Ribbon haters club

another member here

Dunno why, I always feel those critical of the ribbon are competent users trying to get work done. Those that spout enthusiastically, I tend to feel, are generally of shallow competence. The rarely mention power users, or Excel, and generally only discuss Word.

Biased? Moi?

Anyone who calls the ribbon gimicky is alright by me!


17 Responses to “Ribbon haters club”

  1. Jayson Says:

    I would consider myself more than an average user in Excel, and have to say that I like the Ribbon. There are those who dislike it because it takes up too much real estate (double click on it and it’ll take less than those pesky toolbars). Others don’t like that it can be customized (I find I can’t find anything when working on other people’s computer with xl03 because of the customization).

    Personally I find that it has more of what I need right where I need it. I was reluctant to begin with, especially regarding custom file menus that I had coded for clients. But with the options that are available (Custom UI editor and others) I feel you can make a more professional looking interface that is also easy to use (read: easier to charge the client more for something that didn’t take any extra time).

    So, it is true that for advanced users of Excel the Ribbon will initially reduce productivity. That happens with everything. There will always be a learning curve. But the functionality that is there and so easily accessible is worth it. IMHO :-)

  2. Simon Says:

    Jayson thats a textbook response – you don’t work for Microsoft by any chance do you?

    ‘more of what I need right where I need it. ‘.. If I expand my 2003 UI to take up the same screen stealing space as the ribbon I get 1 click access to 97 commands I actually use. The ribbon wastes the same space to give me 1 click access to 43 commands I never use. And of course I can tear off a toolbar if I’m working near the bottom of the screen to save all the RSI inducing scrolling. Thats what I call functionality right where I need it.

    You must do totally different stuff to me.

    Seriously which competent users use the ‘paste’ button? no matter how stupidly big they make it!

  3. Johan Nordberg Says:

    I would consider myself a hardcore user that both uses Excel myself, do advanced trainings and alot of Excel development and I really like the ribbon.

    Personally I really hate floating toolbars that are in the way when you work so you close them and then you can’t find it when you need it. And alot of docked toolbars just clutters up the UI.

    I also agree with Jason that the ribbons looks better.

  4. Harlan Grove Says:

    Whether the ribbon looks better is at best subjective. To some it looks good, to others (me) it looks worse.

    As for screen real estate, I want as many ROWS on screen as possible, but I can live with fewer columns than necessary because most of the workbooks I use and produce are intended for portrait orientation printing. So I prefer to dock toolbars I use infrequently on the right.

    I have the menu and a SINGLE docked row below it containing Standard Formula Auditing toolbars, both customized with the addition of a new menu with the name &k, which gives be KEYBOARD access to them. This layout uses less space than the ribbon and gives me keyboard access to the toolbars.

    Did I miss something – does the [s]QAT provide keyboard access?

    I’ll grant that the menu becomes more usable when one remembers where commands are located, so the ribbon MAY be more usable by new Excel users and those who can’t remember where things are in the menu. I also realize that when long-term Excel users are forced to adapt to the ribbon, they’ll start to remember where things are in it.

    As for claims of improved usability, does the entire ribbon appear in 800×600 screen resolution? If not, that’s one strike against it. Using the convention that File, Edit, View, etc. are level 0, File > Save and Edit > Delete are level 1, Insert > Name > Define is level 2 in Excel 2003’s menu and tabs are level 0, and everything appearing within tabs level 1, and anything within drop-downs from level 1 items is level 2, are all Excel 2003 level 1 menu commands level 1 ribbon commands? Are all Excel 2003 level 2 menu commands level 1 or level 2 ribbon commands? The menu (excluding entries for recently opened file under File, toolbars under View > Toolbars, open windows under Window, and with no add-ins loaded) has 9 level 0, 110 level 1 and 96 level 2 commands. The ribbon (including the Developer tab) has 8 level 0 appearing by default. I don’t have Excel 2007, so I can’t count the levels 1 and 2 commands easily, but I can observe that cramming a lot of unrelated commands in the Home tab while providing an entire tab for Page Layout is a fine illustration of the Word-centric nature of the ribbon and the second or third place status Excel occupies in overall Office design.

    For particulars, consider Edit > Fill > Across worksheets. It’s a level 2 menu command, and it’s a level 2 ribbon command. But in the menu, it’s under Edit > Fill, which seems fairly simple to understand (but that may be biased by my experience). In the ribbon it’s in the Home tab in the Editing section under an icon that shows an arrow pointing down. That’s obvious? That’s easy to find? A FEW ribbon icons MAY be obvious, but MANY aren’t. There’s not enough space in the ribbon to use icons AND text for all the commands Microsoft needs to cram into the ribbon. The result is a UI in which one needs to remember symbols rather than textual phrases. That’s NOT an improvement.

    Final analysis: the ribbon sucks.

  5. Harlan Grove Says:

    Forgot to comment on

    ‘So, it is true that for advanced users of Excel the Ribbon will initially reduce productivity. That happens with everything.’

    Gee, did that happen going from Excel 97 to 2000, 2000 to 2002, or 2002 to 2003? I don’t seem to be able to recall steep learning curves with those upgrade cycles, though with the possible exception of the first of them they were little more than full-price minor version upgrades. Perhaps you’re referring to mastering the UI for coloring worksheet tabs.

    Excel had much less market share when Excel 5 came out. Microsoft also completely overhauled the menu layout between Excel 4 and Excel 5, BUT Excel 5 included an Excel 4 menus option. Remarkable the concern Microsoft showed for established users back when they had less than 50% market share and how little they care now they have > 90%. Or maybe not so remarkable.

  6. Simon Says:

    I meant to say, like Harlan and many other power users I only have menus and 1 toolbar usually, so the ribbon steals a ton of space and gives nothing in return. (well it gives access to a bunch of commands I never use, or that I know a shortcut for).

    Harlan I agree with you especially the obvious Word-centric-ness.

  7. Jon Peltier Says:

    I have my menu and three rows of command bars in Excel 2003. The bottom row is the drawing toolbar and the chart toolbar (which I keep always visible, I dunno why), so at the top I have two rows plus the menu. When the ribbon was first unveiled, it supposedly took less space than menu + 2 toolbar rows. However, that was Beta1, and by Beta2, the ribbon had become taller, with a net of one fewer worksheet rows visible. There goes one argument about the ribbon’s real estate.

    I often have one or more toolbars floating around, plus one or more tear-off menus. They generally are not in the way, I put them near where I’m working. If the selection approaches the floaters, the floater will move out of the way. Ever notice that? When I first installed the version that introduced this action (2002 or 2003, I forget), I was so amazed and amused that I played with it for a half hour, pushing the floaters around the screen. Anyway, this means that the floaters are not always in the way, and there goes another argument about the “problem” with the old commandbars. Also the fact that the new system doesn’t allow you to move a UI element up close to what you’re doing.

    Harlan’s point about width being less valuable than height is well taken. One clicne taught me to put custom toolbars down the left edge of the screen, so the unused columns to the right slipped off screen. It was kind of nice in Excel 2003, and very nice in Word 2003, where you would have wide swaths of unused space at the sides of your page. The ribbon puts the kibosh on selective usage of window space between document and UI.

    The ribbon is relatively easy to customize, if you use the Custom UI Editor and don’t mind a little XML. It’s not as easy to do it dynamically, but I’m still learning. I’m willing to call this a conditional improvement.

    In addition to the ribbon having a larger physical and psychological footprint (in terms of reduced user efficiency), I’ve found that many dialogs which were redesigned for 2003 are also efficiency pigs. There are more tabs (e.g., one patterns tab morphing into line style, line color, and fill tabs), and the controls are not as friendly, i.e., dropdowns instead of option buttons, so one click is invested just showing what the options are. I’d be against this, except I’ve started work on a UI add-in that will offer redesigned dialogs which bring back some efficiency. So maybe it’s not a total loss, if I can sell a few of these.

  8. Harlan Grove Says:

    Let’s attack the ribbon’s autocollapse mode. The ribbon DOES occupy less screen space then collapsed, but when that’s the case, the only quickly accessible commands are in the QAT. The QAT can only be placed at the top of the screen, and there’s a limit (I have no idea what) on how many icons may appear in it.

    OTOH, Excel 2003 and prior toolbars are visible when the menu isn’t in use. Toolbars can display many more icons than the QAT at the cost of screen space, but they’re NOT limited to a single row at the top of the application window.

    Then there’s simple usability. Let’s say I want to create some text boxes and draw lines from them to certain regions of a chart. In Excel 2003 I can have BOTH the Chart AND Drawing toolbars visible at the same time. That’s NOT possible with the ribbon unless I duplicate both in the Add-In tab or in the QAT. And if I use either approach, I can’t dismiss them or replace them with different toolbar-equivalent command sets as easily as I can using the Excel 2003 and prior menu command View > Toolbars.

  9. Jon Peltier Says:

    “In Excel 2003 I can have BOTH the Chart AND Drawing toolbars visible at the same time.”

    In fact, I keep both visible all the time, docked at the bottom, since I use them frequently. Because of this, I always see them out of the corner of my eye, and I know the positions of their buttons very intimately.

    I haven’t learned this in 2007, because first of all, there are three chart ribbon tabs (mostly to accommodate excessively large buttons), and secondly because only one tab is visible at a time. So I’m still slow at finding that one button I need now.

  10. sam Says:

    “… you can make a more professional looking interface that is also easy to use”

    Anyting that takes a lot more clicks to do what can be in less cant be professional….nor can it be easy to use…

    eg. A power user would load / un load addins….
    in 2003 this is Tools –> Addins. – Sensisble . Logical . Easy to find
    in 2007 Big Blob -> Excel Options -> Addins -> Manage Addins -> Go (Gone)….WoW

    Just about every thing takes more clicks in 07 than in 03….

    I tried to be positive and find a few things that can be done faster in 07 than in 03 and I found just 5

    1) Filter on more than 2 criteria with Autofilter …..in 03 you would need to use Advance filter or you need something common b/w the criteria and you can use a wild card in Autofilter

    2) Filter/Sort by color….in 03 you would need a UDF plus an extra column or some Code

    3) Sort on more than 3 levels at a time ….in 03 you would need to do it 3 at a time or use a query….

    4) Add more than 3 conditional formats ….in 03 only via code.

    5) A Toggle Wrap / Un Wrap button ….in 03 this would be via code

    May be I missed out a few more things… I would like to know

  11. Dave Jenkins Says:

    Re: QAT Location at top of screen: Not true, at least not when using Ribbon in PowerPoint 2007 — QAT can be located below ribbon (which is where I tend to prefer it).

  12. Jon Peltier Says:

    Dave –

    You can put the QAT above the ribbon in the menu bar, where it takes up no extra space, or below the ribbon, where it steals another slice of your work area. Hardly an improvement. I dislike the QAT so much, I don’t even use it.

  13. Sue Says:

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. New laptop (well, first actually, but anyway) and Office 2007. I had already seen my niece’s version and decided I didn’t like the gimmicky look of the new menus etc. Now that I actually have to use it all, I can say that I hate it! I have used Office for more years than I care to remember. I had all my toolbars nicely customized, with everything I use most often neatly and functionally arranged how I wanted. I even had several macros for stuff (admittedly only using the macro record function).
    I accept that it will need some time for me to reach the same level of proficiency (not that it ever required time for previous version changes), but this is ridiculous.
    Today I customized the ribbon having got fed up of having to click 6 times for something I used to just right click and select, or click a menu button once. Sigh! I added three commands, for adding error bars and formatting primary axis (vert and hor). All three have the same icon (green circle)! In previous versions I would right click customize and change the icon – even drawing my own if needed. Can’t do that here. Now I have to install some UI and play with XML code.
    I DON’T WANT TO!!!!
    I have little enough time these days as it is, without having to learn a whole new thing just to do something I was able to do quite happily. I consider myself a very proficient Excel user, using many of the add-on data functions (waiting version after version for specific glitches to be fixed – still waiting, all we got changed is eye candy!).
    On what planet is it considered clever by programmers to assign the same icon to vastly different commands?

    I would quite happily return to previous Office except that my work (journal editor) means I should be using the latest version. I now understand why we have been getting so many submissions lately where the author says “sorry couldn’t change graphic as requested”. Office probably didn’t allow the specific change, or they gave up after spending ages trying to change it.

    I am not against change (as long as it’s not just for change’s sake), I miss my lovely customized toolbars :-(

  14. Phibbus Says:

    In monthly surveys, experienced Office users have consistently reported 20%-35% decreases in productivity using Office ’07 and ’10 every single month since the former’s release right up to the present (Nov. 2011 being the last surveyed) without one month excepted. The ribbon is merely indicative of a general failure in guidance at Microsoft over the past seven years, and I am actively replacing most Microsoft products with alternatives in my division.

  15. Simon Says:

    Phibbus do you have a link/ref for the surveys or are they internal to your place?

    • Phibbus Says:

      Sorry to take so long replying, Simon… I had thought I was merely venting on a dead thread and wasn’t expecting responses. My ire has died down a bit since my desperate search for yet another workaround led me to stumble here, but…

      Yes, these surveys are internal, however, part of what set them off (aside from our general exasperation when moving to ’07) was this May ’09 article on ExcelUser.com…


      After reading it, several of our team began keeping a monthly tally amongst our development team, primarily for those serving out Access and Excel solutions for inter-office use (We tend to ignore Word around here, which is the app where the ribbon appears most successful.)

      The main problem, ribbon-wise, for us isn’t using the damned thing but programming it. As usual, MS has served up a new dish without seeing to keeping all existing functionality on the menu (so to speak.) For instance, the ribbon’s object model does not (at least not in any usable sense) support creation of custom right-click menus—a feature on which many of us who are pumping out quick solutions to daily problems have come to rely heavily to make features easily available to end-users—and you must continue to use the old menu OM to create them… which is no longer fully supported in ’07 and ’10. Thus, to effectively create and test popups, you must keep a legacy installation of ’02 or ’03 on your machine and go through the gyrations of switching between them. This all equals large amounts of time lost for both our developers (the experienced users in our surveys) and the end users when, due to time-constraints preventing the increased debugging requirements, we now have to use workarounds that lump access to custom features into non-intuitive locations.

      I’ll try to dig up the two other white papers with pre-’09 stats that led into our pro- (anti-?) active surveys which are in turn leading us away from MS products.

  16. eferrero Says:

    Yay! Universal power user hatred of the FU Interface (Microsoft’s term for it, not mine) is alive and well in 2012.

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