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Microsoft is using a Web-based comic strip to try to reach a broad set of consumers and convince them that they can benefit from the new Ribbon-based user interface found in Office 2007.

While much of the hype leading up to the consumer release of the 2007 Office system later in January has focused on the productivity benefits for knowledge workers, Microsoft has also realized the need for a more general consumer approach, the company said.

The comic, titled “The Enchanted Office: Once Upon a User Interface,” is intended as a creative way to broaden the exposure of Office 2007 to the consumer market, a company spokesperson told eWEEK Jan. 3.

But, at the same time, the comic also attempts to address some of the most common questions of IT professionals and the needs of everyday information workers, she said.

eWEEK Labs says Office 2007 does break some new ground. Click here to read more.

The eight-page comic starts out with the protagonist, Madeline, a CEO, dreaming about “bad software and dwindling revenue,” the solution to which is the new Office with its Ribbon-based user interface, Madeline’s “advisors” tell her.

Microsoft is hoping the comic will help prepare potential users for this new, and very different, user interface. “The primary goal is to generate awareness of the new user interface and the next release among people in the workplace,” the spokesperson told me.

“The new user interface is the most exciting visual element of the next release and the improvement most likely to create questions with customers, and therefore Microsoft wanted to convey the thought that the new UI is an innovation worth embracing, and the comic serves as one way to demonstrate this,” she said.

Some experts like Peter Coffee, eWEEK’s Technology Editor, have found Office 2007 to be very complex.

He said in a recent column that when he looks at the Office 2007 Ribbon, with its dynamically changing icons and artfully laid out columns of hierarchical menu entry points, “I feel like Tommy Webber, fictional cast member of the fictional TV series ‘Galaxy Quest’ in the 1999 movie of that name, when the aliens sat him down at the helm of a starship that they’d built from careful study of his TV footage—and expected him to pilot the thing out of space dock. Hoo, boy.”

To read more about why Office 2007 could be off-putting, click here.

But, that being said, Coffee noted that it is crucial to get over that first impression of Office 2007.

“After all, there’s already been a combinatorial explosion of possible arrangements of menus and tool bars in prior versions of Office, but somehow civilization hasn’t collapsed under the strain. Research shows that people are actually masters of selective perception and quickly learn—for good or ill—to ignore what doesn’t relate to what they’re trying to do,” he said.

Microsoft has not yet decided on the future of the comic, the spokesperson said.

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