back to article Windows 8 ribbon entangles Microsoft

Microsoft is tangled up in ribbons again. This time its plan to expand the Office 2007 look-and-feel in Windows 8 is putting its Windows group president on the defensive. The company has confirmed reports dating from earlier this year that it is revamping the Explorer interface in Windows 8 to feature a ribbon UI. Only, as …


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  1. Piro

    Hold on with the slagging off

    Because I actually like what I see so far. Explorer looks fat, but you could always hide the ribbon until you hit alt, presumably.

    The quick-access toolbar looks great, and since it assigns a keybind to each item, explorer has never been better for power users, by the looks of it.

  2. Neil 23


    Hopefully, someone will do what they did for Office and develop a ribbon add-on that emulates the menu structure, so we can go back to doing things the easy way.

  3. Andrew Baines Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I like the ribbon

    There - I've said it. Anyway, anything is better than the 'press the alt-key to see options appear' that we have in IE now.

    1. The BigYin

      Calling all Regitards


    2. smalga

      bl00dy hell..

      I didn't realise the File menu was still there in Windows 7 until you mentioned pressing alt! (Not that noticed it was missing..)

      But I do detest the ribbon in Office - if you could choose between ribbon and File menu, I would definitely choose the latter..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But that's just it..

        You can go for the File menu look!

        As Piro mentioned; once you hide the ribbon you'll be left with a regular pulldown "menu look" and no icons visible, just as if you we're looking at a pulldown menu. The main difference will be when pressing a keyboard combo: instead of a pulldown menu a section with icons will be visible. And once you're done they'll disappear again.

        I don't see the problem here to be honest. Especially since we should never forget who the main target is here: the end users and not so much the 'power users'.

        Personally I think this may very well open up the Explorer for a whole larger share of people.

      2. sab0tage

        What's wrong with the ribbon?

        Don't people like easy to find, logically organised menus these days? It took me 5 minutes to figure out (and love) the Ribbon, at long last I could forget having to move my mouse like an epileptic through a maze of menu trees.

        I do believe that anyone who doesn't think the Ribbon is easier to use has some sort of brain damage and probably can't tie their own shoe laces.

        1. TheItCat

          Re: "Don't people like easy to find, logically organised menus these days?"

          Yes, we do. Why else would we hate the ribbon so much?

          Where's the facepalm icon?

        2. Brendan Sullivan

          @sab0tage Re: What's wrong with the ribbon?

          The question is what constitutes a "logically organized" menu. For people who have been using Windows for close to 20 years the File menu is fairly logical (File operations under 'File", help items under 'Help', etc) while the Ribbon interface rearranges everything into a more contextual or task specific menu system which requires people to cast aside years or decades of experience and learn the menu structure from scratch (which becomes even more difficult when the Ribbon becomes 'adaptive' and starts arranging itself based on your interactions with it). Also consider that the File Menu interface is either shared with or similar to the menu interface used by many other OS interfaces (I have seen versions of AT&T Unix from the early 80's with similarly structured UIs); for people who have to move between multiple OSs and interfaces (I generally deal with at least 5 different OS/Windowing systems in a normal day) having at least some similarity between them is extremely important.

          If a ribbon interface is your first UI experience then you might well find it easy to pick up but for people with 10, 20 or even 30 years of GUI use behind them it is extremely disruptive.

    3. Andrew Martin 1
      Thumb Up


      The ribbon is almost entirely responsible for getting me onto MS Office, after years of preferring OpenOffice.

      1. gerryg

        Are you real?

        I don't know how much you paid for MS Office, however, I'm curious to know how a ribbon adds so much value to a product that you're prepared to pay for it over an (apparentty) otherwise adequate office suite

        And of course if you were _really_ troling you would have said something like "LibreOffice worth what you pay for it" and lobbed in something about freetards

        So I do believe you, honestly, do tell

        1. Andrew Baines Silver badge

          Yes, I'm, real!

          I get Office as part of my Action Pack subscription, along with SBS & Visual Studio - bargain.

          If someone could come up with a decent alternative to all the software MS give me for £300 pa, I'd consider switching, but right now, it looks a bargain.

          1. Robert E A Harvey

            funny sort of bargain

            You pay £300 a year to rent software and consider it a bargain?

            Can I interest you in this bottle of universal medicine for only 975 pounds? It even tastes like lemonade.

        2. ThomH Silver badge


          I prefer Office to OpenOffice/LibreOffice because the ribbon allows me to navigate by shape. The traditional approach to toolbars long ago became a large grid of tiny icons that you have to inspect one by one. The pull-down-but-with-graphics approach of the Ribbon is much easier because the different sizing and positioning of buttons lets you approach the problem spatially, so that much more of it is innate rather than conscious.

          In versions of Office long gone, I'd spent about 20 minutes after install just disabling toolbars and pointless toolbar icons to get to a state where navigation wasn't a chore. The old pull downs that hide unused features are actually a problem rather than a solution since every time you use one of the features you otherwise ignore for maybe 95% of the time the positioning of items is changed. So your navigation is off again.

          And the standard rules of requiring user customisation apply: 90% aren't going to bother, you're going to be hampered every time you use anybody else's machine and you're going to spend a ridiculous amount of time syncing your various machines.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        One fewer user to support in OpenOffice/LibreOffice...

    4. Ammaross Danan

      Ribbons and statistics

      Since the "most used" commands are likely Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V and the Delete key, I'm sure that will skew the weights for how often New Folder is selected from the context menu or Send To -> USB drive. I know that I WON'T use a fancy button on a ribbon for cut and paste, just because it's the "most used" commands or hotkeys. Newbies might love the visible button, and I know it will be a great feature to add to (listen Microsoft!) the touch GUI (yes, imagine that: a GUI designed for touch, as opposed to the "regular" GUI for keyboard+mouse). But we know MS doesn't listen to anything but TechNet subscribers....

    5. tempemeaty

      Perhaps an evern better solution.... not to keep propping up the beast but to go with the Open Source solutions once and for all?

      1. chr0m4t1c


        If Vista didn't drive users away completely, I doubt a slightly annoying ribbon will.

      2. Stevie Silver badge


        Naw, not to judge by my OpenOffice experience. The product is much better than it was three years ago (which to be honest wasn't saying much for them of us wot know the difference between an office suite and a word processor/basic spreadsheet lashup) but it still has odd problems.

        I'm currently developing a large workbook app in OOCalc and have come across all of the following: Arbitrary and undocumented nesting issues with bracketed function calls (the ones that take arguments) requiring inelegant and otherwise unnecessary "staging" of parts of a nested function in another cell, memory management issues requiring the book be closed and reopened to ensure proper recalculation, slow process when certain on-disk size is reached (512 K seems to be the current magic number) and a macro recorder that destabilizes the whole affair by using it.

        Also: Workbook Macros need to be invokable by hotkeys to be really useful, but that feature is yet to be added to OpenOfficeCalc.

        That said, it is a good little product for those that don't need an Office Suite with legs, and orders of magnitude better than it was three years ago.

        And to get back on topic: BOOHISS to the ribbon. A less intuitive interface I have yet to meet.

  4. <user />
    Thumb Up


    The Ribbon isn't THAT bad, lets be fair, once you get used to it. We are just so used to menus it makes it a little bit difficult to adapt.

    I still struggle to find things in Office Ribbon despite having used Office 2007 + since release but I am not sure I would go back to the old menu system.

  5. ByeLaw101
    Thumb Down


    For me the Ribbon takes up too much space on screen, and it does clutter things up.

    If MS is interested in advance UI, why don't they give people a choice instead of forcing this on them? I've been using the Ribbon interface in Office for years now and I still don't like it!

    Maybe I'm just getting old and stuck in my ways?

  6. Sampler

    User interface and Human Interface Devices

    The ribbon approach may be annoying waste of screen real-estate when you have a keyboard but isn't one of the stated implemenations of Win8 tablets? Smaller touch interface devices may benefit from a larger chunky, finger friendly ribbon bar.

    As long as you can switch it off I don't see the problem ;)

  7. banjomike

    Ribbon, yuk

    If you want to see a ribbon, and you don't have Office, then go to Start - All Programs - Accessories - Paint. Very un-useful.

  8. Cameron Colley

    The ribbon doesn't go far enough.

    They should make the ribbon 10 times larger in every application, so that every possible command available can be shown on the screen at the same time. Then they can present one line of the document or file structure just above the status bar at the bottom of the app.

    Either that or just force all users to wear an undersized fucking letter box every time they use their PC.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    "Only, as bloggers and commenters responding to the news on Microsoft's Building Windows 8 blog have noted, the company is giving people more of what they don't want."

    That's nothing new - they've been doing that since they started!

    1. Wize

      Ever since XP came out...

      ...every machine I've used I've turned off the extra 'features' that fill up the screen. It looks like Win95 but I don't waste screen space on chunky borders or big task bars that I don't need.

      They should let us make the same choice in Office.

    2. Marky W

      Amen to that

      Microsoft bod 1: Say, it seems as though everybody is moving to a widescreen display.

      Microsoft bod 2: Hmmm, it seems you're correct. I know, lets put a big ribbon at the top of all our applications.

      MSB1: Erm, I'm not sure you understood what I said.

      MSB2: It'll work especially well in Word, because of the aspect ratio of common paper sizes.

      MSB1: Riiiight. Wouldn't it be better to put the ribbon at the side of the screen?

      MSB2: No.

      MSB1: How about as an option? That should be relatively easy to do, surely, and would help our core customer base hugely. We did it in the past, remember?

      MSB2 (with hands over ears): La, la, la, la, la.

      MSB1 (quietly): I really must update my CV.

      1. Malcolm 1

        They thought of that

        Did you read the linked post? They moved the file properties to the side so even with the ribbon visible you get more vertical space than you did before. Hide the ribbon and you get a load more.

        1. Piro


          Yes, but everyone sensible disabled the bloated preview pane at the bottom, enabled the classic status bar, then installed Classic Shell to give you back all the numbers you used to have in XP.

          1. Cameron Colley


            I think you mean "...everyone sensible whose policy doesn't forbid the installation of anything not approved and tested by a dozen committees ...". That said, I agree with the thrust of your post.

        2. foo_bar_baz

          @Malcolm 1

          The best feature of ribbons is you can get rid of them. Nice.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think Excel Viewer wins

      for the most pointless implementation of the Teh Ribbonz. The thing has virtually zero functionality: I do not require a huge set of buttons to remind me of this.

    4. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      You're right

      The ribbon isn't all that bad......

      If you have a big monitor, though shit if you are using the on-call laptop with the 14" screen

      If you want to use the options that MicroShit have decided you are going to use, though shit if you want to customise the ribbon the way you could the old tool bars.

      Just to keep you guessing, "insert table" function is on the "insert" button/tab, however the "table properties" dialog is on the "layout" button/tab, and the formatting of tables (border, fill etc) are on the "Design" button/tab.

      It's all over the place, with the old tool bars all the formatting options were on the formatting menu and all the table options were on the table menu.

      The ribbon isn't all that bad...... It's total shit.

      Still when you are devoid of ideas, there’s nothing like f**king up the interface to pretend you’ve made changes.

      Fail, MicroShits,1, massive

    5. veti Silver badge

      Let's be fair?

      The ribbon *is* THAT bad, however bad THAT is.

      Quick: if you have a Word .docx file with figures stored in linked files, how do you get them saved in the .docx itself so that someone else can open it and see them? Which ribbon is that command on? (In case you don't have Word open right now, the ribbon names are:

      Home / Insert / Page Layout / References / Mailings / Review / View )

      If you answered any of the above, you're wrong.

      Now suppose you want to insert a section break, so that you can vary the header/footer content between two parts of your document. Where's that command?

      Or you've typed '' into your document, and Word has oh-so-unhelpfully turned it blue and underlined it. You select it, but where's the "Remove Hyperlink" option?

      Best of all: if you want to find out which version of Word you're using, so that you can actually get help on any of this crap? That used to be "Help/About", but try typing "About" into the "Help" box today and see where it gets you. Now you have to click that gaily patterned roudn thing that doesn't even look like a button, much less a menu, click on "Resources" and look at a whole list of buttons inviting you to try exciting operations that, if you're fool enough to try them, will suck up literally hours of your time to zero positive effect. ("Diagnostics"? Jobs save us. "Is Microsoft Office having problems?" - how the hell would I know, that depends what it's trying to do, I know *I'm" having problems, but to project those onto Office would be to assume that Office is supposed to help me, which is an assumption I currently see zero evidence for.)

      I've been using Word 2007 on a daily basis for the past four years, and I've wasted more time looking at those blasted ribbons for functions that, as often as not, aren't even there, than I have actually using any of them.

    6. cloudgazer

      conclusive proof

      that attempting to make Apps UIs work equally well with both input paradigms makes for equally bad experiences with both.

    7. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Exactly. You still struggle after 3+ years of using it almost every day?

      By any stretch of the imagination, that's clearly an abject failure.

      How long do *you* think it should take to learn where the features you want to use are?

      Personally, the bit that drives me potty is the "Hide all the documents you're working with when you try to save one of them".

      Sorry, but under what circumstances can that ever be a good idea?

    8. sab0tage

      Are you blind?

      Click the down arrow near the help button (it's the question mark in the blue circle) and it will magically disappear and take up less space than the menu did in Office 2003.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Power Users ?

    In other words people who have used Windows?

    The ribbon idea is a joke.

    If they leave it in you should have the option to turn it off.

    But they wont/

  11. Dan Melluish

    I quite like the ribbon!

    I've come to quite like the ribbon in Office 2010 - I didn't like it at first but i've come round to it....of course I had a period where it took me ages to do anything in Word while I figured out where everything was.

    I suppose that is the biggest issue MS will face - what about all those corporate users? Training your staff is a *big* issue and might be enough to put some buyers off. Then again, if they are already using Office 2010 and Windows Vista/7 then it isn't going to be such a big change for them......i don't know.

  12. Wibble

    Can we have two interfaces?

    Why not ship it with two interfaces: numpty and classic.

    Of course this will be too easy.

  13. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Editability is key

    The ribbon, like any toolbar is fine so long as you can customise it and remove lots of things you don't use.

    This was the main problem with the original ribbon in Office 2007, it was fixed and not editable.

  14. HMB

    Getting pushy with Touch Support?

    Is this not something being done for touch support that for consistency's sake is being pushed on all of us?

    I love the ribbon interface, but looking at the screenshot just made me pull a face like I'd eaten a lemon. One of the things I loved about Windows 7 was the useless guff that just added clutter in Windows XP's explorer was gone and the new look was good!

  15. Fuzz

    Non issue

    The only option I use on a menu bar in explorer is folder properties, I do everything else using shortcuts or right clicks.

    The office ribbon bar is a huge issue because people are so used to the old way.

    I can only see a ribbon bar being useful in explorer, however I would like a way to hide it so it's not using up my precious vertical pixels that hardware manufacturers seem intent on slowly removing.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    So true!

    "Translation: With the Windows 8 beta now just weeks away, thanks for the comments, but don't expect anything to change."

    I can't stand ribbons at the best of times but the thought of it being applied to something as commonly opened, supposedly lightweight as a filesystem management UI is making me ill enough that I'm seriously considering a shell replacement for the first time ever in Windows. I just hope there will be some good ones out there.

    Perhaps the ribbon is rescinded if you change the Windows system theme? Wonder if there will be a Windows 7 or even XP theme.

  17. Paul_Murphy

    You know what would be nice?

    Choices.. that would be nice; change ribbon location, show icons/ text or both, hide ribbon, revert to menu commands, open ribbon in another window.

    You know - choices.

    I also wonder how disabled users feel about the ribbon - is it likely to be more, or less, usable? Not that I care really since I use OpenOffice wherever I can (everything aside from my corporate desktop).


    1. Wize

      I have avoided wide screen monitors for that reason.

      If I wanted to look through a letterbox, I'd become a pervert round at my neighbour's house.

    2. banjomike

      what folder properties button

      In Windows 7 the Explorer menu bar does not have a folder properties button any more. Microsoft and their tidy-up and simplify brigade have removed it. The ribbon "allows" it to be returned but at the expense of a lot more screen space.

      1. Paul Shirley

        they love hiding options they don't want you to use

        "Microsoft and their tidy-up and simplify brigade have removed it"

        As an XP holdout I didn't know that.

        What I do know is:

        1: I use drag&drop and double clicking for 99% of interaction, Explorer isn't an app you do much in beyond launching the real apps and a bit of file shuffling

        2: my context menu is full of the 3rd party tools I actually use, instead of some widget with just what Microsoft thinks I need quick access to

        All but the default windoze file menu is disabled. I'd kill that but the idiots decided to discourage the split window folder|file view by not giving it a shortcut and making it too easy to lose that view. So wasted space.

        Microsoft persist in believing Windows is the app, not just the shell that holds the real apps.

      2. NomNomNom


        staring at all their filthy unopened mail you pervert!

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Looking through a letterbox

        The 16:9 aspect ratio used in widescreen displays is a close approximation of the ratio of the human field of vision (i.e. 180° horizontal and 100° vertical). For this reason, widescreen displays are perfectly natural, and using a 4:3 or 5:4 display means you're actually wasting the useful space at either side of your screen. The common "wisdom" that widescreen makes you lose space vertically is only true if you switch to a screen that has a shorter vertical dimension or a lower vertical resolution.

        Of course, the extra space isn't needed when you're looking at an A4 document in portrait orientation, so it could make a lot of sense to put the navigation elements and toolbars at the sides when working in a widescreen environment. With the current proliferation of widescreen displays, it seems Microsoft is missing a trick here.


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