August 25, 2006 6:28 AM PDT

Microsoft rolls up Office ribbon

Microsoft has modified its new interface for Office 2007 after complaints from beta testers that the "ribbon" system took up too much screen space.

Office 2007 had ditched the traditional drop-down menu approach of most Windows applications in favor of the ribbon, which displays functions in new categories such as Home, Insert and Mailing in a strip across the top of the screen.

Office 2007

Microsoft said the new interface would make it easier for people to access the wide range of features in applications such as Word, Excel and Access.

However, in the next technical refresh of the Office 2007 beta, people can set the ribbon to automatically minimize whenever it is not being used, effectively making the ribbon headings look like traditional menus. (Windows has long offered a similar auto-hide option for the taskbar.)

Microsoft Australia technical specialist John Hodgson said the change is a result of complaints from some beta testers. "One of the feedbacks we got is that it takes up too much room," he said during a presentation at Microsoft's Tech.Ed 2006 conference this week in Sydney.

Despite the change, Microsoft remains committed to using the ribbon interface, though it isn't included in all Office components. Visio, for example, has no ribbon options at all, and Outlook does not use the ribbon in all contexts.

The changes to the Office interface are expected to meet some resistance.

The product "will face some serious foot-dragging at both the individual and corporate levels," Forrester Research analyst Nate Root wrote in a 2005 paper analyzing the new interface.

One other change in the next technical refresh, due for release to beta testers in the near future, actually consumes more screen space by offering large "text tips" when people mouse over individual ribbon elements.

The current File menu, accessed from a Start-like button in the top-left corner, will also have its name changed to Office menu, Hodgson said.

Hodgson also confirmed that Microsoft is working on tools to help enterprises automatically translate existing documents into new file formats being introduced in Office 2007.

"We've been asked by a lot of customers to provide tools to do mass migrations," he said. "There will be tools that will take a million documents and migrate those to the new formats."

One likely incentive for that migration will be reduced storage costs. Microsoft claims that file sizes for the new Office 2007 XML-based formats are up to 75 percent smaller than those of existing Office formats.

Angus Kidman of ZDNet Australia reported from Syndey.

See more CNET content tagged:
ribbon, Microsoft Office 2007, Microsoft Office, complaint, interface

22 comments

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It's not that easy!
This proves again that making a good user interface is not that
easy. But what surprises me most is that the Beta testers were
the first to notice the ample work space that was left.

Take a good look at the first Ribbon views from the link in the
article and notice how crude and badly spaced all items are,
except of course for the often used options like font and size,
they are small and hidden between zillions of other options!

And even worse, do not try to show ALL options at one time, I
think it was the third screenshot that shows all arrows and all
options in one item, total chaos!

I don't want to ruin the discussion by stating that I now more
advanced and better designed interfaces from another OS
producer, but this looks so bad and takes up so much space.
The Roll Up seems very logical.
Posted by heekesen (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
meet some resistance?
A large number of Windows users are thrown by ANY change in
a user interface.

The addition of this "ribbon" means alternative packages, such
as OpenOffice.org may actually be easier to use for existing MS
Office users than Office 2007.

Yes, I'd say anyone that doesn't want to spend a lot of time and
money retraining employees will resist Office 07. Perhaps
permanently.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
oFfice
2000 is all I need. No need to drill down a million options.
Posted by paulsecic (298 comments )
Link Flag
can Clippy be far behind? how about Fix Windows 1st
Another attempt by a company to fix what isnt broken, and to
further muddle an already overcrowded interface with features
that are mixed up at best.

Surely people have learned by now that an update for any
Microsoft product is more likely to be an event for them to take
more money from users, rather than a real act to improve the
way we work.

It would serve MSFT best to scrap Vista, and Off07 and to admit
the browser IE7 needs to be taken OUT of the OS, and to build
Windows from SCRATCH. Admit they made a perilous mistake
bundling all their wares together, and to come clean with their
designs and their strategies.

The money hungry, thieves really ought to sit down and think
about what they are doing, rather than jumping at any market,
with any idea, just to make news, and try to take my Money, and
yours, if you let them.

I uninstalled off07 3 months ago and will never consider buying
it, nor referring it to any of my clients, theres nothing in it, for
THEM, or ME, only Bill and Steve, who dont use it anyway.
Posted by (39 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You guys are awesome!
Keep 'em coming! Good for a Friday morning chuckle!
Posted by KTLA_knew (385 comments )
Link Flag
New Interface sucks big time!!!
The Beta Interface is the worse I ever seen, if they don't bring back the old Menus back, this is the last version that I am using Office 2003.

Switching to other products, this is the biggest crap that I seen done by MS.
Posted by rmiecznik (224 comments )
Reply Link Flag
file format
What's the latest decision from Microsoft regarding saving documents in pdf format (for upcoming Office 2007)????

Thanks.
Posted by davidjnelson (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
To my most current knowledge
Microsoft will not be able to to touch PDF because of legal issues with Adobe. This means that Office will not have support for PDF right out of the box, instead MS will have a seperate download available later if the user really wants it. To supplement the right out of the box problem Microsoft will be changing file formats to more of a XML style.
For example we save office files as .doc for word .ppt for powerpoint and .xls for excel (which you probably already knew) know by default all files will be saved like so .docx .pptx and .xlsx. For universal file transfer (yeah right) and portablility (it saves space).
Hey I like Microsoft but I feel even though Office 2007 can recognize regular past Office docs in the next version all our documents will have to be converted to the new formats for us to access them.
Posted by StargateFan (122 comments )
Link Flag
Billion dollar company can't figure out if a ribbon bar is too big
Man, it really took beta testers to complain to them that the ribbon bar is too big? Doesn't Microsoft actually use their own products?

Can't they say something like "geez boss, this ribbon bar is too big, we should make it smaller, eh boss"?
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You have no idea how business works!
<eom>
Posted by anarchyreigns (299 comments )
Link Flag
wow! All the negativity
Things change, accept it. If the menu system remained the same it would never get more efficient or easier to use. To be honest the current menu system even though everyone is familiar and used to it because they have been using it since Windows for workgroups, it is very in-efficient and can be hard for novice users to easily navigate. Stuipid people need pictures it's that simple.

Instead of sitting behind your monitor and bashing M$ on thier efforts to continually improve technology, why don't you actively participate in giving positive feedback, make your own product, or go use another product that is better. All this talking is garbage. When I used to work in a retail computer store, the people that came in and got angry and said they would never come back were the ones who would always come back. The ones that never spoke and just walked away quietly were the ones that never came back. Think about that before you jump at the next opportunity to bash a company that makes billions of more dollars than your company does.

When you have $35 Billion in the bank then you can say whatever you like.

~Mr. Network
Posted by Mr. Network (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
um...
I think the ribbon was the first useful redesign of anything M$ has put out in years. Yeah, no doubt, it's current design is too large and a little clunky, but I've adapted to it quickly and see the benefit. I'm glad that they decided to listen to the feedback and try to actually build something that people want. I know I'm setting myself up for a butt-whooping from the anti-M$ gang, but hey, I just don't think the ribbon was such a bad thing.
Posted by Mactropix (1 comment )
Link Flag
fair enough...
If you like it, go for it. I've been happy to run Sun Office at home exclusively for the past 7 months and I've had no problems. At the office I have Office 03 and OpenOffice.org, I figure I use OOo about 35% of the time. My transition is already well under way. MS can monkey around with the menus/ribbons all they want, I'll continue using programs I have - nothing they have come out with in Office07 is big enough for me to part with more of my money. I can donate my money to causes too, I don't need to give it to Bill to decide where to donate my money to.
Posted by guynamedalex (17 comments )
Link Flag
bla bla bla, suck a nut.
You must realize, that majority of the money that MS made was through illegal contract with OEM that forced their software onto the public.

Why don't you first learn that, then tell us what we should think or say. This soon will be corrected.

Apple could put MS out of OS business, all they have to do is release OS X for any x86 compatible PC, and tweak the boot procedure.

Windows wouldn't stand, that's what X306 is, a backup plan, if Vista fails, Vendors are doomed, and Xbox 360 is the next cash cow for Windows.
Posted by rmiecznik (224 comments )
Link Flag
???
Part of the purpose of beta testing is to gather feedback regarding an app's UI. Doesn't matter if the developer is a multi-billion dollar player or a local dev house with a handful of employees.

Sure, we see the ribbon as too big. But since they have to beta the code that drives the app's functionality, might as well beta the UI at the same time, even if their internal staff thought it was too big. As the developer, you can't assume that what you think makes sense will make sense to the end users.

Anyone who's been through the iterative process of coding an app and developing its UI knows what I'm talking about...
Posted by orphu (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
To much screen for icons
I always adjust programs and browsers to give me as much screen space as I can get. I still use key commands heavily, so having all the space taken up by menus would not work with with my style of computing, hopefully you can turn it off and use menus.
Posted by guynamedalex (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You can't - kinda.
You won't be able to save in PDF unless you download a free addon/plugin from Microsoft's site. No idea how they're going to "educate" customers about its availability. This is the result of an agreement with Adobe.
Posted by pedershk (58 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Smart move.
The ribbon actually works wonderfully when you combine it with Vista. It complements the theme very well and overall improves workflow for people who use the mouse more than shortcut keys (many, many of today's business users).

The problem I saw right away is the one that was pointed out. It takes too much screen real estate. Many of our users have 17" LCD panels that can support relativly high resolution. The thing is that most of them run at either 800x600 or 1024x768.

This is not because they don't know they can get more on the screen at one time with a higher resolution, but because they cannot see the screen well enough to use higher resolutions on an all-day basis.

The problem is two parts. One the average age of a person in this office is over 40 (and that's about the norm for other companies in this particular industry). The second problem is aesthetics of office design. Some concessions are made in the majority of offices around here to make the office more inviting to "customers" so the monitor will be at a placement that is not "optimal" for large amounts of reading. This means that lowering the resolution results in larger icons/fonts/interface buttons and an easier use experience for many people.

This leads to the real point. If you're running at 800x600 or 1024x768 with the ribbon on, there's not nearly enough usable room in your Office screen. Good call, give the user the option to have it roll out of the way when not in use. For those of us who have good eyes still and operate at a higher resolution, I could go with the ribbon on all the time.
Posted by embries00 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
We are distancing ourselves from traditional GUI's
Basically from creation until now GUI's have basically stayed the same. Their biggest advantages being icons, drop down menus, and use of the mouse, to name a few. I have notice MS removing one of the big ones, menus, in Vista and office. I don't know why, people love menu's now as much as they did when GUI's were first introduced.
In my opinion you can't really get rid of a menu, you need those functionalities somewhere. If you don't have a menu then you need more buttons and more icons in the main area of the window, taking up space and shrinking the main content viewing area. So I feel that menus just compresses those buttons and icons so we have more viewing area.
If Microsoft wants to change, to be different, hey some things change but I think this change will be rocky for most users, to a point where MS will offer traditonal menu's as an alternative and this option will be more present then the ribbon. Even though users have nice big space wasting pictures right in front of them. I'm going to miss menu's though. I don't know if this ribbon is a good idea from a productivity stand point, it will take plenty of time to get use to, for some users.
Posted by StargateFan (122 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Agreed <nt>
.
Posted by djcaseley (85 comments )
Link Flag
It's not bad.
I like the ribbon bar. I'm running it on a Gateway
MX7515 Laptop and it looks fine the way it is.
Posted by gregorysland (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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