Office 2007 Blob


Seriously, whoever thought that blob was good User Interaction design should be relieved of all UI responsibilities and transferred to marketing or packaging design or something. I’m not saying its ugly (it is though, now I think about it), my point is that is misleading – no one thinks its a button to press. Let alone the only useful one.

Whoever came up with the bright idea to make it flash on first use to alert people that its a functioning part of the UI not some sponsorship image should be promoted to management, away from the front line of UI design. The flashing is a good compromise to take the edge of an appalling piece of UI design. But overall its still a weak user experience.

LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT THING!! Bloody hell its absolutely massive!! I did a O2k3 install recently too – by default you get 1 row of menus and 1 row of toolbars (probably half the vertical space the ribbon needs to present its pointless commands)- the Excel team know we need some space for our work. The ribbon is clearly the work of Word/Outlook clickers, who have never even done a shopping list in Excel.

I am genuinely relieved to be using Office 2003 (and OpenOffice).



[thats right I have been setting up some O2k7 demos this week, and that has re-ignited my disappointment with the UI]

9 Responses to “Office 2007 Blob”

  1. Johan Nordberg Says:

    Hehe. I agree that the Office button isn’t the best UI design. The fact that they need to flash it the first time must be because they discovered that users didn’t understand it was a button.

    On the beta 1 the Office button actually was a File-menu button, which wasn’t as pretty, but it sure was more user friendly. The Office button has the same function as the file menu did.

    In Office 2003 the first thing I always do is to put the standard and formatting toolbars on two rows and turn on the option to always show full menus. Then you have to drawing toolbar and usually some other toolbar, like the Reviewing toolbar. Now that acually takes up more space then the ribbon does.

    I really love the Ctrl+F1 shortcut in Office 2007 where you can auto hide the ribbon. Especially in Word where actuelly do just typing most of the time. For headings you have shortcuts as well, so you don’t really need much of the commands available when you do your writing.

    I’m doing a presentation for about 100 people on friday about the news in Office 2007. It’ll cover new features but also how templates and addins are affected by the upgrade. Any cool ideas what to talk about?

    // Johan

  2. Jon Peltier Says:

    Johan –

    You’re repeating the drivel from the Office UI blog. With Excel 2003 set up as you describe, the UI strip at the top is much wider in 2007 than in 2003. Drag the Drawing toolbar to the top group of commandbars in 2003, and the Excel 2007 ribbon is still thicker than the Excel 2003 menu plus three (count ’em, three) commandbars.

    Cell A1 in Excel 2003 is about even with the column headers in Excel 2007. On the laptop I’m using right now, Excel 2003 is able to display 33 rows and Excel 2007 only 32 rows.

    I’m learning that the 2007 context menus are not as flexible nor as accessible as in prior versions. To overcome the bad dialog design in 2007 (particularly revolving around charting dialogs), I’ve designed some new dialogs to be activated by buttons added to the various charting context (right-click) commandbars. However, the commandbars in the enumeration of the CommandBars collection are not all the same as the ones which actually appear. I can add a control to the popups that appear when the worksheet (i.e., cells, rows, columns) are right-clicked, but not to those that appear when a shape or a chart element is right-clicked. So I’ll have to hack something together using chart mouse events.

    I started a list of cool things to discuss, but didn’t want my post to turn into a rant, so I deleted the list.

  3. Johan Nordberg Says:

    I agree about the context menus, charting dialogs and the fact that you can’t double click on elements in charts any more.

    I’m starting to think that I’m one of a small crowd that actually likes the ribbon. :) But I really do like it…

    If you feel like it, please email some cool stuff to discuss to “johan at spider dot se”. It would be interesting to hear what the Excel gurus of the world think are the best and the worst news in Office 2007.

    // Johan

  4. Dennis Wallentin Says:


    >>To overcome the bad dialog design in 2007 (particularly revolving >>around charting dialogs), I’ve designed some new dialogs to be >>activated by buttons added to the various charting context (right-click) >>commandbars.

    Excellent – Looking forward to see the outcome of it.

    Kind regards,

  5. Harlan Grove Says:

    I must be an oddball. In Excel 2003 I have the worksheet menu bar, a customized standard toolbar and formula auditing toolbars visible. My modified standard toolbar includes a Toolbars drop-down menu from which I can select other toolbars on the fly, and I’ve given that menu the keyboard accelerator [Alt]+B. Anyway, my modified standard toolbar and formula auditing toolbar both fit on the same ‘line’. So at 1024 x 768 screen resolution, I can see 35 rows and 15 columns (at default standard sizes) on screen at once.

    Then there are my own oddball preferences for the other toolbars. I don’t use many of the built-in toolbars, and the rest I prefer docked elsewhere than at the top of the screen, and when I need them, I want them to REMAIN VISIBLE even if I happen to use a different, completely unrelated command between using the toolbar in question.

    I will agree that [Ctrl]+[F1] is far & away the best of the ribbon’s features. Indeed, it’s the only thing that makes it arguably usable. It should be easier to add nested, menu-like structures to the QAT, and using such a feature it’d be nice for Microsoft to include an entire Classic Menu that could be placed into the QAT.

    Choice is good. Microsoft has reduced choice.

  6. Simon Says:

    I set up my 2003 ui to take up as much space as 2007. (or maybe it was less I can’t remember)
    In 2003 I had 1 click to 97 commands that I actually choose. In 2007 I think its 43 pointless commands that some Word muppet thinks I need.
    Of the screenshot above I have never and will never use over half the buttons, and of course I’ll never click in the wasted paces in the borders. Probably 75% of those pixels are utterly and completely useless to me (and anyone else who knows ctl v, b, i, u).
    Learning is good. The ribbon de-values learning.

  7. Jon Peltier Says:

    Dennis –

    The replacement 2007 charting UI is going to take at least a few more weeks in my spare time. I’ve spent a few weeks of spare time designing the dialogs, now I have to put code behind them. I spent a few hours over our holiday weekend learning how messed up the Excel 2007 context menus are.

    I spent this weekend uninstalling and reinstalling Office 2000 and 2007 on my backup laptop, the one I use for 2007. A lot of things had gotten messy, including not being able to use RefEdit controls in either version of Excel. The reinstallation didn’t fix that, but then I hunted through the registry and found some unexpected places where Office saves temp ActiveX files.

    Then I fixed up my small handful of charting utilities so they work in both classic Excel and Excel 2007, and I packaged a few together into a 2000-2007 UI version (box charts, dot plots, waterfalls). The main add-in has the utility code and the classic interface, and if it detects that it’s running in 2007, it ignores the classic UI and opens a tiny XLAM file that contains the 2007 UI XLM. Despite having to deal with two sets of UI instructions, it wasn’t too hard to cobble together.

  8. Jon Peltier Says:

    Simon –

    In my roughtly equivalent setup, I had 42 or 43 buttons in the 2007 ribbon, and 94 in the 2000 commandbars. There were room for more in 2000, and we know how easily those could be added in 2000. Even with twice the functionality, Excel 2000 offered an extra row of visible space, and I don’t find the command bars more cluttered than the ribbon.

    In fact, the ribbon seems cluttered to me, with the QAT, the big beach ball Office button, and the ribbon tab labels above the buttons and the control group labels below.

  9. Dennis Wallentin Says:


    I know myself how time consuming it’s to find new paths and new solutions with the Ribbon UI. Shared add-ins & VSTO offer additional challenges but on the other hand solve some issues more smooth then Excel.

    Anyway, it’s highly appreciate that You take Your time to do it and I hope the Excel community will find it useful.

    Simon et al,
    With the classic UI I would say that it nowadays exist a best practice. It’s easy to apply it to Ribbon UI and conclude that the new UI is less good then the classic UI. In specific cases it is (a good example is what Jon has stated here in some comments).

    The overall question, at least for me, is to which degree we should actually apply the classic approach to Ribbon UI. Perhaps we should try to view “this new kid in town” from a different angel then we tend to do? Discussing UI on the web is not so easy to do so perhaps the Excel conferences around the world can be a platform for it.

    Kind regards,

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