Ribbon myths and rumours dispelled

There has been a little flurry of rumours on the blogsphere including the ever excitable slashdot that we have radically changed the ribbon, making it much smaller.  Some are saying that we are even backing away from the ribbon or that we received "complaints" that it was too big.

I've checked with the source that is Jensen and his team and this is not the case.  All we can think of is that somebody got confused about the minimised ribbon feature which has been in there from the beginning.  There have been some recent improvements to the way the minimised ribbon works I suppose - e.g. a sort of "autohide" so that now it will return to a minimised state after using a feature.

Check out Jensen's posts which include videos of these features:

Part 1: Taking the minimized ribbon to the max

Part 2: Nice for mice: menu tabs

We remain very committed to the ribbon in both maximised and minimised forms and feedback has been very positive.

Not sure where this misinformation started but it seems it may have been one of our own people speculating in a presentation.

Microsoft Australia technical specialist John Hodgson said the change came about after complaints from some customers. "One of the feedbacks we got is that it takes up too much room," he said during a presentation at Tech.Ed 06 in Sydney.

Anyway, sorry John, this is just plain wrong.  Perhaps he was quoted out of context or something so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Comments (16)

  1. Phew. It took a little getting used to (like, a few days of normal use) but I’m a convert. I feared the worse when I read the news on /., but was a little skeptical given the source. Thanks for setting things straight.

  2. Marc Orchant says:

    Darren – there are, sadly, many people complaining about the ribbon and regardless of the "real" reason for adding the autohide, it does look like a concession. Personally, I love using the ribbon and, on the rare occasion when I am forced to go back to Office 2003, it feels so inefficient and awkward.

    I’ve said on my blog and podcast that the people wwho are pushing back hardest on the ribbon are power users and command-line fans who are so conditioned to having exact control over everything that the ribbon feels like a penalty. Their work styles are very idiosyncratic and the riboon’s attempts to put command in context to their activity runs counter to the elaborate set ups, macros, and text strings they have constructed and mastered to accomplish their work.

    The vast majority of users I have demonstrated the ribbon to, whose use of the core Office applications is more casual (but no less frequent) are delighted with how the ribbon works and, as a general rule, cannot wait to use it.

    Losing the Task Pane, dropping persinalized menus, and introducing the ribbon add up to a huge win in usability for most people in my opinion.

  3. dstrange says:

    well argued Marc and I see what you mean now about it seeming like a concession.  This is being reported as Microsoft gives up on their ribbon idea though and that is definately a wrong perception which I wanted to correct.  thanks for the insight.

  4. Glenn says:

    At first the ribbon is a bid confusing, but after a little while, it works realy well.

    There are some features that I have been unable to find though. It would be nice if there was an integrated, converter like tool.

  5. Marc:


    > the people wwho are pushing back hardest

    > on the ribbon are power users and command-

    > line fans


    Did you encourage them to keep using their keystrokes? Most of the ones I used before still seem to work (not an exhaustive test, but…).


    Also, I don’t quite see how they have *less* control. How many commands have been removed?

  6. Philip Colmer says:

    I agree that it is the power users that are going to suffer the most. I consider myself to be quite adept at using Word and Outlook and I’m still (after a few months) trying to find some of the features.

    That said, for 80-90% of the average user, the ribbon interface is a winner. It really helps those people who don’t absolutely know their way around.

    I just wish there was a solution for the people do DID know their way around and now don’t ‘cos it has all changed. I’ll get there :-).

  7. Jensen finally puts this one to rest as he confirmed to me last week.  It is interesting how these…

  8. Vincent says:

    I downloaded the Beta 2 version of Microsoft Office. After one week of using it, I just hate it so much I’m ready to change. This is a classic case of focusing on the container instead of the content. It sure is all pretty, but the most basic functionalities have been hidden so well, I spend my time trying to find them. I had to customize menus to display simple functions such as “Save as” and Open new document, to sedn an email with an attachment, I have to change tab, attache, re-change tab and click on send, and after one week I have not found the button to rotate an object in PowerPoint. Since I now have lost all my points of references, I’m ready to give a try to something else. Google Office maybe.

    What were you guys thinking? The biggest barrier to competition for Office was that you guys defined the standard for Office UI. Like many others, I have perfected my Excel and Powerpoint skills over time with every Office upgrade and can now almost handle my documents with my eyes closed. It’s like a riding a bike, you don’t think about it, you just do it. Now that i need to rethink my all behavior, i may actually go for one of those web-based solutions.

  9. dstrange says:

    Vincent, sorry to hear the frustration.  Our trials indicate that people take between 2 days and 2 weeks to go through the adjustment so perhaps stick at it a little longer.

    For more information on "what we were thinking" I recommend a read of Jensen’s blog, especially the "why the UI" category:


    I take the point that there is an extra click sometimes to switch tabs or press the office "transformer" logo for things like save as.  The Quick Access Toolbar is there for those features you feel you want always there though.  The bottom line however is that we cannot continue in the same approach though – there is NO MORE ROOM at the inn.  There was no option but to come up with a contextual interface.

    If you get stuck looking for a feature have a look at the where did it go site where you click on a 2003 mockup and it shows you where it went (word, powerpoint and excel):


    On rotating an object I just tested it.  I inserted a picture in a slide.  select the image, the format tab appears.  The rotate icon is right there (same icon as 2003) or just drag the rotate handle on the image itself (same as 2003).  I can’t imagine how that would take a week to find?

    Check the screenshot:


  10. vincent says:

    2 days to 2 weeks? Out of curiosity, what was the adjustment time for the previous updates? In my case, it was 0 seconds (new features were added, but the basic was still at the same place), so that sounds like a HUGE change, no?

    Another example, i was trying to open the powerpoint document with the object rotating issue: it used to be simple, the file menu was displaying my most recent 9 documents. i’d use this function to open 50% of my documents. Now? gone. I just spent 5 minutes looking for a way to quickly access the most recently opened documents and could not find it in any of the tabs or in the quick access toolbar.

    I cannot spend 5-10 min finding each function. I’m surprised you guys think that people will just endure this.

    Anyway, here is the document in question: it was created with Powerpoint 2003 and i was just trying to rotate the arrows differently. First when i select an arrow, the free rotate handle is gone, then the menu does not switch to the relevant tab and finally the rotate menu in the format tab does not give me a free rotate option, even when i click on "more rotating options" Not sure how deeper you expect me to search for that function, but i went back to 2003 to finish my document. See pic:



  11. dstrange says:

    Vincent, you are missing the point.  We have reached the end of the road with our past approach.  There is NO MORE ROOM for us to put any more into the product without moving to a contextual interface.  You don’t have to tell me this is a radical change and with that is a certain amount of risk but we strongly believe we have to make this change now.  Read Jensen’s blog, the arguement is compelling.  Also check the link which shows where features have gone.  In the case of recent docs, they haven’t moved! Click the top left on the office transformer (where "file") used to be and its there. The PowerPoint example looks like a bug to me, it should look like the picture I posted.  send me an email and we can look into that together.  

    You are right, this release is by far the biggest we have put out for 10 years and the adjustment is going to larger than in the past.  Of course if you really hate it then just stick to 2003 🙂

    Drop me an email using the "email" link at the top of the blog.  

  12. Jensen finally puts this one to rest as he confirmed to me last week. It is interesting how these things

  13. dan says:

    Sorry, the ribbon is an atrocity of user interface design. You guys presumed you could produce something better than 30 years of GUI research and refinement by thousands of developers with feedback from millions of users. You were arrogant and wrong, and you should be kicked back to a college level GUI course for a refresher in the basics.

    The whole point of the menubar system is that it organizes commands in an easy to skim fashion and allows the highest possible degree of similarity both between programs with disparate command sets and similar programs from different vendors. Humans can very quickly skim columns of text, especially when they have reasonable expectations as to what some of the columns contain. The metaphors and organization of commands has been hammered out over two decades of commercial software development. The principles go back farther than that. Why do you think periodicals lay text out in predominantly tall columns instead of wide rows? How is the ribbon layed out? Hmmm….

    Humans are NOT good at quickly skimming and understanding a large number of unique icons. They also are NOT good at recognizing and reading text that is not layed out in a predictable fashion (columns and rows). What do you guys do? Throw out dozens of never before seen icons with text scattered all over the place. I’ve hunted the ribbom looking for basic commands, only to resort to help to discover that I had passed the command, both icon and text, repeatedly in my search.

    Further, your organization is non-intuitive. Several times I’ve tried to predict the tab on which a command was hidden, only to find it, 5 minutes and a help search later, on a tab I never would have guessed. The worst offender of this is "Home". What is the "home" object in Excel? Someone explain that to me. Because I know how files and editing are metaphors for commands in software, but I don’t begin to understand what metaphor a home serves in an office suite. Will there soon be a bedroom tab? A kitchen tab? What commands will go there?

    And why in heaven’s name would I think to click on a Microsoft logo to get a menu of file related commands? (First time I went looking for Save As I gave up, and resorted to copy/paste and a text editor. Next day I searched help. Why would a logo contain a menu, and how would I ever predict what would appear in that menu based on the logo?)

    Please don’t try to convince me that the ribbon saves space or enables you to add more features. Applications have provided contextual menubars and submenus since the mid 80’s. And I guarantee more commands can be tucked away in a menubar than in the ribbon. You certainly don’t have more tabs than can occupy a menubar, the icons consume far more space than there are rows in a menu, and your popups could at best contain an equal number of elements to submenus. You’ve wasted space like you’ve wasted end user’s time.

    To those of you who say you like the ribbon or have gotten used to it: would you like it in every program? Everyone using their own icons, assigning their own meanings to common icons, scattering text as they please, with their own tab arrangement, context sensitive rules, and labeling?

    Or do you plan on only using one or two programs?

    It has been well over a decade since I’ve sat in front of a piece of software and couldn’t begin using it right away. The ribbon reduced me to frustrated minutes looking for basic commands and constant help searches. I would have gotten along faster with a command line app and a good single-page reference. IT’S THAT BAD.

    I will not be purchasing or installing Office 2007 on my home PC. My employer asked me to evaluate it and after two weeks I’ve told my employer to avoid it at all costs and give me back my old copy of Office.

    I think this will be a big chance for open source office suites to gain marketshare. If Vista looks or behaves anything like Office 2007, it will be a big chance for Apple and Linux as well.

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