Office 12 Ribbon Screenshots

Get ready for a surprise…


Today saw the launch of the brand spanking new user interface for Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint: the Office 12 Ribbon. 


Before I go any further I have to say that this is very early pre-release stuff.  In fact this is the first time the Office group have showcased a new release so far ahead of launch.  Just bear that in mind as you look at this and remember there is lots of time for this to change before RTM.


Now, back to the topic at hand...  The Ribbon replaces all the menus and toolbars, and most of task pane options for the applications that have taken it.  Yes that's right, menus and toolbars are (almost all) gone!

Ribbon in Word 12.  Click for larger image


Current and previous versions of Office have some features available only in menus, some in menus and toolbars, and some in the task pane. In Office 12 the Ribbon is the single place to look for all the application's features. 

Commands in the Ribbon are split across a number of tabs.  The names of the tabs vary from application to application.  These are the tabs for Word:


Kinda different from the familiar File, Edit, View, Insert, etc..?  That's because the UI designers have taken a different approach, and rather than design a command-centric interface they have designed a task-centric UI.  The developer tab contains all the stuff around macros and VBA.  By default it is not visible, but can be enabled through Office 12's equivalent of the Options dialog. (Yes, the Options dialog as we know it is gone too.)


Commands within a tab are grouped into chunks (I expect the folks in marketing will come up with a better name for this before launch).  The most important commands are shows as larger buttons.  This works well for me.  I get nice quick access to the Paste Special command I use all the time for instance.  Most of the less common buttons have text associated with them which makes the UI much more discoverable.


The Ribbon is very smart about the way it resizes.  It makes much better use of the large screen resolutions that are common today.  As you decrease the size of the window buttons first shrink in size, then lose their text labels, then as you decrease window size further they group together to turn into drop-down collections of commands.


Here is lone remaining menu and toolbar in Office.  And it's a pretty small toolbar at that.  This is called the Quick Access Toolbar and by default contains just three buttons: Save Undo and Redo - commands that are so fundamental to the application that they simply need to be available all the time.  You can customize the QAT to add your own favourite commands.

The File menu is the one remaining menu.  I don't have a screenshot of that available, but that has been redesigned too, in a similar way to the Ribbon, with larger buttons for most used commands, and additional text for the less common ones.


(I hear on the grapevine that all the cool Office developer announcements are being saved for tomorrow BTW.  Stay tuned for more on that later).


[Update 14/9: Added some more screenshots here:]


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Comments (25)

  1. RickG says:

    Very interesting. Love the command grouping and task-oriented UI.

  2. jsrfc58 says:

    Why not allow the user to pick what is defined as a "tab heading" in the UI?

  3. Gilles says:

    Can I turn this feature off to revert back to the "traditional" menus / toolbars?

  4. Mark Bower says:

    More Office 12 UI screenshots and info…



    This is Excel 12.  Assuming you are familiar…

  5. Looks like XGA is no longer enough… those things are huge! @ 800X600 you’d have about two lines of space to type in.

    Nice for people like me at large resolutions, but everyone else, including all the blind baby boomers that use 19" LCDs at 800×600 resolution are screwed.

  6. voksi says:

    Heh, interesting idea, but… It lacks UI fundamentals.

    This will be more productive only for Chinese and Japanese, who read up->down. You can’t have situation like:

    Bring to


    and stuff like that. It’s much faster to read when it is like:

    Bring to front

    Now, Apple UI designers figured that out, so MacOS was great. MS copied that and that was ok. Now MS tries to be different and it’s showing how bad UI designers they have. Please, don’t tell me stories about icons (there is no icon that can say what words can). Icons should be "side effect", not primary way of communication. We left that in Stone age.

  7. jensenh says:

    Regarding Asian languages… I’ll be blogging about this in the future and it’s a good topic. Suffice to say, we take international usability very seriously and have been testing the new UI in Japan with our Japanese usability engineers almost as long as we have in the USA. We are very aware of many of the issues unique to international users (not just Asian, but also right-to-left languages and other kinds of writing) and are committed to making sure it’s a great experience. Thanks for raising the issue and look forward to hearing comments down the road once you actually have a Chinese/Japanese build to play with.

  8. Mark Bower says:

    Responding to a couple of comments:

    Gilles: No, there will be no legacy mode UI for Office 12.

    James Hancock: The UI has been designed for a minimum resolution of 800×600.

  9. voksi says:

    Jensen: I’m not Asian but this new UI will be great for Asians. And, don’t be disappointed, I won’t be testing any Office or Ms product. I just wanted to tell you how bad your UI is.

    Please, don’t be surprised if people start asking for old UI. It’s simpler and logical. This new stuff will be great for people that don’t use office so much.

    Guys! You are developing Office suite, not a XboX game!

  10. We develop an add-in for Excel. One of the nice things to date was that a consistent set of VBA created a menu for our application across multiple versions of Excel. (We have over 150 functions, grouped into a whole bunch of sub-menus.)

    Is that code going to be completely useless now? Or will Office 12 manage to interpret it somehow?

  11. Kawigi says:

    Mark Harrison:

    It won’t be useless – Office 12 will interpret it (it will put the commands on a ribbon tab). But you’ll probably want to make an Office 12 version of the add-in eventually (so it will look nicer).

  12. chan says:

    good idea, bad design!!

  13. Mark Bower says:


    In the software development process, the design elements are one of the last things to get added. We need to make sure the usability aspects are nailed first. Expect to see design elements added in a future Beta release.

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