Ribbon UI consequences

The ribbon – we all have a view on it, but as developers it adds some new problems.

In 95-2003 any commandbar customisations just drop in where we tell them too. If we do that badly things can go wrong, and sometimes add-ins don’t play nice with each other. Sensible coding fixes that though.

In 2007 any commandbar stuff gets diverted to the Add-ins ribbon tab, rather than integrating. To integrate properly you need to write some XML. If you can program CommandBars, you can do the XML for the ribbon, its different, not harder.

So far so good.

But what about all these classic UI add-ins that are springing up all over?, I’ve seen at least 4 products in the last couple of months. That never happened with previous Excels, everyone was happy with the standard UI, plus any personal or organisational customisations. Many power users turn the ribbon off (one way or another!) and some just use the QAT.

I see some serious support headaches for commercial add-ins targeting 2007. How are we going to surface our products functionality if we don’t even know what state the clients interface will be in? You follow the advice and add a tab – they have the ribbon hidden, the UI won’t change after loading your product. Of course you could say, you removed the standard UI its your fault our product doesn’t work in your environment. That probably won’t win you any prizes for customer service though.

I think at this stage a product has to have support for 2007, even though the market is probably small. I guess the completeness of that support can be enhanced on an as needed basis.

Anyone had any problems like this with Excel 2007 clients?




4 Responses to “Ribbon UI consequences”

  1. Charles Says:

    The only problems I have had so far (apart from the 10 days dev effort to handle all the VBA and object model incompatibilities and changes) are questions:
    – I dont see the FastExcel menu/toolbar: where is it?
    – How do I add the FastExcel Toolbar to the QAT?
    Probably need these instructions on the website …

    I have not yet spent the effort to create a 2007-specific UI, although JKP has done one for Name Manager.

    FastExcel users are probably more likely than most to be early 2007 adopters because of the multi-threaded calculation engine.

  2. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    Hi Charles,

    Bullen’s et al have made available the chapter about Ribbon X from their latest book which I find to be well written and understandable:

    Kind regards,

  3. Jon Peltier Says:

    Simon –

    “How are we going to surface our products functionality if we don’t even know what state the clients interface will be in?”

    You’ve just presented a fine argument in favor of not offering a classic UI.

    As with the “classic” interface, it’s safest to create a self-contained piece for your own app. In Excel 2003 I tend to make a custom menu on the menubars and a custom commandbar. In Excel 2007 so far I’ve made a custom tab for anything I’ve done. Same paradigm.

  4. Nick Hebb Says:


    Re: “How do I add the FastExcel Toolbar to the QAT?”

    I’ve had a few frustrated users so I created the blog post below. I’m going to an abbreviated version to the How To… section of my next help file.


    All I can say about the Ribbon is I wish they had a mechanism to pin tabs so they wouldn’t automatically switch on you. It’s major pain for add-in developers. Also, I’m glad I have a wide screen monitor, or I would’ve run out of room on my QAT a long time ago.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: