The Ribbon is Winding Further Into Windows

After sneaking the Office 2007 ribbon into a few places in Windows 7, Sinofsky & co. double down with even more ribbon usage.

Microsoft plans to increase the usage of the ribbon interface in Windows 8 to make it easier for users to perform the most commonly-used functions and tasks. That disclosure came today on the Building Windows 8 blog

Program Manager Alex Simons documented the changes in a lengthy blog post, complete with history lesson on the Windows UI. He noted that there are more than 200 commands in Explorer but the top 10 commands represent 81.8 percent of all usage, according to Microsoft's metrics.

Microsoft also noted that 54.5 percent of commands are invoked using a right-click context menu and another 32.2 percent are invoked using keyboard shortcuts. As a side note, I wish they'd noticed this before completely changing all the keyboard shortcuts in Office 2007. It's why I continue to use 2003 to this day.

Fortunately, Microsoft learned its lessons. Simons wrote that Microsoft has made sure that all 200 commands in the ribbon now have keyboard shortcuts. Advanced users will also be able to customize the quick access toolbar with all of their favorite commands.

The ribbon UI will focus on these most common of functions while streamlining Explorer for file management tasks. A prior Building Windows 8 update dealt with changes to the file management and copying functionality in the upcoming OS.

Microsoft had three goals with its new interface: optimize Explorer for file management tasks; create a streamlined command experience; and respect Explorer’s heritage. The file management segment, as mentioned earlier, has been covered in a prior blog post.

The View tab will be updated with a lot of one-click on/off features plus a bunch of new contextual tabs that activate themselves relative to the context of specific files and folders.

Another interesting bit of metrics: 17 of the 20 most commonly-used screen resolutions in Windows 7 are widescreen, either 16:9 or 16:10. So Microsoft is tuning Windows 8 for widescreen monitors.

"We investigated a number of options for using widescreen formats more effectively with the goal that the total vertical space available for content was the same after we added the ribbon as it had been in Windows 7. We removed the header at the top of the main view and moved the Details pane to the right side (and also did a visual revamp of the pane) while keeping a one-line status bar at the bottom of the window where we show you critical information," he wrote.

The result is a director that shows more files in the same space, even with the ribbon. 

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.