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Interview with Katie Jordan, Product Manager: Microsoft Publisher 2002 What was the development time of Publisher 2002? How many people were on the development team?

Katie Jordan: Planning for Publisher 2002 began toward the end of Publisher 2000 development. Total development for Publisher 2002 took roughly 24 months and a team of 15-18 software design engineers. In addition to the team of developers, Publisher had a dedicated group of testers, responsible for testing everything from end user functionality to high end commercial printing features, program managers and user education team, design manager, product planners, and a product manager. Total number of team members varied during the project cycle, but at it’s largest was 45. In addition, the Publisher product team leveraged some shared resources from some of the Office shared component teams, including the build and release teams What new and improved features does Publisher 2002 have over the previous version?

Katie Jordan: There are a lot of new features in Publisher 2002, including a new user interface that matches OfficeXP and additional design features. We tend to get requests to add features and functionality consistent with Microsoft Word and other Office applications as the majority of Publisher users spend a lot of time in those applications., To accommodate, we’ve included customizable toolbars, Print Preview, Headers and Footers, OfficeArt, and the Picture toolbar in Publisher 2002.

Publisher users always ask for more Design Sets – coordinated looks that can be applied across key publication types, such as newsletters, brochures and Web sites – they also ask for more sophisticated designs. Therefore, we’ve added 15 new Master Sets to this version. Each of these new designs is a bit understated – so design won’t overshadow the user content.

Also along the lines of design expertise and Office integration, Publisher 2002 includes Font Schemes and the Word Document Wizard. Font Schemes help users choose font styles that look good together; the Word Document Wizard lets users open a basic Word document within Publisher and apply Publisher designs, color schemes, font schemes and layouts. If Publisher 2002 was still in development today, what would you do differently or change, now that you've seen the product released?

Katie Jordan: There’s always features that we’d like to add to a product, but in order to stick to our product development cycle (and ultimately get the product out to customers), as well as do the best job we can with the new features on the feature list we must prioritize. We also had to do some heavier architectural changes in Publisher 2002 to support some of the customer requested features, including addition of a new drawing engine consistent with Office, to allow Publisher to leverage OfficeArt functionality such as AutoShapes and the Picture Toolbar. In addition, Publisher 2002 added support for an object model for the first time which allowed this version of the product to integrate some bCentral services and allows us to build on for future releases, including the possibility in future releases of supporting 3rd party development of smart objects and wizards. Did the development team work frequently with different departments at Microsoft in designing/developing this product? How so?

Katie Jordan: Yes. The Publisher team worked very closely with the Office development team during both the design and development of Publisher 2002. Publisher actually shares more than 60% of code with Microsoft Office, which requires a great deal of collaboration between the two teams. For example, Publisher and the Word teams both were looking at revising their respective mail merge functionality. Rather than create 2 new mail merge models, they worked closely together to build new Mail Merge functionality that would be more intuitive for customers. In addition, John Schilling, our Publisher Design Manager helped the Office 2000 and FrontPage 2000 teams leverage the Master Design Sets he created for Publisher. He continued this effort for Word 2002, FrontPage 2002 and PowerPoint 2002.  Word and FrontPage refer to these as Themes; PowerPoint refers to them as a Slide Design. Based on customer feedback, our goal was to offer Office users a consistent and professional set of designs for use across their Office applications. During the development of this product were there any hilarious or outlandish moments which stick out in your mind? 

Katie Jordan: Funny, I asked the General Manager and the Group Program Manager to share a story and they both plead the fifth. One of the test leads, however, was only too happy to share a story about a fellow test team member. It was close to the end of a development milestone when things are always a little tense and the length of a “work day” runs beyond the typical 24 hours. One of the testers had recently moved from a rather small, unusual office that he had to share with another co-worker, to a coveted corner office. He left for a couple of days and upon returning, was horrified to discover he had a new office mate. What he didn’t know, was that it was really an invisible office mate. The test team had added a 2nd name plate to the office door, moved in an extra desk, added new books to the bookshelf, left empty coke cans and a box of cookies to the desk, and hung a jacket on the back of the “office mates” chair.  Rumor has it that the tester that really lived in the office was so mad that he actually stayed away for a couple of days. Leaving the office for a couple of days (or even a weekend) often leads to pranks throughout a development cycle. What do you like most about this product?

Katie Jordan: When I think about Publisher the product, it’s impossible not to think first about the Publisher product team and their dedication to making Publisher better and better. I’ve worked on the product management side of Publisher for the last 3 years, and even did some work with several earlier versions of the product. The Publisher group continues to be a dedicated and enthusiastic team of individuals – all incredibly passionate about their work and the Publisher customer. Publisher has a long track record of being a great place to work at Microsoft and longevity amongst the Publisher developers – there are a couple of developers that worked on Publisher 2002 (and are working on the next version today) that started with Publisher 1.0 1991. That’s commitment and one of the things I like most about Publisher. What do you respond to those numerous users that criticize the MSPA (product activation) feature?

Katie Jordan: I actually haven’t directly heard complaints from Publisher customers about the new Product Activation in Publisher, but it does seem to be a bit misunderstood. The reality is that users don’t need to provide any personal information when registering the product – only the country in which the product is registered. Microsoft Product Activation is designed to ensure that consumers are getting genuine Microsoft product, and to prevent distribution of illegal licenses. In the long run, this helps the consumer. How does Publisher 2002 integrate with other Microsoft Office Applications?

Katie Jordan: Publisher is part of what we call the “Office Family,” and as expected works well with other Office applications. More than 90% of Publisher users also use Microsoft Word, so it’s important that users can share data and work easily between these applications. Feature examples include: Word Document Wizard, Edit Story in Word (Word Story Editor), shared Office components such as WordArt, OfficeArt, graphic filters, file converters, publication designs (themes in Word), Spelling, Thesaurus,  Mail Merge, and several of the OfficeXP Task Panes (ClipArt, Styles and Formatting, Office Clipboard).

Outlook: Send Publisher publications as email attachments or rich email if using Outlook 2002 or Outlook Express 5.0 or later.

FrontPage: Publisher HTML folders can be brought into FrontPage Web site and linked to FrontPage Web. What does Publisher 2002 have over its competitors? (Adobe InDesign/PageMaker, etc.)?

Katie Jordan: What we’ve heard from customers is that they want a program that’s easy to learn and use. Publisher’s task-based approach, wizards and customizable content enables the business user to create professional-looking marketing materials quickly and without any design experience. In addition, as a member of the Office Family of applications, Publisher 2002 looks and works more like OfficeXP. This means that Office users can immediately begin working with Publisher rather than taking the ramp-up time needed to learn an additional user interface and tools. 

Publisher has been built from the ground up with the needs of small business users in mind. Small business users make up a (majority?) of Publisher’s overall user base.

Small businesses want to easily create professional-looking marketing materials in at an affordable cost. Publisher was designed from the ground up to specifically meet these needs. As a result, Publisher is easy to use and allows customers to produce professional materials in a timely fashion. Again, customers who use Office will be familiar with the menus, toolbars, wizards, templates, and content in Publisher. What is Publisher 2002's strongest selling point?

Katie Jordan: The strongest selling point for Publisher 2002, as with the prior 6 versions of Publisher, is that it does what it’s supposed to do – it helps customers without design experience create professional-looking marketing materials at an affordable cost. Publisher does so by offering professionally-created templates that can be customized by the user, as well as providing a set of rich desktop publishing tools, a familiar Office user interface and productivity tools, and the ability to publish to a desktop printer, commercial printer or the Web. Why are there so few Smart Tags available in Publisher 2002?

Katie Jordan: As with many of the “wish list” features of software releases, we simply ran out of time.  We hope to add to Publisher smart tags in upcoming versions. Some users do not understand the exact difference between Word & Publisher. Could you explain the major differences and the reasons that they should use Publisher rather than Word for some specific needs?

Katie Jordan: Publisher is a great tool for users that need to create a page layout – often marketing or sales materials, and business collateral, that combines text and images into something other than a streaming document. For example, brochures, postcards, newsletters and other documents that require multiple columns or wrapped text can be created in Publisher in a fraction of the time required to do the same in Word. Word processing software such as Microsoft Word is better suited to the creation of longer documents such as marketing plans, memos, letters.  Word supports automatic table of contents, bookmarks, and indexing features not found in Publisher.

To make it easier for Publisher users (90%+ of which are also Word users) we’ve made the look and feel of features in Publisher similar to those in Microsoft Word. This consistency allows users to more easily move between the applications and use the right tool for the task. Examples of familiar Word features that can also be found in Publisher 2002 include customizable toolbars, Print Preview, OfficeArt (including Picture toolbar), and Headers and Footers. We also added the Word Document Wizard, which makes it easier for users to open their basic Word document in Publisher and then use Publisher’s layout features to add a design, title page, color scheme, and font scheme..

Another way to explain the differences between Publisher and Word is to note that Publisher is a frame-based, 2D application that emphasizes text frames, picture frames, and table frames – visual objects that need to be arranged in a publication. Publisher focuses on making it easy for users to layout objects (text, picture, etc.) in the publication and create a visually appealing design. For the most part, Word is page-based. Text and pictures typically stream down the page which makes it hard to get things exactly where you want them. Publisher also is the only MS application that supports professional printing – 4-color separations (process printing), spot color printing and set of features designed to make it easier for professional printers to take Publisher files. What this means to the business users is the ability to create their own professional-looking brochure, business cards, flyers and have them printed in large quantities and higher quality than they could do with a desktop printer.

We still have more work to do to make it easier for our Publisher users to find a printer that quickly accepts Publisher files, but we are working on it. I have a database of 5500+ printers in North America that are part of the Publisher Service Provider Program. They have Publisher 2000 and 2002, prepress training materials that we’ve created, and say they are interested in getting Publisher files. We will likely be creating a “premier” level version of this program so we can do more co-mktg with the top members of PSPP. Today users can search an online database for a printer in their area – link is in the top right corner of the Publisher home page. In the next couple of weeks there will be 2 new links on the Publisher home page: 1) Web Hosting Services for Publisher users, 2) Online Printing Service for Publisher users. The latter will be a link to – a web-based print business that does high quality Publisher printing; high % of their business is Publisher files.



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