Wall Street Journal’s (Walt Mossberg) take on the ribbon

Walt Mossberg an often critical voice about Microsoft products has published his review of the ribbon in the Wall Street Journal.


There is also a video of his recap http://online.wsj.com/public/page/8_0004.html.

He didn’t cover anything about Access but had some nice things to say about Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Here are a few interesting quotes:

“when Microsoft makes significant changes to Office, it’s a big deal. And the latest version of the software suite, called Office 2007, due out Jan. 30, is a radical revision, the most dramatic overhaul in a decade or more.” 

“After months of working with the Ribbon and other new features of Office, I believe they are an improvement. They replace years of confusing accretions with a logical layout of commands and functions. They add easy and elegant new options for making documents look good. And they make it much simpler to find many of the 1,500 commands that Office offers, but had buried in the past.”

“So, Microsoft deserves credit for being bold and creative in designing Office 2007. It has taken a good product and made it better and fresher.”

“But there is a big downside to this gutsy redesign: It requires a steep learning curve that many people might rather avoid. In my own tests, I was cursing the program for weeks because I couldn’t find familiar functions and commands, even though Microsoft provides lots of help and guidance.”

“If you’d like to get more out of Office, especially in the area of how your documents look, Office 2007 is a big step forward, and worth the steep learning curve it imposes. If you’re happy with Office now, or you mostly create plain documents where formatting and design aren’t high priorities, it may not be worth the effort to buy and learn the new version.”

Comments (2)

  1. tzagotta says:

    I’ve been using Office for many years, and using Office 2007 for a few months. I disagree with Mossberg’s conclusion that the learning curve is "steep." In my experience, it takes a minute now-and-then to find the new location of a particular command. But the new implementations are very intuitive (easy to learn), and more importantly, the learning curve is amortized across time, so you can do useful work still while you are learning.

    For me, a "steep" learning curve is one where you have to spend weeks or months just learning before you can start to work again. The new Office version is nothing like that at all.

  2. I tend to agree with you tzagotta. There is a learning curve associated with the new ribbon. Some users pick it up really fast and feel comfortable learning new stuff. Other users don’t feel comfortable exploring for new commands. My guess is the users that don’t do rich formatting won’t notice much different and might find themselves creating far more interesting content. Users that have been forced to use deeper parts of the UI that aren’t explorers will as you say amortize their investment finding new stuff.

    I have found most beginning and intermediate users love the ribbon in Access. It was fun watching them get excited about getting things done in Access and not being as intimidated by it. Some users that have ingrained habits fret a little but that noise goes away fairly quickly.

    In the early planning cycle Access wasn’t scheduled to move to the ribbon. I fought hard to make that happen because of the investment we were making in ease of use. I’m really glad we did because it would have been unfortunate to redesign the interface to be easier to use and then have to make the change in Office 14.

    I view the ribbon as a major investment that will impact our programs for years to come. We likely won’t redesign stuff in such a fundamental way for a long time (the last model lasted over 15 years). Users might as well take the jump and learn the new model–I don’t expect a fundamentally different model coming any time soon.

    I recognize that I have a biased perspective–I would love for everyone to use our products for a number of reasons including that I own a few shares :-).