Microsoft’s Office user interface (UI) design hasn’t changed very much since Word was a Mac-only app in the 1980s. Black and white gave way to color, menus expanded, and the toolbars became more complex. But the overall UI design stayed essentially the same for 20 years. Version 12 of the Office suite, due out in sync with Windows Vista in late 2006, marks a radical shift: Microsoft used Office 12 as a catalyst to completely rethink the UI from the user’s point of view. The changes that Microsoft has made to the interfaces of the Office apps will help new users become productive faster and help veteran users produce good-looking documents in less time. But smart buyers should base purchasing decisions on the suite’s new features, not its new look.