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Doug's Mailbag: More Thoughts on the Ribbon

On the heels of Wednesday's ribbon-centric mailbag, here are more of your letters regarding the new Office UI:

Absolutely hate the ribbon. Takes up too much space. For the life of me, I do not understand why Microsoft would make such a major change without allowing users the option to have their old setup. Are they so afraid of rejection that they force it down the users' throats?

About 50 percent of the users at the firms I am a consultant for like the new setup; 50 percent hate it. But I will tell you that the ribbon has slowed acceptance at most firms. With a user support base of over 100, only about 20 computers are running Office 2007. The rest are mostly Office 2003 with a scattering of XP and 2000.

I like (not love) the ribbon. I was willing to give it a try before I condemned MS for an unasked-for new set of features. At first I really hated it, but decided there had to be a rhyme to the unreason. So I looked at it from a "what's the paradigm" standpoint. Once I did that, the organizational structure seemed more cohesive and I think I can find more features more easily with it than with the previous interface.

Most users don't have my background, though, and I know lots of them who LOATHE (not dislike, LOATHE) it.

Personally, I think the ribbon bites. For me, though, it's about navigation through the interface. Much of it just doesn't seem intuitive, particularly when creating form fields in Word, for instance. Menu path Developer > Design Mode > Protect...etc. I had to Google "forms in Word 2007" to learn that!

I don't like the ribbon, but more importantly, I don't like that Microsoft moved things around so much. I could live with a ribbon organized around the old menus, but why is the PivotTable in the Insert menu instead of the Data menu? If you are deleting rows (important to get rid of 'space' in simply cleared-out cells), being able to access the Edit menu for Delete would be helpful. You can right-click the rows but you can't unless you have the entire row already selected, which you can't do by hitting Ctrl+Shift+End.

I have a million other examples that are beyond annoying. I keep two laptops active, one with the old version and one with the new version of Office. I've figured out everything that I need to do in Office 2007 but everything takes about 25 percent longer.

One good thing about the ribbon: It keeps entry-level positions available in IT as scores of curmudgeonly users need assistance figuring out how to do Office tasks they've done for years. Old dogs and new tricks.

One bad thing about the ribbon: Even experts like me are unnecessarily less efficient as we Google to figure out where old functions have found a new home. Unfortunately, MSFT forced a change to feign the appearance of evolution in the suite.

I thought you might like to hear from a typical user who also teaches students and teachers how to use this software. Of course, having to teach others how to use something is the fastest way to learn it yourself, so I picked the ribbon up pretty quickly. But even when explaining it to others, I find the system works really well, for the most part. I definitely love the Quick Access Toolbar, which eliminates the need to deal with the tabs most of the time.

There are some things that seem less intuitive, such as the increased difficulty in inserting slides from a file in PowerPoint. But mainly, I really like the ribbon.

I love the Office ribbon. I teach college-level classes in office applications, and of course MS Office 2007 has been the staple for a number of years. Students switching from the old pull-down interface to the ribbon usually are less than excited at first. No one seems to like change. The Office button hiding the old File commands hides some of the most used commands. But normally, after students use the ribbon and find the logic and elegance of context-sensitive tools, they quickly become advocates.

I hope the ribbon survives and becomes the model for future interfaces.

I just finished doing battle with the ribbon. Actually, not with the ribbon itself, but with the content of the ribbon. A customer of mine had a simple request: He'd like to be able to insert a name and address from his Outlook contacts into a Word 2007 document. Back in the day, there used to be an Insert Address button that you could customize on the icon bar quite easily. It would make sense to have that simple feature part of the "insert" ribbon. Well, even though several Microsoft 'help' documents reference the Insert Address button in 2007, it was nowhere to be found (or I haven't looked under the correct rock).

I did finally find the Address Book under All Commands. I'm only able to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar. Why can't you add it to the ribbon? Also, in order to add the company to the pasted address, you need to dig up an obscure document which has you write a formatting script and insert it using the Building Block feature.

I still prefer the old interface. It is much more difficult to find the seldom-used menu options.

But frankly, Andrew's tired of hearing about ribbon this, ribbon that:

OK, Doug, is it a slow day at the office? Enough with the ribbon!

Check in on Monday for more reader letters, including thoughts on Microsoft's anti-piracy efforts. Meanwhile, write a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 02/26/2010 at 1:17 PM


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