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Why the Microsoft Office Ribbon is still rubbish

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Xir 20th February 2014, 08:52 Quote
I agree, I needed a lot of time finding some basic functions, while many of the functions that are standart on the ribbon are hardly used.
What annoys me most is that it constanly changes, depending on what submenu you're in.

I understand that's supposed to be the strong point, but some of the basic (but much used) functions should retain a fixed position.

I mostly use exel though, so I can't comment on the word functions.
SchizoFrog 20th February 2014, 09:00 Quote
The problem I find is the misinterpretation of the word 'intuitive'. Over recent years, the technology push has moved away from those willing to learn and use new things and has been at the mainstream public and on the whole, they are idiots who usually fail to see the obvious even when it is waved under their nose. They somehow want to see things without ever having to open their eyes and actually look or think. So if what they want isn't seen within first glance, right from the very start (you can totally forget any form of customising or learning curve) then they tend to give up, claim said product is rubbish, useless or too difficult. Or even worse, they start to random click anything and everything in front of them leading to all sorts of problems, remember the days of the hour glass in windows and the incessant click, click, click on the mouse from those around you?
The general user wanted things to look bigger and clearer (visually clearer, not necessarily functionally clearer) and so they got that along with other changes too. However, they also have an expectancy when using certain programs. They expect to see certain features or symbols as that is what they saw previously regardless of whether they ever used those features at all. Windows 8 is a perfect example of this. For the vast majority of users who complain about Windows 8, the only thing that affects them is that it looks different and works slightly different and that is usually enough to unsettle them.
Microsoft has been stuck in a very difficult position for a long time. People want them to lead the way and bring bright, new ideas to the table and yet as soon as they change anything almost everyone is queueing up to complain about the changes.

When it comes to the Ribbon, this is how I want it. Have the Ribbon area split 50/50 with their chosen, given 'must have' default tools on the left and a blank section on the right. The left should still be fully customisable for the user to make any changes as they wish, after all, they paid for it, let them use it how they want to. Then the right panel can 'learn' as you use the program much like the Windows Start Bar contains 'Frequently Used Programs' and so when a tool is used, it appears directly within the area on the right. Should other tools in time be used more often then the previous tool drops off the panel. If the user wishes for the tool to remain then at any point they can drag and drop the tool from either it's original location or from the rolling panel and pin it to the left, permanent panel. To extend the practicality of this system I would add a Custom Ribbon tab where many more tools can be dragged to and arranged any way you want them to appear.
Corky42 20th February 2014, 09:02 Quote
Quote:
Have you grown to like the Ribbon interface? Did you like it from the start? Or, like me, do you still find it a bit of headache?
Didn't like it from the start and still don't like it, when you have to use the help file to find what you have spent 5-10 min trying to find something is obviously wrong.
B1GBUD 20th February 2014, 09:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Article
For instance, in Word, to turn on Bold you type Alt > H > 1 or to save the current theme you can type Alt > G > TH > A.

Or you can just do a CTRL + B.....
Krikkit 20th February 2014, 09:20 Quote
I can see why the ribbon would be an issue for those who don't want to take their hands off the keyboard while using it, but I've gone back to a mouse+kb attitude for office, and find the ribbon brilliant.

The key being able to flip between tabs with the scroll wheel - it's so easy to move about between functions etc that I'd never want to go back now!
edzieba 20th February 2014, 09:38 Quote
I liked the ribbon from the start. It's a fantastic reversal of the bullshit trend of "a clean UI is a usable UI" that hides more and more tools under menus and submenus: nice looking, but a massive pain in the arse to ever actually get anything done with. Even without the keyboard shortcuts (yes, multiple presses are still far faster than mouse hunting through dropdown menus) almost every option is exposed under a single menu level.

Take that Thunderbird screenshot. A big chunk of unused space at the top, and for anything more complicated than "write a new message" you need to start opening dropdowns. Clean and nice looking, but the antithesis of efficient in actual usage.
edzieba 20th February 2014, 09:38 Quote
Whoops, double-post
Boscoe 20th February 2014, 10:07 Quote
What boggles my mind with Office 2013 and Win8 is when clicking file you get a new window! And can't see your existing document!? Making it more complicated.

This is what I hated about the new start menu it was like I had to open a new program to open more programs and be trapped through the start menu conduit where I had start menu programs and desktop programs!? It boggles my mind, who came up with that and thought it was a good idea!??

I'm sorry Apple are right PC OSs are PC OSs and smartphone tablet OSs are something else.
Cthippo 20th February 2014, 10:23 Quote
Unless I'm actually typing something, I typically don't use my keyboard at all. It's tucked away unser the desk and everything gets done with the mouse. I suppose theoretically keyboard shortcuts are awesome, but aside from some basic ones, I just don't use them much.

My preference would be for a static nested menu system which I find easier to navigate with the mouse, but YMMV.
Dave Lister 20th February 2014, 10:37 Quote
Open Office all the way for me baby... i'm not exactly a power user but it seems to have all the features of the MS product at a hugely competitive price difference.

I'm not sure if it has the ribbon thing the article is about, but most of it seems intuitive and still has drop down menu's.
rollo 20th February 2014, 10:50 Quote
Having used office 2013 day to day since launch long since adapted to the ribbon. Would not say its reduced type speed either as most of the old short cuts still work to activate different things.

End of the day in Microsoft word at least if its not reducing your type speed it's hardly a issue.

Other sections of the office program it can be a bit of a hassle but once again after a few weeks of day to day use you find out everything you need to know within that time and move onwards.
Daedelus 20th February 2014, 10:58 Quote
As soon as bold stopped being CTRL+B they should have realised they were doing something fundamentally wrong.
jrs77 20th February 2014, 11:29 Quote
All I need is my classic menus, and I really don't care about all this new fancy crap.

If they want to improve something, then they should improve the performance under the hood, but leave the tried and tested menus we've known for the last two decades.
rollo 20th February 2014, 11:31 Quote
Open Office is great in the home environment you will not find it in a real office though.
Blackshark 20th February 2014, 11:38 Quote
Awful. It started out as such and has failed to move towards acceptable. Great article.
dicobalt 20th February 2014, 11:41 Quote
All I know is that ribbon actually works pretty good when I'm touching up PowerPoint study guides on an 8 inch touchscreen.
Nexxo 20th February 2014, 12:17 Quote
I think that the ribbon makes perfect sense, and I cannot see any other solution to be honest, to the ever increasing range of features that need to be covered. At some point you just start losing oversight. The tabbed ribbon is a good way of organising things IMO.
Laitainion 20th February 2014, 13:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daedelus
As soon as bold stopped being CTRL+B they should have realised they were doing something fundamentally wrong.

CTRL+B still works, I'm not aware of a single old school ctrl+? shortcut that don't still work. I've used every version of Office since Office 95 and think the ribbon is the best feature to ever be added in this time period.
Meanmotion 20th February 2014, 13:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Laitainion
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daedelus
As soon as bold stopped being CTRL+B they should have realised they were doing something fundamentally wrong.

CTRL+B still works, I'm not aware of a single old school ctrl+? shortcut that don't still work. I've used every version of Office since Office 95 and think the ribbon is the best feature to ever be added in this time period.

Yeah, sorry if that was unclear. Ctrl+B still works but you can also navigate to the Ribbon button for Bold via the above shortcut.
Guinevere 20th February 2014, 13:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
I think that the ribbon makes perfect sense, and I cannot see any other solution to be honest

While the software is lacking MANY of the advanced features of Word. Apple's pages is a really nice to use.

Rather than an 'all things under one roof' ribbon taking valuable space and causing a visual overload at the top of the screen you have a context aware panel on the right that when you're editing text you don't get the options to style a table, and when you're working within a table you don't get the options to adjust the colour of a shape... and when you select a shape you don't get the options to format your paragraph. No matter what you're doing you get a really clean UI with the appropriate tools. Is it perfect? No, I use highlight quite regularly which is one click further away than I would like so I may have to assign a shortcut to that one.

When the ribbon appeared. I loved it, but now having designed and written document editing and management software I've had to expose myself to other approaches...

And pages is just plain nice to use. So is numbers (But I'm still happier in excel but that's familiarity working).

Another thing Apple do so well which is supported in all software is the search option under the help menu. It will search the app's drop downs and will not only find you the function you are using but show you where it lives so you can learn it. It allows drop downs to be retained and kept useful!

I prefer pages so much I've migrated myself away from Word, but then I can do that as the documents I'm creating aren't tied into anything MS specific. Office is still installed at the moment but I doubt I'll bother installing it again if I ever have to reinstall OSX.

If I was still creating technical documents with lots of embedded and editable visio diagrams I'd still be tied to MS and Windows.
bagman 20th February 2014, 13:50 Quote
What a load of rubbish. The new ribbon system works brilliantly. You find what you are looking for very quickly due to the size of the buttons and the clear text. You no longer have to dig around for 5 mins in drop down menus to find 1 thing.

I like that they give you everything in a couple of tabs as it means I don't have to set up MS word. I would hate it if I had to decide what functions to use, MS are the experts and they should know how to set it up properly and they do.

Its also nice that ribbon system is on all the products so you don't have to learn each program they are all very intuitive. Thats the best way to describe the new ribbon system intuitive.
Meanmotion 20th February 2014, 13:55 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
I think that the ribbon makes perfect sense, and I cannot see any other solution to be honest, to the ever increasing range of features that need to be covered. At some point you just start losing oversight. The tabbed ribbon is a good way of organising things IMO.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rollo
Other sections of the office program it can be a bit of a hassle but once again after a few weeks of day to day use you find out everything you need to know within that time and move onwards.

These two points kind of sum up the collective wisdom regards Ribbon nowadays. It's this idea that if it's 'not so bad' and that we can't see a solution then it's good or even acceptable. However, the old menu/toolbar system wasn't too bad either. In other words both still have plenty of negatives. What we should be striving for is a system that is simply better all round, and I believe that's possible.

Again citing Thunderbird vs Outlook. Open a new email and the difference is striking. Thunderbird sensibly has a context aware layout of tools, with for instance its formatting tools above the text section and below the addressing section. It also has Send as the most prominent button alongside a small selection of other key functions. It just feels logical.

In contrast Outlook, as with all other Ribbon-using programs, crams nearly everything into the same space at the top of the page with little regard for context. As such the formatting tools are away from the text section and jumbled among other tools. Meanwhile the send button, although large and prominent, is not quite where it feels natural - I keep going to 'Paste' rather than send.

It's analogous to all the tools in Photoshop - for layers, history, adjustments, etc - being bunched up in one tabbed interface at the top of the page rather then being in individual windows that you can arrange as per your needs. Again, not saying Photoshop is perfect but there are lessons it can teach.
IvanIvanovich 20th February 2014, 14:04 Quote
It would be nice if they did it more like adobe in my opinion. A fixed set of tool icons along the left, and the top changes to sub options that are relevant to whatever primary tool you have selected.
Krikkit 20th February 2014, 14:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meanmotion
Meanwhile the send button, although large and prominent, is not quite where it feels natural - I keep going to 'Paste' rather than send.

Agree on your thoughts, there are -ves to the ribbon, and menus and contextual tools etc, finding the balance is the trickiest part.

BUT for Outlook instead of pasting things, Ctrl+Enter to send. So much easier!
j_jay4 20th February 2014, 14:34 Quote
Yes these new Alt+ shortcuts don't sound very short, but as has been mentioned Ctrl+B works just fine for bold and most other regularly used formatting have a shorter shortcut. This new method now gives every option a shortcut so if you want to learn a shortcut for an obscure button it will have one.

Also about "the average user does not use styles", well they should. I consider them essential to produce a professional document that has titles, headings, captions and normal text. It really cuts down on time spent formatting a document. You just have to do it once and then just write the document, no matter how long it is.

I don't think just having 20 buttons and drop-down menus is the right way to do things. I would never be able to find any of the options I desired and this would be infuriating, With the ribbons, I have been able to find every command I have ever wanted to use easily and even discovered new commands that are useful to me. This would not happen with just 20 buttons and a need to actively search for things.
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