The End of Personalized Menus

As faithful readers of this blog, you no doubt know that
not every
program shipping with the Office 12 "wave" of products has the new user

This means that, at least for the time being, menus and toolbars are still alive
as a part of many important programs, such as Publisher, Project, Visio, and
several others.

The good news for fans of usability worldwide is that an historical moment is
upon us.  As of Tuesday, we have
officially flipped the switch to turn off Personalized Menus by default
for all apps in all future builds of Office 12.  (New UI programs based
on the Ribbon, of course, were designed without Personalized Menus from the

Don't know what Personalized Menus are?  You can
read all
about them in Part 3 of the "Why The UI?" series
, including my take about why
they weren't a good idea.

The option isn't going away, so if you do love this feature for some reason, you
can still manually turn it on in Office 12.  But the default setting for
"Always show full menus" will be set to on, reversing the default first
introduced in Office 2000.

A small but significant victory for humankind.

Fare thee well, Personalized Menus, an experiment whose time has passed...

Didn't know you could turn off Personalized Menus in your version of Office? 
Click Customize on the Tools menu, and check the box next to "Always show full

Comments (34)
  1. I don’t want to offend the person or people that worked on this feature but I can’t find a way to say it any other way: good riddance.

  2. SteveA says:

    Well I will be glad to see the back of them. The number of people I have helped at their pc with some problem, and the first thing I do is turn it off for them, much to their delight. And I stress that I am not an IT support person, just someone who is a bit more savvy.

    Good blog by the way

  3. anon says:

    In all fairness, I think you guys should republish the marketing brochures and PR when Office 2003 shipped and everyone at Microsoft was so proud of the personalized menus telling how more productive people would be thanks to it.

    Office 12 is a fixed version of Office 2003.

    And it adds its own clutter. I hate it. Only my opinion though.

  4. Matt Breckon says:

    Woohoo!! This was the one feature of Office that I thought Microsoft had got really wrong. I’ll be really glad to see it go.

    At least we now all know not to do that again.

  5. It is about time!

    I know you have a lot of stats from the customer experience improvement program, so I am curious: what percentage of users dissabled personalized menus?

    (And since everyone else is saying it: I love this blog)

  6. James Schend says:

    Brandon, that’s not very helpful because the vast majority of Office users don’t know you *can* turn off Personalized Menus.

    The most common complaint about older versions of Office was the paperclip help assistant. People would constantly gripe at me how it interrupted their work, was distracting, etc. I always replied, "well, why don’t you just turn it off?" The usually response was a surprised, "you can turn it off!?"

    One of my personal rules of UI design is that 90% of people never change their preferences, and 80% of people don’t even know they *can* change their preferences. So if you’re ever adding a feature which might be confusing, make sure the default is "off."

  7. Dave Solimini says:

    You mentioned in this post that publisher did not have the new UI…..

    … WHY? It seems like it would be perfect for publisher.. complicated, document-oriented interface with way too many buttons an bars…..


  8. jensenh says:


    I agree Publisher will make a great Ribbon app. You can read the "why" of which apps we did here

  9. jensenh says:


    Sorry you feel that way. Just a correction that Personalized Menus were a feature of Office 2000, not 2003, so you won’t find any Office 2003 brouchures trumpeting Personalized Menus.

    If you are actually interested in understanding why they were added and why we’re making the changes we are in Office 12, you could read

  10. Brian Shih says:

    Hurray, those were the first thing I turned off whenever using a new copy of Office.

    I like your reasoning as to why the menus ended up being a bad idea, and personally I feel like the worst part is when you haven’t customized it by using certain features over and over again, that it basically turns your one click menu into a 2 level (at least) menu. I can’t remember where I read it (I actually think it was a Microsoft UI study) that people prefer fewer levels of hierarchy with more options per level over deeper trees.

    All in all, thank you for turning it off by default. Out of curiosity, why were they implemented by default in the first place? What was the reasoning, or did user tests just happen to show that people preferred it?

  11. Ross says:

    About time, too!

    I don’t know anyone who actually uses them. I think it’s another one of those features that looked good ‘on paper’ but when it came to actually testing the thing, no-one had the guts to say it didn’t work.

    Awesome blog by the way, Jensen.

  12. John Waller says:

    >>A small but significant victory for humankind.

    Not to mention the end of headaches for tech support.

    "It’s the 7th item from the top of the menu."

    "I only have 6 items in that menu…"

  13. Citizenchan says:

    Aw, and I was just getting used to it.

  14. Bil Simser says:

    Thank the maker! It’s probably the most single annoying "feature" that has always bugged me and the first thing I do when I setup a new system.

    Now if only the rest of the planet got with the program and stopped trying to emulate this as I’ve seen in countless programs.

    At least when I boot up O12 final, It’ll be one less thing to worry about.

  15. Sendell says:

    Can you already tell us how to turn off ‘Personalised Ribbon’? 🙂

  16. "And there was much rejoicing."

    I, for one, will not miss this feature.

  17. Michael says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  18. This is great news.

    I’m not sure what the reasoning was for the theory that "If you haven’t used it yet, you don’t need to see it, so we’ll hide it for you."

    Now I don’t have to go in to change it every time I build a new machine.

  19. Excellent!! Now we can all get ready to focus on the ribbons instead.

    I can see it now, in Office 14, 6 years from now… "In the next version of Office, we’re introducing heirarchical text-based menuing systems. Our usability studies have told us that ribbons, while pretty, just dont work."

  20. John Greenan says:

    I echo the sentiments of many others. The "personalised menus" was an idea that simply was not tested properly in the real world.

    One other thing – what proportion of beta 12 testers are not US based. I’ve worked for a number of software firms and usually one can see US only testing results in finished products. Now, before anyone gets on the high horse and rants at me for bashing the USA, I am not doing that. Many times I have seen statements like "To show a dollar amount click on the ‘Show Currency’ button". But if you are working in Euros that’s not very helpful. So, this is not anti-US, just anti poor testing…

    PS I count myself as a non-US based office 12 beta tester – I must get round to sending some feedback – but so far so good.

  21. It may seem based on my writing that the ideas behind the Office 12 user
    interface kind of popped out…

  22. Thank you – oh Lords of Office (& MS!)

    Take it away, and my mother will find the menu items again – because she will be able to see them!

    (Randomly) hidding options was funny once, like the "Click-me & win a million" button who was afraid of the mouse pointer!

    Good design.

    Ilanguak Olsen

  23. This is the third part in my eight-part series of entries in which I outline some of the reasons we decided…

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