The Story of the Ribbon

I was reading through commentary from people who attended last week's MIX conference in Las Vegas. Running across Miguel de Icaza's kind words reminded me that I hadn't posted a follow-up about my MIX talk yet.

Last week, I presented a session at MIX called "The Story of the Ribbon." I talked a bit about the general design process we used to come up with the Office 2007 user interface, to iterate on it, and to evaluate it. As part of the discussion, I showed for the first time some of the early prototypes we worked on (and abandoned or refined) along the way.

It's always fun to present substantially new content, and this was my first time giving large portions of this talk. The audience was great and, although you can't hear them on the video, they seemed to be into it and enjoying the presentation. It was a lot of fun!

Watch "The Story of the Ribbon"
(Video, audio, and slides)

Download "The Story of the Ribbon"
(Slides and audio only, Windows Media, 146 MB)

Alternate Formats:

Download for iPod
(.mp4, 121 MB)

Download the PowerPoint slides only
(.pptx, 20 MB)

Dowload the slides only as a PDF
(.pdf, 19 MB)

Although I showed a few prototypes, I truly only scratched the surface of what the team created during the design phase of Office 2007. I spent a weekend painstakingly going through thousands of pictures to choose a few representative samples to show. Because I only had 75 minutes, I knew clicking through 25,000 pictures probably wasn't going to work.

Here are photos of the beginning and the end of the talk courtesy of Long Zheng. (You'll have to watch the presentation to see what's in-between!)

Over the last few days, the screenshots of the evolution of Word from version 1.0 to 2003 have been lifted from this presentation and subsequently posted and reposted all over the web.

That's OK, but if you want to see the full, original screenshots along with the commentary and discussion, please read parts 2, 3, and 4 of the Why the UI? series of posts.

While at MIX, I also participated in a panel discussion called "What's the Secret Formula?" along with Mike Schroepfer from Mozilla, Dan Harrelson from Adaptive Path, and Daniel Makoski from the Surface team at Microsoft. This was an interesting discussion about some of the challenges inherent in delivering on great user experiences.

Watch "What's the Secret Formula?"

Thanks to everyone who came up and introduced themselves after the session and throughout MIX. I enjoyed talking to you and meeting so many of you face-to-face!

Comments (50)
  1. Ian Morley says:

    Excellent, very intersting talk… I’ll definitely be recommending this video to my design team.

  2. Sicarius says:

    Great and very informative presentation!

    I switched to Office 2007 back with Beta 2 and haven’t looked back ever since.

  3. Alex says:

    Really interesting!

  4. dré says:

    What about uploading the slides in a format I can read whithout having to buy the latest MS Office? (I’ve Office XP installed btw.) PDF would be prefect though.


  5. MaSala says:

    Thanks a lot, Jensen!

    Again, great presentation, and what a nice thing we can also download the ppt! I sure am going to use some of those style masters 😉

    So long,


  6. jensenh says:


    You can open .pptx files in Office XP, but you’ll need to have the Compatibility Pack installed first.  (Same goes for people who have Office 2003.)

    Here is the link:

    I will try to put them up in PDF format if I get time later today.

  7. Claus Christensen says:

    Hello Jensen,

    As a OpenOffice user – I’ll be happy to be able to download the slides in pdf or ppt-format.

    I really hope that format-issues wouldn’t happen to user beyond 2010. It is annoying and not quite a usability and user experience booster.

  8. I have just picked up this TED talk where Nicholas Negroponte describes the foundation of a system that

  9. Alexander says:

    Thank you, i really enjoyed this presentation, very informative!

    I really wonder why the mac version of office doesn’t have the full ribbon interface and other extremely usefull features like live preview for example. After i tried the beta 2 and final of office07 i couldn’t wait to get this on office for mac and i was quite disappointed when office08 for mac came out (clunky, slow, buggy, many missing features…dare i say.. bloated?) Its like all of the new cognitions your team made didn’t reach the mac office team. At the moment im still using office07 on xp with virtualization.

    Thanks anyway for your presentation,


  10. Nidonocu says:

    I watched this talk a few days ago when it was posted and loved it. Having read the blog I knew what was coming (and loved the ‘Myth’ gameshow bit, wish I could of seen the audience react to that!) but the new parts were very interesting!

    Since I lacked some currently, I’ve written up some ‘Design Tenets’ and Goals for my own project and they are already starting to help.

    Looking forward to when you can start to post again about what ever new stuff you are working on. 🙂

    Long live the Ribbon!

  11. dré says:


    thanks for the info. didn’t know that. pdf would still be preferred as I wouldn’t have to download and install additional software.

    cheers + thanks for looking into that,


  12. Robin Capper says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s a rare insight into the development of a UI for a complex product. The Office 2007 UI is nice but I also like the Fluent UI in Mindjet MindManager

  13. jensenh says:

    I put up a PDF version of the slides this morning.

    I do recommend watching the video however if you have a chance, as a lot of the content and context isn’t present in the slides.  (The deck itself is probably only marginally useful.)

  14. foobar says:

    Thank you for providing the video and the slides to your talk.

    I am using linux as operating system and studying computer science. I would appreciate if you could provide the video in a non-proprietary format which is not burried under a mountain of software patents. I think with only have seen the slides that many open source developers can learn from your experiences at Microsoft. Keep up the great work.

  15. Some of you may have already seen this posted in Jensen’s blog.  Jensen is the GPM of the

  16. jensenh says:

    Microsoft Studios did the video and it looks like they only encoded in WMV and MP4 formats.

    I’d recommend using something like Xine to play the .wmv file in Linux.  Here is the link: I’ve had good success with Xine + totem in the past.

  17. Some of you may have already seen this posted in Jensen’s blog.  Jensen is the GPM of the

  18. GoodThings2Life says:


    Great stuff. It’s definitely interesting to see the early prototypes, but I’m glad that you guys went with the Ribbon for the final version. Over the past year and a half, I’ve grown very accustomed to it and actually miss it when I’m in Publisher, OneNote, and Outlook. I really hope you guys implement it throughout the suite in the next version!

    Incidentally, over the past couple months I’ve been deploying it company-wide where I work. I’ve used a lot of the material on this blog to support my case that it’s worth the learning curve. Universally, people are happy with it once they get the hang of it, but the first impression is, of course, mixed.



  19. Hunje Cho says:

    Wow, wonderful presentation. I recommend watching the video clip. Thanks!

  20. Tim says:

    This is a very good video to show the design process. I have liked office 07 from the time of Beta testing it. When there was a chance at work to have it installed I jumped on it and now I’m the office expert. I completely agree with the Mastery idea as the difference from 03 to 07 is overwhelming at first but I would and will never go back. The product is solid. (I Ringer prototype looked fun, maybe called it the hobbit though) Congrads on the product and best wishing for improving on the next version of office this is going to be hard to make better, but as always our creations can find a good place here and there to tweak.


  21. Tobbi says:

    Nice flashback. Thank you for the presentation.

  22. Lu says:

    Your presentation was excellent; I wish I had seen it when I purchased MS 2007.  I have to admit the ribbon was overwhelming when I first started to use Word and Access, however, I am amazed at how logical the tabs become as you have functions with new projects.  Thanks so much.

  23. BoltBait says:

    Ribbon Interface = Worst. Idea. Evar.

    How can I turn it off and get back to my menus and button bars?

  24. ehhh says:

    I don’t want to spoil the general back paddling, but you managed to irritate most of my office with MSo2007. After working with excel for more than 10 years you learn how to do things. And with the new UI I would have to spend at least 1-2 months to have the same productivity. And all the customizations – gone… Its not worth it, rolling back to 2003.

  25. Vitaliy says:

    So good and useful video.

    I am constant reader of your blog for two years (not many posts last year 🙂 ) and used its fragments for my interface design courses. I am quite disappointed to find little paper prototypes in this video.

    I have one question and one remark.

    Q. Is it possible to get high definition video (at least 1024×768) with separate voice and effects( and music) channels. As I want to create localized version, but effects and music are amazing.

    R. I wanted to look at slides at my old computer, but PowerPoint 2007 Viewer is complete nightmare. Upon install it modified width of each column in All Programs (Start menu). It also installed his own fonts ironically making your page almost unreadable without ClearType. And finally – it even did not start. I know that my XP is running since 2001 and passed 3 computers :-), but other software is fine.

    So, try to make PPT from this presentation.

  26. Great video.

    However, I’m curious about Outlook. It’s part of the Office suite, but it doesn’t look or feel like Word, Excel and Powerpoint. What’s the story there?

  27. gemini says:

    BoltBait, unfortunately there’s no way to "turn off" the Ribbon and get back the old UI, despite there being many calls from long time users for it. You can, however, get a plug-in from You can download a trial version. The actual one costs about $30, if memory serves me right.

    ehhh, yours isn’t the first case I’ve heard. However, it appears MS is desperately trying to increase the number of Office 2007 users. Recently, I found out from a VERY reliable source that a major financial institution has advised their employees that they can purchase the Enterprise edition of Office 2007 for $19.95!

  28. Robin says:

    Free (?) alternative for classic UI is:

    Haven’t tried them out though as I think an UI that probably millions of people want back, really should be provided by MS.

    Btw: How much money makes MS with a million of

    Office 2007 licenses? Not enough to give them the option to use the classic UI they want?

  29. Lam says:

    Hi Jensen,

    great presentation, thank you for sharing this, I really enjoyed watching it!

    I’d like to ask you a question about the Print menu item, why didn’t it made its way to the Home Ribbon or to the Quick Access Toolbar? Usage statistics as well or something else?

    I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I’ve heard some people arguing about this.

  30. Le moins que l’on puisse dire, c’est que l’introduction, par Microsoft, de sa nouvelle interface utilisateur (UI) dans ses logciels phares (Ms-Office), le ruban (the Ribbon), n’est pas passée inaperçue. En règle générale, les "power utilisateurs&quo

  31. Le moins que l’on puisse dire, c’est que l’introduction, par Microsoft, de sa nouvelle interface utilisateur (UI) dans ses logciels phares (Ms-Office), le ruban (the Ribbon), n’est pas passée inaperçue. En règle générale, les "power utilisateurs&quo

  32. EURESIS says:

    Le moins que l’on puisse dire, c’est que l’introduction, par Microsoft, de sa nouvelle interface utilisateur (UI) dans ses logciels phares (Ms-Office), le ruban (the Ribbon), n’est pas passée inaperçue. En règle générale, les "power utilisateurs&quo

  33. m_anter says:

    First of all, thanks for the presentation, I really enjoyed it.

    Here’s my problem: I have a simple question that seems to have no answer. I tried the Word Team Blog and the Discussion Groups, but with no result at all.

    It’s related to the Table of Authorities feature in Word 2007. I just want to know why cann’t I replace the category of a TOA entry using the replace feature? If the feature doesn’t work, or this a bug or something like that.. it’s ok. I just want to make sure that it’s not something wrong in the steps I follow.

    Thanks in advance for your help

  34. Revisando las estadísticas de mi blog veo que la historia de la interfaz de Office 2007 se ha convertido

  35. Yaig says:

    Have you began to work on the next version of Office, yet?

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