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Doug's Mailbag: Loving (and Hating) the Ribbon

Last week, Doug asked for your verdicts on the Office ribbon (and the source of the line "Who, who will not wear the ribbon?"). Here are some of your thoughts:

The line "Who, who will not wear the ribbon?" comes from, of course, "Seinfeld," when Kramer is in the walkathon. That was easy, since that episode was on a recently (of course, all the episodes seem to be on recently).

Like all new things, the ribbon takes awhile to get used to; once you get used to it, it becomes an "old" thing. And then something "new" comes out. I was not crazy about the ribbon but after wearing, using it, I've gotten used to it, and in general it does make some things easier to find.

Kramer was in an AIDS walk and would not wear the ribbon. I knew my years of watching "Seinfeld" would come in handy some day...

I have been using Office 2007 for about a year. I hated it for the first month. In fact, I kept both Office 2003 and 2007 on my computer and kept going back to 2003. I finally broke down and learned how to use the ribbon. After I started using it, I can't go back to the old way. Things are more organized and easier to find.

I love the ribbon.

My vote: I hate the MS Office ribbon.

The ribbon is the nicest thing Microsoft ever did for me. I really can't stand fly-out menus, and have hated every last one since they were introduced. Office 2003 was truly a torture to use due to those awful moving menus. I know what I want to click. I know the command is buried three menus deep. I try to slide the mouse ever so carefully. The mouse hits a crumb/dust speck/God only knows what...poof! Menu is gone -- again! I even tried OpenOffice and StarOffice just to make it stop, but they had no features.

Now that I have the ribbon, my commands are not only in plain sight, they sit still! The ribbon has made me love Office all over again, maybe more than ever. And you know what? After the first week or two of learning the new menu, I am so much faster and more productive than before, and people have actually asked me how I make such cool-looking documents and reports. Yeah, they asked me. Me! Isn't that crazy? I love the ribbon, I'd buy the T-shirt and, yes, everyone will have to learn it, because I will never go back to that horrible old interface. You'll have to pry my ribbon from my cold, dead hand!

I am a speed freak and I hate the ribbon! One, your eyeball has to move side to side the entire width of the screen, and also up and down at the same time in a zig-zag motion. While you're doing this, you have to process hieroglyphics and some "helpful" text -- way too much processing for my poor dual-core CPU sitting inside my left and right brain. Two, I make extensive use of keyboard shortcuts. My fingers are like a second brain to me; they know what shortcut sequence to tap out when I want to do something. I noticed on the old menu, the average shortcut sequence was three keys, but on the new one it's four. So my fingers need to know twice as much as before (2 to the third power versus 2 to the fourth).

Three, in Word I usually work with a tall, narrow window off to one side of my laptop screen, as I'm making notes on what I'm looking at simultaneously in my other windows. The ribbon menu is an even bigger hassle when you scrunch it down to a narrow-width window! Often, I have to maximize my window just to figure out what the ribbon is trying to say. And four, I'm in Tier 3 tech support. It takes even more time now to tell somebody what to do if they aren't a ribbon-head. Like, if you want to attach a file, click the "Message" menu and look for the "Include" section (which is after "Names") then "Include File," but if you're not maximized (do you know what that means?) you won't see those words, so just look for the paper clip thingy and click on it. It's much easier to say, "Click on the Insert menu, then Attach file."

I can't take it much longer! But Windows rules in the government space, which is where I work, so I'm living with it.

In Office 2010, will there be a way of modifying the ribbon without having to use programming tools, perhaps something like the modifications to toolbars in the previous versions of Office? There are features that I'd like to use, like changing the type case of a section of a document, but I can't find that feature anymore, and there are few things I hate worse than programming. In the words of Rowan Atkinson, I spurn it as I would spurn a rabid dog.

And by the way, the quote you mentioned comes from "Seinfeld" season 7, episode 119: "The Sponge."

Got some thoughts of your own about the ribbon (or anything else Microsoft- and IT-related, for that matter)? Send them to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on 07/29/2009 at 1:16 PM


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