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Office 2007 Productivity Loser - Ribbons Menus

Do you hate the new ribbon menu design of Microsoft Office 2007 as much as I do? I haven't met anyone who likes this new design concept from Microsoft. Universally the reaction I see from anyone who checks out the new ribbon menus is "yuk", "what's that" and "why did they change the menus".

User Interface changes between major releases of Office have always meant learning the new menu structures, new features and where features have been relocated. Features often get moved around, change menus and new dialog boxes appear. As a user interface designer, I've always been shocked at how much license Microsoft takes in changing the user interface in new releases. And, we've always just lived with those changes. But ribbon menus are a significant departure from the current menu design paradigm, and a problem for most users.

I suspect Microsoft's reason for the ribbon menu design is to show off the new dynamic styles. As you change settings, such as the style options, the selected text in the body of the document changes as you hover over different options. That's actually a very handy feature and while a ribbon menu may make it easier to see these dynamic changes, it comes at a great cost. Productivity.

Ribbon menus make it hard to find things because the ordering and layout of the ribbons appear to have no rhyme or reason. The Home, Insert, Page Layout and other tabs are organized around tasks you would perform. For the most part, those make sense. But the content of the ribbons doesn't.

I've personally spent a great deal of time searching for how to perform a task which I already know how to perform, but just couldn't locate in Office 2007. For example, options like Find, Replace and Select are housed in an Editing subsection of the Home tab, which is located at the far right on the Home ribbon menu. Edit functions used to be right next to the File menu on the left portion of the interface. It seems like you would use editing functions far more often than using preset styles, so why demote them to the far right of the ribbon menu. The ribbon menus just lack good task-based design.

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Maybe new design elements make learning Office 2007 applications easier to learn for newbie users, but I doubt it. If we tallied the productivity hit to all the existing users who spend hours relearning Office applications, I'm sure IT and business execs would be furious. I suspect that if ribbon menus were such a great innovation and productivity improvement that we would hear a lot more about it from Microsoft, in product reviews, and comparisons with the Apple Mac OS X user interface. But the silence is deafening, most likely because the opposite is true. If you are still in doubt, check out this area of Microsoft's site with the link titled "Where did that command go? " (Check out this sample.)

Where did that command go

Sorry, Microsoft. While Office 2007 has some very powerful and useful additions, ribbons aren't on the menu.

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