Does the Office Ribbon have you coming “unwound”… Here's some help

When Microsoft introduced the new "ribbon" navigation for Office 2007, I was grateful that it hadn't named it the Office rope, or noose, or anything that might have given my users some creative ideas.

Nothing is as certain as change, except a person's reaction to that change. This new way of navigating Office was going to be a huge challenge for some. As we moved users over to Office 2007, you could see the meltdown begin.

I don't necessarily blame people. I never saw a need to move versions of Office myself. I hated the new activation, hated the navigation and I really had no need for any more functionality than I already had available in my current Office suite.

Then a good friend and technology partner Randy Johnston asked me to visit the NY offices of a very creative and ingenious company called Venture Architects. It seems they had a solution to the Office ribbon issue. I was more than happy to take some time to go and explore this new alternative.

When I arrived, I was dazzled with a great, affordable, and lightweight solution called ToolbarToggle. Developed by Venture Architects' own Charles Steinhardt (a Microsoft MVP), ToolbarToggle gives users the option of reverting to the menu / toolbar combination.

With ToolbarToggle, Office applications (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) can use the now 'classic' Office 2003 menus and toolbars.

Nothing is lost in terms of having the ability to see the ribbon; in fact, there is a lite version that actually creates a tab on the Office ribbon itself with the most common toolbar commands available. With ToolbarToggle, you can have all the familiar functionality of Office 2003 without losing any productivity.

The idea of being able to transition workers, or even ourselves, over to the new ribbon is really a cool idea. You have the option of hiding the ribbon, toggliing between ribbon and toolbar and even "dare I say it" hiding the toolbar. Conceptually the toolbar gives users the ability to get comfortable with the Office ribbon at their own pace.

Another plus for ToolbarToggle is the pricing: just $19.95 for a single user of the full version and $12.95 for a lite user. Volume discounts exist for both versions making this even more appealing for the boss who thinks it makes sense to spend $399.95 for Office Standard, however, thinks the upgrade to 2GB of RAM for Windows Vista Ultimate is unnecessarily pricey at $75.00. If you need more convincing than that, ToolbarToggle can be downloaded as a five-day trial version. Individuals also have the option of getting ToolbarToggle free using trial play.

However, being able to use the classic menus is not the only thing ToolbarToggle offers. You can add custom macros to toolbars and menus and even configure custom toolbars on a per document basis.

The ribbon is the future of Microsoft apps; reports say that the ribbon will make an appearance in the upcoming Windows 7 operating system as well. It's the future and we have no choice but to get used to the new navigation. However, thanks to ToolbarToggle we can do it at our own pace.

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