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Doug's Mailbag: Ribbon Coming to Windows 8

Readers react to the news that Windows Explorer in Microsoft's next OS will feature Office's controversial Ribbon toolbar:

I've used the ribbon for years and still hate it. It not only made 2007+ difficult to use but it made older versions, which I'm forced to use, confusing too. If ribbon is the future for Microsoft then Microsoft is not the future for me.

At first I despised the ribbon. Then, after a few sessions working with it in Word, Paint and Excel, I grew to like it. Plus, if the 'quick' click isn't readily available, customize the tool bar! The biggest problem with Office isn't the menu system, it's the ever-expanding feature list!

As a sysadmnin I agree the ribbon is not an enhancement. I thought at first I would like it, but in practice I don't. I think that arrogant MS should wise up and give people a CHOICE of what menus/tool bars and/or options to use. I also think that MS needs to realize that while techies can easily adapt to change, many users do not. Each time a UI changes it is a major deal -- not always a good one to those folks who don't adapt well to relearning. It also is a matter of efficiency. If it does not help productivity, (in my case it does not because I'm hunting for the features I use) why do it? Often I find myself just wanting to do it the old toolbar/menu driven way.

Way to tick-off your customers, Microsoft! Nothing like a 'my way or the highway' attitude to inspire customers to look for alternatives to your software.

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Posted on 09/14/2011 at 1:18 PM

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Oct 13, 2011 Bruce NYC

When Microsoft surveyed users for “what to add to Office 2007”, nearly 70% of all requests were for features already present in Office 2003. So, instead of just adding more functionality to an already over-burdened user interface that might never be noticed, Microsoft took the bold step of improving the user interface. The idea was to bring the functionality closer to the surface, making it more visible and to reduce the amount of navigation needed to get to it. Probably the biggest flaw was that file open and file print are accessible only by clicking the “office” button, a non-intuitive step. Given that little if any training was available (unlike the first user interface), most folks were left to their own devices to figure this out, and were understandably frustrated. We are heading towards an analogous situation in the Windows 8 UI. Microsoft has (correctly) realized that the existing “Start” user interface makes little use of the available screen real estate. To help users quickly and easily reach their most frequent destinations, Windows 8 provides a “Start Screen”. Like the Ribbon, the interface is more intuitive to first time users. But to almost everyone else, it is a huge change that is disruptive. In the absence of wide spread user training most users will again be left to their own devices, with similar frustrations. If Microsoft has learned anything from the Ribbon interface issue, it is that they must provide backwards compatibility by also maintaining the Windows 7 UI as an easily switched on alternative. Never forget that change, no matter how beneficial, is resisted.

Thu, Sep 15, 2011

I think feature bloat is more of a problem than the ribbon. If the default install only had choices for the features most people actually use (80/20 rule), it would be a lot easier for most people to learn and use. I probably only use 10% of the features in Office- if they had a 'Lite' version that ran faster, I'd be all over it.

Thu, Sep 15, 2011 Dan Iowa

Oh man! Do we have to talk about the Ribbon again? There is a generation of users coming up that have never known anything but the ribbon. If we brought menus back, they'd be yelling about it. You'd be writing asking whether your readers love or hate the new "Menus". Look there are some people who don't like change, and will always morn the loss of their menus. But seriously, how many smart phone users are saying, "I wish my phone had a menu interface"? How many Office users are saying, "I hate the ability to customize this Ribbon", or "I hate that I can do everything in two clicks instead of 3 or 4"? Just learn to use the Ribbon, and move on.

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 A Techie Seattle, WA

@Anonomyous #1: "As a sysadmnin I agree the ribbon is not an enhancement...I also think that MS needs to realize that while techies can easily adapt to change, many users do not...I'm hunting for the features I use...I find myself just wanting to do it the old toolbar/menu driven way." Clearly techies like you can adapt to change. :)

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 Mark NC

I love the ribbon, those who are incapble of using it must to total boneheads. When Office 2007 came out it took me a hour and I new it was great. Everything is right there no more searching for hidden icons. You can't pleae everyone. Maybe they should get a mac. Everytime I have to help my wife with her overpriced no money school system mac it drives me nuts. The bar at the bottom is idiotic.

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