back to article Microsoft sharpens its claws to cut Outlook UI excess, snip Ribbon

Microsoft's incoming updates to Outlook on Windows and web aim to strip away the cruft that has built up in the interface over the years. Outlook for Windows The veteran email client has seen its interface become gradually ever more cluttered, with the divisive ribbon inflicted on the toolbar just over 10 years ago. The update …

  1. DougMac

    UI revamp

    The next UI revamp for Office 2020, we'll get rid of the toolbar, and invent the new latest k00l toy, the menubar! Everyone must conform to the new UI standard.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: UI revamp

      "Everyone must conform to the new UI standard."

      How DARE they cram a new UI up our as down our throats like that!

      [yeah maybe this time it'll actually be an IMPROVEMENT]

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: UI revamp

      The only problem is that the menubar will be visible as three lines on one of the corners of the window, and when you press it, it hides the entire window and replaces it with menu options.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: UI revamp

        ugh, the WORST fat-finger-burger menu EVAR! [I am nauseated just thinking about it]

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: UI revamp

          Who wants to bet that all the keyboard shortcuts will change again? You already got rid of the feedback while using them, at least let me keep typing the same thing to add an attachment or something basic like that.

          1. defiler Silver badge

            Re: UI revamp

            Who wants to bet that all the keyboard shortcuts will change again?

            Nonsense - they're easy.

            ^C for Copy will become ^D for Duplicate

            ^V for Paste will become ^G for Glue

            ^X for Cut will become ^S for Slice

            ^P for Print will become ^H for Hard Copy

            ^W for Close will become ^W for We Love Clippy!

            1. katrinab Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: UI revamp

              ^P for Print will become ^P for Publish - ie forward to your entire address book.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

              Re: UI revamp

              'Outlook 2016 and later requires an Office 365 account & I won't go there.'

              Ummm no they don't as far as I know. I have several customers on Office / outlook 2016 with on site exchange and it works very well. It's still a bit poo compared to Outlook 2007 though.

              1. katrinab Silver badge

                Re: UI revamp

                I needed a Microsoft account to activate my Office 2016, but I used a Hotmail account, not an Office 365 one.

                1. TheVogon Silver badge

                  Re: UI revamp

                  "I needed a Microsoft account to activate my Office 2016"

                  I purchased a MAK key for Office 2016 on eBay. Worked just fine. No Microsoft account required to activate. (Although some purchase formats require Microsoft account to convert a voucher to get the license key.)

                  (Microsoft cant stop people reselling licences under EU law.)

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: UI revamp

              "Outlook 2016 and later requires an Office 365 account & I won't go there."

              Retail versions of Office 2013 and Office 2016 require a Microsoft account for product activation, but neither version requires Office 365 by any means. It's a right pain to activate several copies of the retail product of either version, often requiring to phone their activation service and enter a long string of numbers after online activation fails.

              That said, Office 2016 mostly seems like a more colorful and less shouty version of Office 2013 with an added search function. Why Microsoft ever thought it was a good idea to MAKE ALL MENU HEADERS ALL-CAPS is beyond me.

            3. TheVogon Silver badge

              Re: UI revamp

              "Outlook 2016 and later requires an Office 365 account"

              Nope. Office 2016 still accepts MAK keys. No need for O365.

            4. darlingimp

              Re: UI revamp

              >> ... I stopped at Office 2013 because it's the last stand-alone version of Office.

              I can top that. I stopped at Office 2010. And it looks great compared to these 2D, flat looking latest incarnations.

    3. Fungus Bob Silver badge

      Re: UI revamp

      No, the new latest k00l toy will be the salad bar - everything tossed together in random fashion.

  2. James 51 Silver badge
    Gimp

    As long as my Q10 can keep pulling emails off their servers it won't affect me.

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Flame

    Meet the Fockers

    Purchasers of Office 2019 will, alas, not get the new toys because, let's face it, Microsoft would really really like you to climb aboard the Office 365 train.

    There's someone in MS who knew very well what they were inflicting on the general public with the ribbon but they did it anyway.

    Well I'm going to stay on local Office and learn to love the ribbon after a decade. That'll learn 'em.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Meet the Fockers

      "There's someone in MS who knew very well what they were inflicting on the general public with the ribbon but they did it anyway."

      That person no longer works at Micro-shaft. Maybe this is why it's starting to get a face lift? Same person responsible for ribbon AND "the metro" in case anyone wondered (see link), even though Sinofsky (allegedly) had taken the fall over 'the metro' and Windows 'Ape'.

      Then again, "fixing" the ribbon (instead of completely obliterating it) is lipstick on a boar, but this time it IS on the oinky end.

      1. Walter Bishop Silver badge
        IT Angle

        Re: Meet the Fockers

        Julie Larson-Green .. oversaw the successful launch of .. Windows 7 .. She has had between 1,200 and 1,400 program managers, researchers, content managers and other members of the Windows team reporting to her.”

        Amazing how a handfull of people came up with Go's PenPoint OS or BeOS

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Meet the Fockers @Walt

          "Amazing how a handfull of people came up with Go's PenPoint OS or BeOS"

          https://royal.pingdom.com/2012/04/16/linux-kernel-development-numbers/

          "1,000 – Each release contains the work of at least this many developers."

    2. joed

      Re: Meet the Fockers

      Ribbon may suck but rendering everything (including text) in some shade of gray (the newer the version the worse it got) is the worst offense of MS' UX team. I don't know how they come up with their design cues and what kind of users they survey, but surely all that forced telemetry proved of little use (unless they'll just dox us in the future).

  4. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Still better than Lotus Notes.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      I suppose herpes is "better" than bubonic plague...

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Saying that, I mostly don't mind the Ribbon. Particularly in Outlook, where I've never used the more complicated features available - so pretty much everything I want is in one place. The only problem is when they move stuff and I have to find it again.

        The same's true with Excel. I now mostly don't use the shiny bells and whistles, so most of the simple commands are on one screen - and that actually makes it easier for new and casual users.

        The whole thing breaks down when you try to do more though - and last time left me cursing. Because stuff I wanted was randomly scattered all over the place - and it takes much longer to click on a likely looking tab and have to scan the whole width of the screen, than it did to click on a likely menu and see if the option you wanted was in it.

        If only they'd left the menus as a fall-back option - they could have made everyone happy. But no! Modern UI designers are apparently infallible geniuses! Despite the abominations they keep producing. Whose stupid idea was it to replace perfectly good buttons with hyperlinks in the Windows 8 settings interface? And what is this obsession with removing all lines and obvious cues to the eye where to look for stuff?

        What we need is to create a new group of "User Interface Designer Trainers" - and equip them with cattle prods and sticks with nails in. Then the next person who designs a website with dark brown text on a light brown background can experience the same pain that I do from eyestrain.

        The designers or iTunes might not survive the experience...

        1. Updraft102 Silver badge

          And what is this obsession with removing all lines and obvious cues to the eye where to look for stuff?

          Old: Form follows function.

          New: What's function?

        2. ChrisC

          "What we need is to create a new group of "User Interface Designer Trainers""

          Or to give them their full job title - User Interface Designer Influencer, Overseer and Trainer, aka UIDIOT, which coincidentally is also what you'll probably find them saying quite a lot to their charges, just before applying the LART.

          1. Cavehomme_ Bronze badge

            Job titles

            I thought they were all supposed to be “Thought Leaders” and “Evangelists” these days? What hideous, Corporatist claptrap.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        depends who you got the herpes from.

      3. Oengus Silver badge

        "I suppose herpes is "better" than bubonic plague..."

        Not really. There is a treatment for bubonic plague that cures you. The treatment for herpes only manages the disease. You still have it and are still infectious and are required to take the treatment forever... Sounds exactly like an office subscription.

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Coffee/keyboard

          Love it! -->

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "are required to take the treatment forever... Sounds exactly like an office subscription."

          I had no problem stopping my O365 subscription.

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    The best office was Office2003. Or LibreOffice/OpenOffice of today.

    No meh ribbon or the such cruft. Only now am I starting to get used to that piffle of a ribbon.

    Meh.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      "Only now am I starting to get used to that piffle of a ribbon."

      And the surprising part is that is actually quite good.....

  6. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Cruft

    Thought Cruft was dog related but today I've got a new word in my vocabulary ...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Cruft

      If Office is "Crufts" - does that make Lotus Notes "Dogging"?

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Cruft

      I've heard that term for years, often used in engineering circles to avoid more profane terms that mean the same thing. It deserves an actual technical definition, like 'CRUD'.

      In the nuclear industry, CRUD is officially "Corrosion and wear byproducts in a nuclear reactor system that have become radioactive and are deposited and accumulated in related equipment". 'CRUD traps' are places where it accumulates the most, and they often get signs posted on them indicating the last measured radiation dosage rate. Some are so bad they get lead shielding wrapped around them so that you can spend more than 5 minutes nearby when working on stuff, without exceeding your radiation limits at any rate. But yeah it's the side effect of neutron-irradiating Iron 59 which turns it into Cobalt 60. CRUD.

      I suppose CRUFT could officially become "any bloatware or overly implemented feature that can easily be eliminated without adversely affecting the usability or functionality of a software application."

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Cruft

        More like "code whose original purpose, if any, has been forgotten or is now just obsolete."

        The trouble is, it's not easy to identify that code. A lot of things that look like cruft turn out, once you actually remove them, to have been playing some obscure but important role.

    3. andypbw

      Re: Cruft

      The term has been around for years now

      http://foldoc.org/cruft

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With no competition for miles ....

    MS can do whatever they like with Outlook, because there really is no alternative.

    I think its Woody Allen than commented Science has bought us some wonderful things, but it's only when an 83-year old is left alone with a cocktail waitress and nothing happens, we realise it has failed us.

    (With apologies for the of it's age misogyny)

    That could be paraphrased as FOSS has bought us some wonderful things. But it's only when you try to deliver a decent Exchange-connecting Mail and Calendar client into Linux, you realise it's failed.

    (The closest I have come is Thunderbird/Lightening. But they're buggy, lack features and a tad unreliable. Certainly not enterprise-grade apps).

    1. gv

      Re: With no competition for miles ....

      Funnily enough I find Outlook is buggy, lacks features and is very unreliable. Definitely not enterprise-grade (whatever that means).

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Mushroom

        RE: Outlook is buggy, lacks features and is very unreliable.

        So, use something else.

        Ah, *now* you get the point .....

      2. richardcox13

        Re: With no competition for miles ....

        > Funnily enough I find Outlook is buggy, lacks features and is very unreliable.

        Sounds exactly like much "enterprise" software to me!

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Alien

          Re: With no competition for miles ....

          "Sounds exactly like much "enterprise" software to me!"

          It's called "Enterprise", because it might work by the 23d Century!

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: With no competition for miles ....

      MS can do whatever they like with Outlook, because there really is no alternative need to use it.

      ftfy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: With no competition for miles ....

      "But it's only when you try to deliver a decent Exchange-connecting Mail and Calendar client into Linux, you realise it's failed."

      Yet ironically, desktop Linux (well Gnome and KDE at least) have better native calendar integration with Exchange than Windows, which requires Outlook. In fact it works ad remains synced without even having to open the email client.

      Seriously, I've deployed this stuff a lot.

  8. Mr Dogshit

    Ten years on and people are still whining about the ribbon.

    And public folders were deprecated about a decade ago as well.

    1. Updraft102 Silver badge

      Ten years on and people are still whining about the ribbon.

      Because it's still there and it still sucks.

      People are not not complaining about some corporate decision ten years ago... they're complaining about the way the program they used ten minutes ago has a crappy UI. The complaints are ongoing because the problem is ongoing!

  9. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    A new metaphor.

    Fast And Thin. Can we adopt the FAT design paradigm. No new features, it looks the same and is twice as fast and thin, wait that's FAT2. #commandline.app

  10. Potemkine! Silver badge

    "Simplified Ribbon"

    What a good idea! We could call it a "toolbar", couldn't we?

    Outlook design sucks. As I already said, it was designed by a drunk monkey with a severe mental illness, it was meant to disorientate users and is very successful at it.

    Once they have redesign the UI, it would be nice if basic functionalities as searching for a mail were finally working as expected by the users.

  11. elgarak1

    "In the new Outlook interface the toolbar will be cut back to a single row of commands, which users will be encouraged to tailor to their own needs."

    Translate: Must be configured by user to work.

    Corollary: We devs don't care how it's supposed to be used – we don't use that shit.

  12. Charles Calthrop

    software UI is bonkers.

    step 1: make changes soley because otherwise v2 will look like v1

    step 2 undo the changes

  13. JohnFen Silver badge

    Die, ribbon, die

    Here's hoping that the "simplified" ribbon is the first step toward killing this awful UI element entirely.

  14. IGnatius T Foobar !

    Desktop UI please

    Come on Microsoft, your phone experiment has failed, and it's time to make the desktop look like a desktop again. It's time to drop all of the "touch first" features and optimize every single one of your Windows and Office products for computers with keyboards, mice, and upright screens -- which is where 99.999% of Windows users are.

    1. yoganmahew

      Re: Desktop UI please

      Or have the UI's as skins - one for mobile, one for desktop (and a separate one for touch? Does anyone actually use touch on their laptops?).

      The mobile app is already different enough that it bears little resemblance to the desktop one and is really only useful for the most basic of functions.

  15. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    Hopefully this will be the end of the awful awful awful ribbon for good. Office today, Windows tomorrow, as has ever been the way with UI changes...

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