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?

Update 2: 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. 🙁

Update 3: Microsoft wants to kill “Scout”. I want to save “Scout”.

40 insightful thoughts

  1. Colin: No, those naysayers have been around for ages.

    Something like this is long overdue – and very neat.

  2. I really look forward to this feature. It will make training and learning easier, as users will be able to search for the tools they need. I hope many free plug-ins for Office 2007 are created.

  3. Will OpenOffice bring out something similar? I haven’t used MS Office in years. It’s so seldom that I have trouble finding something that it certainly wouldn’t be worth buying MS office but the added convenience would be nice occasionally.

  4. This looks great! I hope that MS takes what they learned from the development of the Ribbon (Fluent) for Office 2007 and applies those learnings to the next version of Windows. Vista looks pretty but offers no big change in how I interact with my files. Imagine a Windows Explorer window with a ribbon interface: highlight a JPG file and get commands for working with JPG files in addition to the standard file operations. New applications could add or replace the built-in Windows functionas with ribbons of their own.

  5. Hello!

    > typing “pictur” would filter all available commands
    > to a list of 9 which were all related to picturing

    There are 45 commands related to picture (5 pages of 9)

    Regards, Roman

  6. Do you have a copy of this plugin that you wouldn’t mind sharing? (I assume you might have a copy based on the screenshots). This looks quite useful, regardless of what Microsoft thinks.

  7. Heres another vote for this type of functionality.

    I would describe myself as an advanced user of office having developed varios add-in and make use of plenty of the rarely used functions in word and excel.

    With office 2007 I feel as if I am banging my head against the wall. About half of the functions are logically grouped but the other half appear to be almost randomly dropped and I find myself just paging through each tab clicking on every clickable thing to find options I know are there.

    I know what I want, I know its there, finding it is a nightmare …


  8. Scout would be an excellent tool if it also provides access to tools that are in the command well but not on any of the ribbons. Anyway, is the project completely dead ?

  9. If you could customize the Ribbon without learning XML, would you need scout? You could add the commands most commonly used by the individual and remove those actions not frequently used.

    Microsoft needs to offer a backward compatible add-in so I can use Office 2007 with the User Interface from 2003 and prior (old, WIMP model that most people liked!)

    You shouldn’t have to write code to customize your menus!

    Someone please fix this!

  10. “best thing to happen to office”??? Poleeze give me a break. before I could alt+i and insert an attachment in the flash of a keystroke. Now I have cute little icons that I have to click, not once, but at least twice to get to the file dialog. This is what happens when kids take over. microsoft will never get it, the best they can do is acquire technology from true innovators.

  11. FooFighgter,

    Vista was different – just like you have to program XML to get functionlity out of your graphical rendition of a menu bar in Office 07, you also need to know the correct syntax to write complex queries in, if you want to find files in Vista search.

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