As expert communicators, our first test for fluency in reading is being able to "sight read" a few words. The idea is that children will recognise at sight the most common words in the written form of their native language. Instant - or fluent - reading of these words will allow them to read and understand text more quickly.

With this is mind, it's easy to understand the concept behind the creation the Fluent User Interface for Microsoft Office 2007. The individual suite of Office programs has been successfully streamlined with Fluent User Interface (sometimes shown as FUI or UI) to a more comprehensive and integrated system. The object of the Office Fluent User Interface was to simplify how Office 2007 applications are used. The Microsoft Office Fluent User Interface system is a comprehensive set of controls that work together to help users be more productive and efficient while using Office 2007 programs, including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for example, to create documents that are more effective.

Fluent User Interface was developed following extensive research in program application along with recent advancements in hardware and software. The result was the most significant update to the Office 2007 user interface in more than a decade. The Microsoft Office 2007 Fluent User Interface is a user interface that makes it easier for people to get more out of Microsoft Office applications enabling them to deliver better results faster.

At the heart of the new Office Fluent User Interface is the Ribbon which replaces menus and toolbars. All the tools you require for working in your documents have been logically grouped into tabs, with each one relating to a particular set of activities. The Home tab houses the most commonly used features. and commands on this tab resemble those in earlier versions of Office so that you can quickly learn where features are.

Previous versions of Microsoft Office relied on menus, toolbars, task panes and dialogue boxes to communicate with the user. Although this system was applied across all Microsoft Office programs, each program had unique functionality. In order to build a universal system among Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office Excel, Microsoft Office PowerPoint, and the other programs, Microsoft Office 2007 Fluent User Interface was developed.

The new Microsoft Office Fluent User Interface was designed to reduce the time spent on constantly trying to remember how to access commands in the different Office suite programs.

The Fluent User Interface replaces the previous system of layered menus, toolbars, and task panes with a simpler system enabling users to be more efficient or fluent in their use of the applications. The new User Interface, including the Office Fluent Ribbon, provides improved context menus, enhanced screen tips, a Mini toolbar, and keyboard shortcuts that help to improve user efficiency and productivity. Fluent User Interface is implemented across several applications in the 2007 Microsoft Office suite.

The Office Fluent User Interface is designed to support the particular activities unique to each program. The User Interface organises commands according to a related functionality, helping users to better discover and use the powerful features of Microsoft Office programs.

The Office Fluent User Interface brings together the capabilities of the Microsoft Office system into a single entry point in the User Interface: the Microsoft Office Button. The Office Button houses the functions you require when working with your document such as saving, sharing and printing.

Deciding factors which played a significant part in developing the User Interface included the need for focus: the user's attention should be on the content of the document and not on the interface.

Previously in Microsoft Office applications, retrieving information related to a specific tool or command could be difficult. Now, enhanced ScreenTips in the Office Fluent User Interface bridge the gap between the controls and commands and are available in features such as help topics and keyboard shortcuts.

The Office Fluent User Interface dramatically streamlines access to information about commands and tools. For example, it displays a control's name, its corresponding keyboard shortcut, a description of its purpose, and the help topic that explains its use. In previous releases of Microsoft Office, getting this information for a command could be very difficult. The Office Fluent User Interface provides quick access to information about commands directly from their associated controls in the Ribbon.

Enhanced ScreenTips provide links to information including help topics. Users no longer need to deliberate over how to use a command or open the Help window. Instead, the link is built into the User Interface, which in turn, makes it easier for users to make use of newly discovered capabilities.

Other improvements to functionality, in Office 2007 includes Live Preview which allows you to view any styles or changes to style before you commit to changes. And the new Mini Toolbar is automatically shown when text is selected. The Mini Toolbar gives easy access to the most-used formatting commands without requiring a right-mouse-button click. This toolbar remains semi-transparent until the mouse pointer is situated on one of the commands on the toolbar panel.

Another function, the Quick Access Toolbar, which sits in the title bar, is a customisable toolbar allowing any command in the Office suite to be added to save time.

On the whole, Office Fluent User Interface gives users the control to develop their skills over all the Microsoft Office programs. For example, tasks such as setting margins are much easier to master now that the function isn't buried in the File menu. Working with Headers and Footers has been simplified, too. Pictures can be positioned in text in a matter of seconds and Excel spreadsheets are easily converted to charts. By clicking on a bulleted list in PowerPoint, you can convert the text to a SmartArt diagram in one easy step.

The Microsoft Office Fluent User Interface could be regarded as the translation tool which aids understanding across the whole range of applications in the Microsoft Office 2007 suite. It is the fluent tool.