News

Sun Testing Ribbon-Like UI in OpenOffice.org

Engineers at Sun Microsystems rolled out a new user interface prototype for OpenOffice.org that looks like the "ribbon" UI found in Microsoft Office 2007.

The UI prototype was announced by Sun's Project Renaissance team last week. The prototype is not polished, but users can try it out now, according to a Sun blog. It requires Java 6 to run.

OpenOffice.org is an open source productivity suite that has applications similar to those found in Microsoft Office. Sun offers OpenOffice.org to users for free. Microsoft Office 2007 currently costs about $300 retail for the Standard full edition.

Sun's ribbon-like UI prototype for OpenOffice.org was greeted with dismay by Slashdot readers. Many have found the Microsoft's ribbon UI to be confusing to use -- at least initially.

The menu commands on Microsoft's ribbon change depending on the document's context and what the user is doing. Microsoft made the switch from its old menu system, which is still found in Office 2003, because the old UI had become too sprawling as new features were added to Office.

Veteran Microsoft blogger and Redmond magazine contributor Mary-Jo Foley noted the dismay. Foley has heard complaints from readers about the ribbon UI. Letters expressing a mixture of love and hate for the ribbon have poured into Redmond magazine's mailbox.

Sun first launched its Project Renaissance in late October to address the "antiquated look and feel" of OpenOffice.org's UI. The project also aimed to deal with the same sort of overstuffing of functions in the menu system that drove Microsoft to create its ribbon UI in the first place.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Jan 18, 2011

The ribbon is fantastic. Office 2010 is much easier to use because of it. The Autodesk products which use it are far easier to use because of it. It is an important improvement.

Sun, Feb 28, 2010 steve Nevada

So, Open Office is at it now, eh? As an MS Office user at work, I've become quite adept at working my way around the menu, and indeed have made my own menu using the CustomUIEditor. With the help of some folks around the planet, via the MSDN Developers boards, I'm getting pretty good. My reason for posting today, is that at home I use a MAC- Powerbook G4, and am using NeoOffice. As a handful might empathize, I've gotten too comfortable with the ribbon menu, and would really like to have it on the NeoOffice interface. Has anyone found any code to start a ribbon from scratch for NeoOffice for the MAC G4?

Sat, Sep 19, 2009 Andrew Utah

I actually prefer the Ribbon. I only own macs at home, but I like Office 2007 so much that I bought Parallels to run Office 2007 in a VM on my Mac. In a few years, the majority of people will prefer the Ribbon UI, simply because that is what they will be used to. If Open Office doesn't make the transition it will die out with Office 2003.

Thu, Aug 20, 2009 Stanley H. Hampton compton, ca.; 90221

Dear Sir: Please send me a complimentary copy of MS Office Standard 2007 to: 1019 N. Harris Avenue, Compton, CA. 90221. My telephone number is 310-638-1044. Thank you.

Tue, Aug 11, 2009

It's a smart move--especially making it optional. OO is competing head-on, so it needs to be as easy of a transition from Micro$oft as possible. Mimicking the ribbon to appeal to users who have never used the old menus is a good move. I've gotten used to the 2007 ribbon, but I don't like it. I'd love it if M$ would include the option for the old menus in SP3.

Tue, Aug 11, 2009 Patrick

Its funny, I thought I was the only one who hated the ribbon UI, everyone else at work seems to like it. I think OO needs to look at open source Flash like technology such as Appcelerator and build a very rich transitional UI that is engaging and eye candy. Some hard core OO users might think that building eye candy is a distraction or not important but you have to wow the masses and make a product engaging. Picture a Best Buy with Joe avg user walking up to one of the display laptops and on their OO is installed (because its free) an the UI is so impressive and beautiful (like the UI of the iPhone) that he buys. Yes, OO will still need to do all of the things it does today but to see it become main stream, it needs to wow.

Mon, Aug 10, 2009

It is OPTIONAL morons. If you don't want it don't use it. As the ribbon becomes more ubiquitous many will welcome it as an OPTION!!!!!!

Fri, Aug 7, 2009 koolbob Roswell, GA

Imitating Microsoft Office 2007 is not a real smart move for Open Office. I have to use Office 2007, occasionally, it is not intuitive, and it is a real pain to use.

Fri, Aug 7, 2009

Open office is a godsend for small buisnesses and non profits. We don't geek out on coding semantics we just appreciate any IT savings during these times. Open Office works as it claims and that's all I care about to do my buisness.

Thu, Aug 6, 2009 Jon

Monkey see, monkey do. I thought Office 2007's ribbon was so universally hated that no idiot would try to rip it off. This really surprises me. Hopefully Open Office will have the sense to provide an option to revert to the familiar interface.

Thu, Aug 6, 2009 Ron Iowa, USA

The "Ribbon" interface is far from intuitive. The idea that sometimes a command is there, sometimes it is not has proved an annoyance ever since Microsoft began "taking away" menu items you haven't used recently. There are billions of users of computers who have years of experience finding what they are looking for and where they are looking for it. Maybe if there is an option to use the traditional menu system and a ribbon type interface people can move to it when they feel comfortable. (Maybe a new menu system which you can have, "simple" basic functionality and "advanced" all functionality. This would also help fix the "overstuffing of functions". If you don't use tables frequently in a word processing document, why do you need a complete menu up there all the time? Or, use the "innovation" of hmm, you have not used any of the advanced features on this menu for over a month (not a week or whatever the Microsoft timeframe is) I am going to limit this menu to the basic functionality (not just what you have used recently). Just some ideas.

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