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Doug's Mailbag: Support and the Ribbon

Here are a couple of e-mails concerning the Ribbon, and the death of Office XP and Vista SP1:

Office XP is awfully long in the tooth now. After all, it was followed by Office 2003 and Office 2007 well before Office 2010 became available. Users should never allow themselves to fall more than two versions behind any version of software upon which they are dependent. That just guarantees you trouble down the road. I agree that the Ribbon takes some getting used to but those older versions of Office had so many features before the Ribbon that I had terrible time finding. With the Ribbon perhaps these little know features will be easier to find in the future. In an ideal world, Microsoft would let users of the newest version of an application opt for the last versions interface. Of course, this is just putting off the inevitable.

As for Vista SP1, I say tough beans. Service Pack 2 for Vista has been available as a free download for a long time now, and users who do not install the latest Service Packs shortly after they become available are just asking for trouble. One doesn't need to be an 'early adopter' but being a 'late adopter' carries with it its own unique pitfalls. Like it or not, things change.

I really like the new Ribbon interface of Office 2007/2010. Some of the main tabs may be poorly labeled and there is probably more wasted space, but I DO NOT miss the Menu / Toolbar system of Word 2003! Things were buried in menu systems 3 and 4 levels deep. None of the labels made any sense, and if you missed moving the mouse ever so slightly your menu collapses and you have to start navigating all over again! The tool bars might have had a much higher icon density but they had quarks just as bad (if not worse).

Word is a very feature-full and a very mature product. I strongly believe that the problem is not Ribbon vs. no Ribbon -- it's just when you pack that many features into one product you're likely going to be doing a lot more hunting than you would like. Well, the hunt was reset for those who internalized Word 2003 but it doesn't mean that the new user interface is poorly designed. Kids and people new to word processing seem to pick up the concept of the Ribbon better than they did in Word 2003 -- there is more information available at a glance in the form of tab headers, group heaters, etc.
- Nate

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Posted by Doug Barney on 07/13/2011 at 1:18 PM


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