back to article Microsoft tries cutting the Ribbon in Office UI upgrade

Microsoft has revealed a plan for a slow-moving upgrade of its Office suite’s user interface, with three new elements to start appearing at Office.com and in Office apps in coming months. The changes bring the “fluent design” concept Microsoft has adopted in other products to Office. The biggest change will see Redmond cut …

Anonymous Coward

Definitely not offline Office, eh?

"...zero query search” that “will bring up recommendations powered by AI and the Microsoft Graph” as soon as you place a cursor in a search bar."

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Anonymous Coward

Come back Clippy

All is Forgiven !

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Re: Come back Clippy

Ahem

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Come back Clippy

I've spent so much wonderful time with Rover in the Windows XP search panel.

Give me that over the 'Working on it...' nonsense of Windows 10.

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Re: Come back Clippy

Yep, Clippy is still alive and kicking. I still make the occasional game around him.

https://globalgamejam.org/2017/games/wave-cloud-office

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N2

Re: Come back Clippy

It's years since I've used Microsoft Office and some how this is now amusing,

Yes, it really is that long!

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Re: Come back Clippy

"Ahem"

There is a very strong temptation to add clippy.js to my own website - if only to make the point: This is why it's a good idea not to have JS enabled by default.

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Re: Come back Clippy

I must admit that when I saw the description of "zero query search", my first thought was "Clippy! Buddy!(1) You're back!"

(1) No. Not really. "Buddy" is about the last word I'd use here.

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FAIL

Changing the design of the ribbon "is like adding paper to a blocked toilet. Best possible outcome: you've still got a turd. Albeit disguised a little." (ok, that referred to Vista, but the ribbon is... shite, to put it kindly).

Go ahead: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/16/bofh_2012_episode_12/

You know you want to spend half the day browsing the archives ;)

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Die ribbon, die!

Instead of allowing toggling between 2 and 3 lines ribbons, I wish they'd allow going back to the menu. That's what I have “muscle memory” for!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Die ribbon, die!

That's the good thing about the Mac version. You still have the menu bar as well as the ribbon.

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Re: Die ribbon, die!

Download the UBIT Toolbar for Office. It adds another "Ribbon" containing most of the Office 2003 menus and toolbar buttons.

http://www.ubit.ch/software/ubitmenu-languages

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Re: Die ribbon, die!

But does it let you get rid of the ribbon entirely? That's what I want.

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FAIL

face-wall time

Article: "cut its “Ribbon” toolbar from three lines to two"

How about cutting it to *ZERO* lines, and putting a *REAL* menu back? (and NO HAMBURGER BUTTON)

"like adding paper to a blocked toilet"

paper? you sure that's what they added? (it smells a LOT worse than paper)

/me face-walls

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Windows

Why do I smell...

... a change merely because of the change?

I still prefer the classic "if it isn't broke, don't fix it!" motto myself. Just for the record: I actually enjoy the Ribbon Interface. But then again I also didn't upgrade Office after version 2010 :)

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Re: Why do I smell...

"I actually enjoy the Ribbon Interface"

I'm with you here, the most common commands are always available muscle memory makes it very easy...

I never understood why people dont like it.. I undrstand that it might not be the best choice for all applications but for Office it is great.

Horses for courses.

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People don't like because it pretty much destroyed their acquired keyboard shortcuts habit which allowed them to breeze through complex operations that they were used to doing.

Especially in Excel and probably Word as well.

The main issue with the Ribbon is that MS didn't bother providing it as an option and keeping the menu interface (and proper kb shortcuts) for those who were used to it. No, you had to change your ways.

For professionals who actually want to work with the products, it was quite frustrating and painful.

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Keyboard shortcuts were unchanged with the introduction of the ribbon. They added a new way of navigating the ribbon using the keyboard, but the old shortcuts still work.

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Not all of them. In any case, not to the satisfaction of the users I have talked to.

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Re: Why do I smell...

"if it isn't broke, don't fix it!"

if it isn't broken.

broke as an adjective ONLY means out of money.

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"People don't like because it pretty much destroyed their acquired keyboard shortcuts..."

OK I understand that people didn't like it when it was introduced, but come on!! It's over 10 years ago!! Anyone still harping on about it should really get a life. Anyone who has been using MS Office for just a couple of the intervening 10 years should long ago have become used enough to the new interface to breeze through work just like in the good old days, right? Unless they're dinosaurs unwilling to adapt

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it is not the customer's job to adapt

Nonsense, Jmch. Many, many people - as is their absolute right - refused to downgrade to the new, inferior UI (designed by the same brain-dead team which went on create the Windows 8 Metro disaster, as you know).

People stayed with the older Office versions for many years (because of their superior usability); other people switched to alternative software with a better UI (such as Libre Office for one, but there are others, and I probably should mention the Google products too here, though I can't say anything about their UIs 'coz I've never used them) and to this day do not use the damn ribbon. Other people again switched to or stayed with competing commercial products, notably Word Perfect and Quattro Pro.

Finally, it is not the customer's job to adapt. That's not how it works.

The rule is customer fella pay money, supplier fella adapt. Dat supplier fella's job. Dat why customer fella hand over heap big dollars, him boss. Supplier fella not try please customer, customer fella him bugger off, no pay money, supplier fella heap sorry.

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Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

> I never understood why people dont like it..

It wasn't the Ribbon per se that people didn't like, it was the way MS used it to replace menus (except on Macs where Apple's rules meant the menus had to remain).

Before the Ribbon came to Office, I'd used a ribbon-like Command Manager in a CAD package. The difference was that menus, customisable toolbars, and radial menus where still present, as well as keyboard shortcuts. The Command Manager was optional and could be repositioned - though it was pretty useful in its default spot. The user had complete control of the workspace. The other difference was that due other tool pallettes and windows, vertical screen space was at such a premium as it is in a word processor.

Also: why don't more applications use pie menus (aka Radial Menus)? They're quick, require little moving of the mouse, and work well with muscle memory.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why do I smell...

"broke as an adjective ONLY means out of money."

And I bet you're loads of fun at parties.

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Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

Supplier fella not try please customer, customer fella him bugger off, no pay money, supplier fella heap sorry.

That's the theory. However, most software vendors have long ago learned three important things:

1) users are rarely choosers in the corporate world,

2) you can put in the retail channel what you want because even retail buyers value the perceived compatibility, even if they don't like aspects of the revised product.

3) And for the recidivists, you just mutter "support ends next week, upgrade or die".

The number of lost sales to Microsoft from unpopular, poorly conceived and ill advised changes is minimal in the context of the their wider market share, and that (sadly) shows up in the fact that their balance sheet is swilling $70bn of cash and liquid assets after netting off debt.

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Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

"People stayed with the older Office versions for many years (because of their superior usability); other people switched to alternative software with a better UI (such as Libre Office for one, but there are others, and I probably should mention the Google products too here, though I can't say anything about their UIs 'coz I've never used them) and to this day do not use the damn ribbon. Other people again switched to or stayed with competing commercial products, notably Word Perfect and Quattro Pro."

Yes, I am sure that many people who had the choice and the technical knowhow either stuck with old versions or switched to something else. However the market share of MS Office vs all other offices, and of new vs old MS Offices, show that those people are still in a small minority. The majority of people using Office do so either at their workplace where they have limited control of software provider and Office version, (which gets pushed by central IT), or as a package when buying a new PC, in which case they will get whatever version is given them.

"The rule is customer fella pay money, supplier fella adapt."

It is, in a normal market. Microsoft Office operates (even now, with all the Libre alternatives) in a quasi-monopolistic market. 10 years ago, even more so. And it's amusing if you think Microsoft Office's customers are private buyers or individual users of Office. The customers are those who pay large amounts for large volumes, meaning big corporations and specifically their mid-level IT managers, pointy-heads who are easily swayed by MS event presentations and shiny-shiny rather than by the concerns of their users.

Please note I'm not saying that MS was right to introduce the ribbon, nor am I arguing about which is the superior interface. I'm saying the world has moved on and there's no point flogging a dead horse.

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Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

[Also: why don't more applications use pie menus (aka Radial Menus)? They're quick, require little moving of the mouse, and work well with muscle memory.]

Until you change them, then people start printing instead of saving, or exiting instead of printing and all sorts of mischief at upgrade time. Muscle memory is not currently part of UI designers list of concerns as far as my experience goes.

This was an issue even 20 years ago with green screen services where people had got used to what option 6 did, then enter three times via defaults then option 2. An upgrade changed the menu options and multiple calls were made to repair data for a function that "didn't work anymore" as people did not even read the menu option text.

Roll on bringing muscle memory into the list of considerations...

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Re: Why do I smell...

"... a change merely because of the change?"

Not merely because of the change.

It's because they backed themselves into a corner years ago by getting their file formats made into an ISO standard (add your own comments on the whys & hows of that). That prevented them from forcing upgrades every time a new format was introduced and users of old versions found themselves unable to open files from newer versions. It also meant that compatibility stopped being a moving target for other S/W, particularly open source. So how to lock users into MS products and upgrades?

Enter the ribbon. New users get forced to learn the ribbon interface (all those educational deals) so wouldn't be able to use either old versions of Office or the competition. But now LibreOffice have started introducing a ribbon interface into their products so ribbon-habituated MS users can feel at home.

Is it surprising that we get another interface change?

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"For professionals who actually want to work with the products, it was quite frustrating and painful."

Don't you realise those are bad, bad people? They haven't got with the programme. They were supposed to buy upgrades for all their old products. Not doing so means they've deprived MS of their rightful extra income. Next thing, you'll be telling us some of them even use LibreOffice as well.

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Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

"People stayed with the older Office versions for many years (because of their superior usability)"

Or simply because they didn't see why they should pay MS money to upgrade something with which they were content. That would be a valid reason even if the interface hadn't changed at all.

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Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

"Muscle memory is not currently part of UI designers list of concerns as far as my experience goes."

AFAICS the only concerns are keeping up with fashion set by other designers or possibly being lucky enough to be amongst those who set the fashion.

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Def
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Facepalm

Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

Complains about how it's not the customer's job to adapt to the new Office Ribbon UI.

Goes on to talk about how customers were forced to switch to LibreOffice with a *completely different* UI because of it.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

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People don't like because it pretty much destroyed their acquired keyboard shortcuts habit which allowed them to breeze through complex operations that they were used to doing.

That happened at every new version before the Ribbon as well. Am I the only one who remembers when "Page Setup..." was on the Format menu where it belongs(1)?

(1) If you think about what it is doing, "Page Setup..." absolutely does not belong on the "File" menu. The changes you make in its dialog box affect the formatting of the document (especially in Word) rather than anything that belongs in the File menu.

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Thumb Down

Re: Why do I smell...

"I'm with you here, the most common commands are always available muscle memory makes it very easy... I never understood why people dont like it"

Let me clue you in. If you're doing the same thing over and over, it can be good. However if you need to FIND something the Ribbon hides it.

A person can scan through a series of menus in a few seconds. We're good at reading lists, Menus always worked FINE. Ribbons and Docks appeared to Be Different and justify the cost of an upgrade, not because we wanted them. They obscure things behind unlabeled icons and drop-down menus tied to the icons. Looking for a feature is now a nightmare of hovering over every icon on six tabs of cute little pictures. Did they hide that under Format, Layout, or Home?

Most users simply give up rather than play Hide and Seek. I support a shopful of users and they universally hate it. Time and familiarity have not changed their minds.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

Yes, I am sure that many people who had the choice and the technical knowhow either stuck with old versions or switched to something else. However the market share of MS Office vs all other offices, and of new vs old MS Offices, show that those people are still in a small minority.

One of the important things though, is that corporations held on to older versions of Office longer, because their testing had determined that upgrading to Ribbon would require significant expense for retraining users. These corporate customers held out until the old Office was no longer supported.They would have preferred to stick with the menus interface, but Microsoft was the big bully who dictated how Office would work.

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Re: Why do I smell...

"if it isn't broke, don't fix it!"

In some ways Word is broke(n), and has been since, oh, 1990. There are annoyances from back then that persist. But worse, lots of stuff that worked brilliantly back then (and in less than 1Mb!), like outlining and header levels, is a shambles now. Yeah you can get where you want to go eventually, but you have to deal with a boatload of crap. The default paragraph styles are mostly useless, the list of styles in the ribbon bears no relation to what you need or have been using in the document so far, and figuring out where a particular command resides on the toolbar is a pain. Why couldn't they find the 20 most common things people do and feature them? That's my idea of UX design. Instead it was probably designed by the promotion-seekers with the loudest voices.

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Re: Why do I smell...

For me, ribbon-loathing is due to icons being less intuitive than text labels; the fact that it takes up more valuable horizontal space when vertical space is more available, then combine that with the fact that our eyes scan text vertically more efficiently (or mine do, anyways); plus the layout of icons/labels on the ribbon is rather haphazard.

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Re: Why do I smell...

"I still prefer the classic "if it isn't broke, don't fix it!" motto myself"

Me too. However, I consider the ribbon concept itself to be broken in the first place. It's simply awful.

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Re: Why do I smell...

"I never understood why people dont like it"

I hate it because it gets in my way and makes doing anything except a small handful of the most common actions into a lengthy "treasure hunt" sort of operation.

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"Anyone who has been using MS Office for just a couple of the intervening 10 years should long ago have become used enough to the new interface to breeze through work just like in the good old days, right?"

Oh, I'm used to it. But breeze through work? Not hardly. The ribbon is a huge productivity-killer that makes it extremely painful to accomplish all but the most common operations.

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Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

"It wasn't the Ribbon per se that people didn't like"

Well, speaking personally, it's the ribbon itself that I don't like. More specifically, I hate the dynamic nature of it.

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Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

"you just mutter "support ends next week, upgrade or die"."

Which is why I've come to a place where I don't give two shits about whether or not support ends.

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Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

It does, actually. If you have to change your workflow anyway, it makes a great deal of sense to take the opportunity to move to something better.

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Re: Why do I smell...

I'm still on 2003. Everything since has sent me on the hunt for 'Anger Management' courses.

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How can I get used to the ribbon interface. They move everything around all the time. Most of the ribbon is full of sh*te I don't need and most of the stuff I want is missing or misplaced.

Grrrrrr!!!!!!!

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JLV
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That and MS implementation is a cardinal sin of UI design - don't hide/move widgets willy-nilly on the user.

With a menu, I was always told to gray out options that were inapplicable. Everytime I use the ribbon, it seems as if I have to hunt and peck through the tabs till I find the option I want again.

Now you could have different modes of operation that show certain widgets. But the user should then switch mode explicitly, not have it happen when he does something on the doc rather than on the ribbon/commands real estate.

All of this whining would be moot if MS was a bit more willing to allow users to decide how they want to use the system - there are utilities to show menus, so allowing users to switch between menus and ribbons would solve all this. Even a degraded menu mode, where real power use would require dropping back to the ribbon would be an acceptable compromise.

But of course, this is the company that justifies Telemetry as about enhancing the user experience.

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Boffin

"OK I understand that people didn't like it when it was introduced, ..."

It was a shitty user interface when it was introduced and it will still be a shitty user interface in a thousand years.

(1) It eats up lots of screen space.

(2) It doesn't allow you to remove functions you don't need.

(3) All the stuff you don't need clutter the interface and make it hard to quickly find the stuff you actually need.

(4) The ribbon layout changes when you resize the window, making it even harder to find the stuff you need.

The useful part of the old menu system was that you could remove the 90% stuff you would not need. The result was a single, concise menu bar with everything you regularly use, easily accessible by a single mouse motion. They broke it. I still don't understand why.

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Re: Why do I smell...

Most users simply give up rather than play Hide and Seek.

No, I use the search field to search the option. I can hardly ever find Language in Outlook, for example, so each time I need it, I have to use search ... that was JUST ONE example among many others ...

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keyboard shortcuts still work mate, if you actually had muscle memory from 2003 you'd probably know that because you'd have tried it out of habit...

As much as I do like the ribbon I've never bothered to locate the fill series option on it because ALT+E,I,S brings up the fill series dialogue.

etc etc

I'm assuming this will all disappear too though and that will be annoying.

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Re: it is not the customer's job to adapt

"better UI (such as Libre Office"

Ha, good one.

Oh... you mean it?

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