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Doug's Mailbag: The Great Ribbion Debate, Is IE Worth Your Trust?

In the April issue of Redmond magazine, Doug discussed the impact of Microsoft's ribbon interface and asked your thoughts:

I think Microsoft's ribbon is a disaster. All the products (Microsoft Office) for which the ribbon was introduced are failures. A product is a failure when users go shopping on the Internet looking for add-on tools to make the new ribbon looks like the classic interface.  

The human brain prefers productivity; previous tasks -- such as cut, copy, paste, bold, italics -- now requires several clicks of ribbons. That is unproductive and inefficient. Microsoft doesn't get it. With all the money they have, they can not hire PHDs in artificial intelligence to tell them how the human brain works.

Microsoft have completely lost its credibility. Its new product launches are taken with a grain of salt. It's almost like, as Apple's Steve Jobs put it, "They have no taste."

- Duro

I'm not sure I agree with your conclusions, based on the fact you only received 30 letters, with no statistically correct sampling.

You were bound to get more angry, unsatisfied users, and not hear from most of us, who actually like it (my opinion, not a scientific poll). From what I know, the ribbon was not created by MS alone -- it was the result of an extensive usability research. Besides, complaining that UI changed is pointless. I'm actually glad that finally something new came to the Office UI.

If people spent a fraction of the time they spend complaining in learning the new features, they would gain more. Classic menus would not be able to contain all the new features, and if you don't want to change, just stick to the old version.
- Wanderlei

When I first installed Office 2007, I thought the ribbon was a pain. I could not understand why they needed to change things again. If you remember, the ribbon has changed with each of the releases of Office since Office 1997.

One of my first complaints was that there is nothing to inform you that the Office log in the upper left-hand corner actually did something. Once you figure that out, a lot of the major issues with Office goes away. My biggest epiphany was when one of our administrative people pointed out that you can basically do a right-click on almost anything to get to the dialog boxes that you are trying to find.

One of the biggest annoyances to me is that once you get to the dialog box you are looking for, it looks just like the Office 2003 dialog box. So what did Microsoft spend all of their time on? Apparently making Word and Excel more difficult to use for the person that had experience.

The ribbon has made Word and Excel easier to use for the newbie; however, for the person that has been working with Word and Excel for years and years, the ribbon has become a big pain in the neck to deal with, as you have to go hunting down things as to where Microsoft thought they made the most sense to place them. One of the biggest complaints I have heard from our administrative people is wondering why Microsoft hid some of the dialog boxes. They tell me that there are some dialog boxes that are so well hidden that you really have to go digging to find them.

However, the biggest problem we have come across is the Microsoft implementation of OpenXML for Word (i.e., DOCX format). When you use Change Tracking Mode with DOCX, there seems to be a problem with Word determining which changes are the current changes, depending on the user viewing the document. I was editing two large reports right after we converted and had instances with both where the changes I made were not seen by the administrative person. We were on the phone and what I was looking at and what they were looking at were two different things. We used DOCX for about two weeks until we realized that Word documents were getting corrupted and switched back to DOC formatting. This seems to be a hidden secret with Microsoft that this does not work. It will sure be nice when Microsoft gets this fixed.
- Jeff

Seems to be a good idea but Microsoft introduces new technologies and leave us (old tech guys) behind. Most of users get lost and can't find what they want until tech support does the research on it.

As you mention before, how hard would it be to leave the old clunky menu with the ribbon for 2007 and then phase out the old menu on 2010?
- Anonymous

Last week, Doug ask if you trust Internet Explorer's aggressive push to fix known problems:

I don't trust IE because it doesn't follow W3C standards -- Firefox does. In addition, Firefox gives me a plug-in that gives me a debugging platform for Web development with Javascript, CSS, Ajax, Prototype, etc.
- Richard

When I am using IE 8 and Win 7, IE 8 freezes almost nonstop. Once it stops, it's almost impossible to use without reboot. I didn't get that with XP nor do I have the same problem with other browsers, such as Mozilla and Opera. Thanks for letting me vent.
- Mitchell

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Posted by Doug Barney on April 07, 2010