Taking the Minimized Ribbon to the Max

One of the many areas in which we've spent time since Beta 2 has been making working with the collapsed Ribbon a more realistic option.

Since the very first public build of the new user interface, you've been able to collapse the Ribbon to just the names of the tabs by using CTRL+F1 or by double-clicking the selected tab. The design goal here was that when you wanted a maximum amount of screen real-estate in which to work with your document, you could get all of the UI out of your way at once. In fact, one of the main advantages to consolidating all of the UI into one place is that you can turn it off or on all at once.

The "collapsed" Ribbon in Excel 2007

In this "collapsed" mode, your document expands to fill virtually the entire available window. One piece which remains on the screen is your customizable Quick Access Toolbar, into which you can put any commands, buttons, or groups of controls you wish.

I often use this mode myself when I'm reading or performing simple formatting on a document; I use the Mini Toolbar and context menus to perform my basic tasks and then bring up the Ribbon when I want to do some more in-depth work.

Anyway, we got a lot of feedback in Beta 2 that the collapsed Ribbon was a great idea in principle, but that it didn't work very well in the real world. So, we dug in and did a number of features designed to make working with the Ribbon collapsed a better experience.

The first thing we did was simply to make collapsing the Ribbon more discoverable. What we used to call unofficially "collapsing" the Ribbon has now officially become "minimizing" the Ribbon. In current builds, you can right-click anywhere in the Ribbon to bring up a context menu which includes an option to "Minimize the Ribbon." This is in addition to CTRL+F1 and double-clicking the selected tab, which are still available.

A context menu item for Minimizing the Ribbon

Another big improvement: Many people have tried to keep the Ribbon minimized but use the keyboard primarily to access functionality.

Unfortunately, in Beta 2 every time you type a KeyTip to use a command in the Ribbon using the keyboard, the Ribbon expands and you have to manually close it every time. This was quite inefficient and basically made it infeasible to work with the Ribbon minimized for any length of time.

We've now done the work so that if you minimize the Ribbon, when you press ALT+H to bring up the Home tab, it comes up over top of your document like a little floating window. Then, when you've pressed the key for the feature you want to use, the Ribbon goes away, reverting back to its minimized state.

I made a little movie to show what this looks like and how it works. I put Excel in some extremely small resolution in order to keep the movie small (I think something like 690x440 or so), but you get the idea of how you might use the Ribbon minimized with the keyboard.

Watch the Minimized Ribbon Movie
(Windows Media, 21 seconds, 716 KB)

To un-minimize the Ribbon, you just right-click again and uncheck "Minimize the Ribbon" or press CTRL+F1 or double-click a tab.

Now, read Part 2, where you can see how this same feature works with the mouse. (C'mon, you know you want to watch another movie!)

Comments (63)

  1. nlhowell says:

    That’s awesome, Jensen. Can’t wait to try it out.

  2. netfreak says:

    Dear Jensen,

    Please make it clear to me. If I mark MINIMIZE THE RIBBON and quit the proram and then start it again, will the ribbon be minimized???

    I do find that most time when I open the file I DO WANT the ribbon to be minimized, so  can see more, that it why in my WISH/SUGGESTION to the beta was to give user an option to HAVE RIBBON MINIMIZED everytime the office starts. Though I received an answer that most people will have problems unminimizing it I still think that I am right, my reasons are:

    1. While you work with the notebook you would like to have it minimized most of the time

    2. If UMPC will have office 2007 in some time, this option is usable there too

  3. Ben R. says:

    This is terrific.

    I have to say I’m really impressed that all of these tweaks are making it into version 1.0 of the new UI. This really is going to be a pretty "mature" interface by the time it’s released.

    On a different note, Jensen, could you please comment on discoverability of the Office button in a future post? Many posters (myself included) have posted here worrying about this issue. What have your usability tests and long-term surveys shown??

  4. Colin Walker says:

    Much better and far more intuitive. Look forward to giving it a go.

    When is a build goign to be available?

  5. [ICR] says:

    Nice. I’d say the minimised ribbon could do with a button to maximise it, just to aid even more discovery of how to maximise it should they accidently minimise it.

  6. Carl says:

    Ctrl-f1? Was every other possible obscure key combination taken, so that you had to use "help button plus arbitrary modifier"?

    Right clicking and choosing minimize from a pop-up menu? Dude, lose the shame and steal from OS X. Put a blob widget in the upper right corner to toggle it, and you’re good to go.

  7. Adrian says:

    This reminds me of how menus in Windows apps used to work a long, long time ago.  If you used a keyboard accelerator, like Ctrl+C for Copy, the corresponding menu item (e.g., Edit) would flash to reinforce the connection between the accelerator and the menu.

    I never understood why Windows apps don’t do this anymore.

  8. CG says:

    Perhaps a button that I’ll be able to click in the Quick Access Toolbar to minimize the ribbon would be a nice option. The button doesn’t have to be on the QAT by default, just in the list of functions to choose from in Preferences.

  9. faberryman says:

    I would like the ribbon to be minimized as a default.  As it is, every time I open a document, the first thing I do is minimize the ribbon which is frustrating.

    Also, I would like to have my default set to Zoom to "Page Width".  As it is, the second thing I do is click Page Width so that my document takes up the maximum amount of scrren space.

    Any ideas?

  10. jensenh says:


    I believe that in Word, zoom is not a global option but a property of the document itself.

    So, I think you could change your default template (Normal.dotm or Normal.dotx or Normal.dot) to have Zoom set to Page Width and it would make new documents open that way.

    I think existing documents still get opened in the last zoom setting used in that document.

    You could ask on the Word blog to make sure, because I could be wrong.

  11. Step says:

    Once again, impressed by the amount of feedback you guys are acting on.  Thanks for the hard work.

  12. Abigail says:

    The hovering ribbon? That’s a cool idea! I agree with Ben R.; all your usability work is paying off in having a really usable feature the first time around.

    (I’m afraid, however, that I also agree with those who suggest a blobby button thingy to collapse the ribbon, like the Outlook left pane and the Access nav pane.)

  13. snprbob86 says:

    I want to hug your whole team!

    I was so excited about the new keyboard access model so that I can use the mouse way less. This makes that actually possible. I’m super excited!

  14. Looks, as Adrian pointed out, rather "menu-like."  

    For users that hate the ribbon (i.e. corporate customers resistant to change), I can see how a collapsed ribbon deployment of MOSS 2007 could provide an "Office 2003 UI compatibility" mode (of sorts).  This is particularly true if the tabs fly down rather than expand down in response to a single left mouse click.

  15. damieng says:

    So does this mean that if the ribbon is collapsed and you hover the mouse over one of the tabs that the tabs contents will display over the top of your document too?

    Or is this hover-over a keyboard exclusive.


  16. TC says:

    Looks great. However, what’s up with Excel still being an MDI application (as seen by the second set of minimize/restore/close buttons)?

  17. JohnV says:

    Ok I played with this with beta 2 and it is so annoying that powerpoint BEEPS at me every time I minimize or maximize the ribbon.

    Please stop the NOISE.

  18. A User says:

    I commend the UI team for being open minded. What a remarkable evolution in thinking! We are back to what looks suspiciously like a top level menu, except it has pop-up galleries instead of pull-down menus.

    For switching between "expanded" discoverability mode and "minimized" usability mode I think it should be afforded by a persistent clickable thingy rather than only relatively undiscoverable multi-click or multi-key gestures. (Not a giant round knob on the right balancing the logo/button on the left.) Perhaps a menu item labeled something like "Help"? And I too would like it to be collapsed, er, minimized, er, I mean uninvoked by default. Who wants the help file to pop open every time a program is launched?

    Having rediscovered the top line menu, perhaps we can move on to reinvent pull-down menus that are not so over-engineered as to make user customization infeasible. I am not saying galleries are bad, but they are not best in every context.

  19. Colin Banfield says:


    It’s great to see that you continue to make tweaks based on user feedback. But I have to ask – have you considered an auto-hide option for the Ribbon? Seems to me that such an option would give users all they need – without having to right-click, press Ctrl+F1 or double-click a tab.

  20. Francis says:

    As German women say, wunderbra!

    JohnV: if you do not like the MDI, you can always open a new copy of Excel for every additional document.

  21. zz says:

    Looks great! However, it would be even better if the ribbon pops up in in transparent mode. That way it obstruct the work underneath.

  22. Floodguy says:

    Very Good!

    How can the ribbon minimize through VBA? Any code or keywords etc.?

  23. steveg says:

    The idea of a widget to minimize/maximize sounds good. But I’d use one that’s better than the one in the bottom right of the tabs (see the Paragraph tab image above — will that open a modeless dialog, a modal dialog, popup a menu or something else? Depends on the tab).

  24. Mario Goebbels says:

    I hope the next new feature will be auto-minimize, means that if the ribbon’s minimized, clicking on a tab will open it, but also close it if the cursor goes south and leaves the floating ribbon area.

  25. Much nicer, but add my vote to (a) giving mousers the same interaction, and (b) giving the entire Ribbon a user-configurable transparency level.

  26. Sébastien says:

    What about adding a little arrow to the Office menu?

    This way it look similar to a "toolbaricon that will popup a menu once clicked".

  27. Harlan Grove says:

    To TC: read the Excel blog and Excel newsgroups. Majority prefers MDI interface to multiple @#$% Excel icons in the Windows Task Bar. MDI interface is easier when working with multiple, LINKED workbooks and/or mutliple windows into the same workbook (which may be more commonly used in Excel than Word or PP). Besides, it’s just a configuration setting whichever way it defaults.

    With regard to ribbon haters (like me), glad to see it’ll finally be able to work like a menu (staying hidden most of the time). Maybe this is more of an Excel bias, since that’s the Office app I use most, but I like to see as much of the worksheet grid as possible. I agree with others that it’d be nice to minimize the ribbon via VBA, and I’ll go one better: it’d be nice to completely hide the ribbon (as in not even the tabs visible, and the document window expanding into the area formerly used to show the ribbon) and redisplay it via VBA. It’s currently possible to hide Excel’s Worksheet Menu Bar via VBA.

    In the company where I work there are a few VB.Net applications that use Excel workbooks without showing any of the Excel UI aside from vertical and horizontal scroll bars and worksheet tabs and the worksheet scrolling buttons. Unless Excel 2007 has this capability, looks like we may be sticking with Excel 2002 for a few more years.

  28. Brutus says:

    Bah!  You should’ve used the WMV9 Screen codec instead of WMV9 Pro! 😉

    (For those that don’t know, WMV9 Screen codec is designed especially for app demos and results in very small file size.)

  29. Users should be able to hide the ribbon entirely, and just use keyboard shortcuts.  (Without popping up the ribbon to show you intermediate steps as you type those shortcuts.)

    I knew a guy at NASA who was so fast and accurate with Excel and its keyboard shortcuts that he could go from large (gigabyte) data file to beautiful astronomy pic and accompanying science charts in just a couple minutes of furious typing (no mouse, not even looking at the screen to see what he was doing).  Alas, it would take Excel more than five times as long to catch up with him, because it was busying rendering all the intermediate steps for everything he had typed and the worksheet was so enormous that this really took some time.

    You get points for humor though; it was always quite entertaining to watch the screen continue to animate in a confused blur long after he had stopped typing, finally arriving at the completed image and charts.

  30. To Harlan: The majority of people who use Excel don’t read the Excel blog nor do they participate in newsgroups, so your reasoning for keeping MDI doesn’t hold up. I, for one, like multiple windows. If you need so many Excel windows open where it overloads the task bar, then it’s probably an application better left to another program.

    It’s all a matter of taste.

  31. tino says:

    Interaction design at its best. So, now get the graphic design at the same hight level 😉

  32. Nabeel says:

    So minimizing the ribbon…

    When you click on a tab, does that tab just hover over?

    Also a neat thing…

    When it’s hovering, there should be transparency in the whole ribbon that’s being displayed, and the button your mouse is over shows without any transparency, so then you can see what your document.

    Is it going to be able to be moved to the sides?

    Great job…definately moving to the new office…using the beta now and it’s great

  33. Mike says:

    Once again, this helps a little bit but does not resolve the overwhelming problems with the Ribbon (which, btw, I *do* like).  The QAT is useless for people with vision problems, as is much of the Ribbon (too small, no labels).  I don’t need 14 tiny icons for font formatting, or a huge icon for paste, but the current Ribbon implementation does not allow me to turn any of these features off.  Customization, which continues to be ignored, needs to be addressed.  The idea that ‘oh, there will be a 3rd party tool for that’ is outrageous.  Something as integral as user customization should not be an afterthought.

  34. Benoit says:

    Great great feature!

    Cannot wait to give it a try!

    Also what would be a great feature is a king of mouse over slide out feature for the ribbon when it is is minimized state.

    It would help keeping the work estate maximize will easing working with the mouse pretty much the same way you have greatly solve the keyboard issue.

  35. Tim says:

    I think I like the ribbon idea. Regardless, here we have an example of some real UI innovation coming out of Redmond. I hope it can be merged with the unified toolbar look for a Mac OS version.

    I agree with Carl’s point. Have a visible option to minimise the ribbon. Context menus are a shortcut, they should never be the only way to activate an option/feature. Mac OS has a toolbar collapse button on the window title bar which would work well.

    I can see that some people won’t like the ribbon. Many Word users can operate little else and changing the UI massively from what they are familiar with, and were trained to use will not be appreciated. But for a new generation of Word users I think this is an improvement.

  36. Jools says:

    Hi Jensen – lovin’ your work :o)

    I should be one of the ribbon haters, I’m one of the people who *does* use the less-used commands and it’s still taking me a while to get used to where they are, which is a novel experience!  I’m also a big keyboard shortcut user so I’m having to learn a whole new load of shortcuts.  (Alt+R,A,T used to align drawing objects by their top edge – can’t remember what it is now but I know it’s at least one extra keystroke.)  My brain hasn’t had to work this hard since I switched from WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS.

    But having said all that, the galleries are great, I totally see the point of the ribbon for the majority of users, and I’ll be there playing about with the customization tools just as soon as I can get my hands on them.

    Just one thing that would really make my life easier and save a lot of mouse wear-and-tear though… if it’s not to late can we pleeeease have the ability to make a tab ‘sticky’ on the ribbon?  Working in PowerPoint on drawing-heavy slides is a real pain when every time you go near a text box it switches you back to the Home tab, so you have to click back onto (say) the Format tab to get back to the tools you’re using.  The Review tab in Word seems more resilient, so maybe its just the logic on some of the apps needs tweaking so they don’t flip back to Home quite so readily, but it’s going to cause a lot of people to tear their hair out unless someone has a look at this :o(

  37. Patrick Schmid says:

    Jools: you should be able to stay within that contextual tab (Format), in the following situations:

    a) switching between shapes. If you just click on one shape after the other, the tab should stay up

    b) clicking away from a shape and then selecting it again. If you have a shape selected, click somewhere else (white space) and click on the shape again, and the tab will be back up

    The tab will go away though if you switch between a shape and a chart, or a shape and a picture. Essentially whenever you switch between different object types. Note that in PPT 2007, a textbox is equivalent to a shape.

    If you watch in what sequence you click, you can easily stay within the contextual tab.

    Last but not least, there is also the double-click. If you double-click any object (chart, picture, shape, SmartArt, etc), the contextual tab will automatically come into the foreground. That should get you what you are looking for in all other cases.

  38. Earlier Tim said he thought Microsoft betas were too commonand that they were more like unsupported released

  39. HHK says:

    The interface in this new beta version of Office is horrible, i feel like its designed for children or handicapped people with its interface. Its childish and just not user friendly. I for one can say i do not see myself in the foressable future purchasing this version because of this alone.

  40. P Cause says:

    Why not smaller icons / a more compact layout.  I appreciate the space, but it seems more like a quick hack that something that fundamentally addresses the problem.  It is still hard to use / find keyboard shortcuts and the like.

  41. Do you realize you improved the Ribbon 1000% by doing this? Seriously, SMART move. It makes much more sense in a collapsed state!

  42. Laurence Chiu says:

    I didn’t know you could minimise the ribbon bar until I went to a Microsoft presentation on the whole Office 2007 suite. That’s useful. I use the mini-bar a lot and find most of the normal editing options I want are there and it saves mouse movements. But what I find most frustrating is the inability to customise it. For example in Powerpoint I use full justification a lot but it’s not on the mini-bar. And for Word the only justification option is center. Can customising the mini-bar be provided?

  43. Jensen,

    OK. I see the point and actually prefer this to the previous version. However, that minimized ribbon at the top reminds me very much of the menus… Now, I lot of people found it very confusing with that hidding unused buttons in Office XP. I cannot honestly see much benefit here, when it is said that the ribbons "reveals" it all to the user… It remains buried under the ribbon and with the collapsing it just makes it clearer that there’s a design flaw here in terms of "visibility"…

    Not only that, the amount of work required to customize the ribbon in XML is obscene if compared to the old way… I had to go to great length to write code that would generate XML which I can use in customizing the ribbon… It is simply not on.

  44. Kurt Hammond says:

    Hmm. This is better than before, but we still have the problem that the ribbon bar is too large and cannot be customized. There are still a few issues (some addressed by others) that need to be addressed to make this as usable as the current menu/toolbar option.

    1. When the ribbon bar is enlarged, it covers the document I’m working on. I would have to scroll the document to ensure the area of interest is at least below the space that the ribbon bar will cover. Making it transparent would help somewhat.

    2. The ribbon bar is still too large. There doesn’t seem to be any way to make it take up less than the 100 or so vertical pixels it consumes now. Making it auto-hide seems a kludge to me. I really like Office 2003 where I can slide the toolbars around to make maximum use of the workspace.

    3. The Quick Access Toolbar is probably Microsoft’s answer, but the ribbon bar really needs to be more customizable. What is the point of using up so much screen space to make items ‘discoverable’ if I am always using the same items over and over again, and never have a need for the ‘discoverable’ items? It just creates clutter and makes it harder to zero in on the tool I want.

    4. While there are a complaints that the ribbon bar is too large, I think many of us agree the concept is useful, and would like the ribbon to not totally disappear. What about packaging Office 2007 with some ribbon bar "themes" for different types of user preferences?

    "Beginner" theme for new Office users (the current ribbon bar)

    "Advanced" ribbon bar for advanced users (would be customizable to never show items users don’t want to see)

    "Small Screen" ribbon bar for laptop or XGA or smaller screen users – would prevent the ribbon from taking up more than 30 vertical pixels of screen space

    I’m seeing that with every new release from Microsoft, the portion of the screen used by the UI (in its default configuration) is growing and the available workspace is shrinking. Until now it has been somewhat possible to reclaim that space. (Turn on "classic folders" in Windows XP, move around the toolbars, remove unnecesary items,even put the menubar and the toolbar on the same line (Internet/Windows Explorer))  

    Please continue to provide this high level of UI customizability for those of us who already know how to use the programs and don’t need the ‘discoverability.’ I have better things to do than learn how to justify text all over again.  

    Realize that there are users who need this new ‘discoverability’ and users that don’t, and cater to the UI requirements of each group. Also, not everyone has a 24" monitor. (Seriously – open a contact item in Outlook 2007 on an XGA or smaller screen – the UI takes up nearly half of the screen space.)

  45. Jensen:

    Since we have a scripting language inside ActiveWords, we would like to be able script anything that you can do with keyboard commands. I didn’t have time to read the entire thread, but will all the keyboard equivalents be exposed for availble somewhere so that we can continue to build agents that work inside O12. You can see what we have done here: http://www.activewords.com/plusapplications.html



  46. Ribbon looks good, and makes more sense than the traditional heirachical menus that you have to make time to discover all the functions.

  47. There has been a little flurry of rumours on the blogsphere including the ever excitable slashdot that…

  48. Pia Holm says:

    "Minimize the Ribbon" does not appear in the menu. All I get is "Customize Quick Access toolbar…" and "Place Quick Access Toolbar below the ribbon".

    The keyboard shortcut works, as does doubleclicking the active tab’s title, but neither keeps the ribbon permanently minimized.

  49. It was with a bit of surprise that I read a flurry of stories on Friday with breathless headlines like…

  50. I attended a conference where Chris Parkes gave a quick demo on the new features of the 2007 Office…

  51. [via Jensen Harris ] If you are a ThinkPad X60 user, you’ll realize that your max screen resolution is

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  53. Kam VedBrat says:

    I ran into an interesting foible using the Ribbon in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 today. I’m generally

  54. I ran into an interesting foible using the Ribbon in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 today. I'm generally

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