80% of users hate the suicide UI

Nice one Microsoft!

Charley Kyd over at ExcelUser has been running a survey on the popularity and effectiveness of the effluent UI. No surprises for any non Microsoft employees – most people hate or dislike it (please chip in with your view).

Of course that doesn’t matter, it wasn’t introduced for users, I have no idea why they did it.

As a matter of interest, why does every Office App need the same UI? they are not used by the same people to do the same job so why? its not just marketing branding is it?

Anyway, heres the thing:

Who is not ever ever going to migrate to Excel 2007 or 14 (or 15)?

(because realistically 14 isn’t going to have any useful UI improvements – probably just more blog posts from folks who have never used Excel about how we ‘don’t get it’ and if we just waste 9 months being unproductive we will eventually get back to being able to do our jobs. wow)

Unless people move away from Excel and MS Office in vast numbers then the ribbon isn’t a mistake is it? So what if everyone hates it – as long as they pay for it, so what? right? Lots of people were traumatised by the VB6-ectomy but I don’t see any financial damage (to MS) – do you?

‘Hate it, but still using it’ is fundamentally different to ‘hate it, have sacked MS Office off, and probably leaving Windows too’.

Unfortunately for Microsoft (and much of the eco system previous generations worked so hard to nurture) they made this play at a bad time, Apple are completely eating their lunch on the desktop, they have no current operating system or application stack to work with the wildly popular new breed of (mainly Linux) sub-notebooks. And Google is kicking them in the googles all over t’intarweb.

I have no idea how much real damage this fiasco will cause, I suspect not much in the corporate space. And equally home users probably aren’t that fussed about Excel UI disasters. So lots of people unhappy, no real financial impact (possible income delay I guess as people put off the pain). What do you think?

Bear in mind Office 2007 has been out for almost 2 years (released Nov 06 if I remember rightly).

I think farting around with Yahoo has had a bigger negative impact.



28 Responses to “80% of users hate the suicide UI”

  1. John Walkenbach Says:

    There’s a video of a presentation that describes the WHY:


    I have to agree with MS that the menus, toolbars, and taskpanes were getting out of control. Once I got used to the ribbon, it was fine. Now I can barely stand to use Excel 2003.

    My main complaint is that the ribbon is a lot more difficult to customize. Maybe that will change in the future. The ribbon isn’t bad for the first attempt — especially considering all of the other changes to Excel. I suspect it will get better in the future.

    I’m not a ribbon hater, and I’m not a ribbon lover. It’s just a UI, and it works fine once you get used to it.

  2. sam Says:


    You dont fall in the category of a “Normal” office user – who goes in to the office every morning…with a deadline looming large to generate the all important “Management” report…..You are a “Super user” who is not doing the usual office work…

    So I suspect if something takes a bit longer to achive in Office 2007…then those extra clicks dont hurt you that much…..

    You mentioned in one of your comments that you disagree with the fact that there is a loss of Productivity with Office 2007

    So can we compile 10 tasks that take less clicks to achive in office 2007 compared to the previous version….the criteria is that feature should be available in the lower version as well…..

    I could only list 3 tasks where 2007 is faster…
    a) Filter on more than 2 criteria with an autofilter
    b) Sort on more than 3 levels
    c) Wrap Text

    I dont think improving office productivity was an objective considered during the Ribbon development…

  3. jonpeltier Says:

    John –

    With all due respect to your opinion, once I got used to the ribbon, it was still not fine.

    When it came out in beta, I thought it looked promising. I tried to like it, and I thought it was a matter of finding where everything was kept.

    But even now that I’m familiar with placement of controls on different tabs, I still find that the ribbon and the new interface saps my performance.

    Since everything is on the ribbon, I have no option to undock a toolbar or a tear-away palette and move it next to where I’m working. Therefore, everything takes extra clicks. Since I can’t keep a tear-away palette open, changing a font attribute takes at least two clicks, maybe three, instead of one.

    The charting contextual tabs were designed by a madman, and the various options on the pop up controls were selected by someone with no experience with Excel charting. Since F4 doesn’t work for things it used to de easily (e.g., changing a series type or axis assignment, changing the formatting of an axis or a series, etc.), the simplest repetitive tasks require repeating a string of steps. Formatting a series with lines and markers requires visits to six tabs on the Format Series dialog, four tabs for the markers and two for the lines.

    No, the ribbon is NOT fine.

  4. Simon Says:

    John – I’m kind of relieved you have got to a position where you find the ribbon acceptable. That shows the effluent team aren’t complete buffoons (very near I’d say).

    Personally I’m struggling to get past the pain you describe here:

    ‘It’s just a UI, and it works fine’ (If you can afford the time to invest to relearn Excel).

    Bear in mind Excel is the defacto standard rapid application development tool in most high pressure settings and you realise that Excel users specifically don’t have time to spin their tyres. Word clickers and outlook clickers might, Access projects tend to have more realistic timelines. Its just Excel where people want a miracle and before dinner. ‘Sorry I’m going to be 20% less efficient for the next 3/6 months’ isn’t going to fly, and is going to convert into ‘I’m not going to be seeing much of my family for the next wee while…’

    Personally I don’t believe any of the ribbon justification stuff I have seen. Its all such trivial gains in such a tight audience, for a catastophic cost to the whole eco-system.

    If we had the same old UI then all those folks working hard to tame the ribbon could instead have invested their time in maximising the other new features

  5. alastair Says:

    I have it on my kids computer because they gave it away free to accountants!

  6. alastair Says:

    I should have added – poor kids!

  7. Simon Says:

    Alistair – do they eff and blind and punch the screen when they are trying to do their homework?

  8. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    Yes, there are some shortcomings with version 1.0 of Ribbon UI that hopefully will be solved with next release.

    If we get some APIs to properly create dynamically solutions then it will be a great step forward. In addition, if we have created a custom menu for the Classic Commandbar then it would be nice to have it automatically ported as a custom tab in Ribbon UI.

    As a developer, especially Excel & .NET developer, I prefer the RibbonX as it represents a more modern approach compared with Classic Commandbar: It gives us a XML-based UI declaration. The most obvious advantage is that it separate the UI from the code.

    Kind regards,

  9. Greg Says:

    Being an Excel power user, I hated the ribbon since I had already taken the time to replace the 2003 toolbars with my own custom toolbars. It was definitely a step back after using my own custom toolbars for so long. It took a while, but somewhere along the line I actually started to like the Ribbon better than the toolbars. It’s far from perfect, but when you’re forced to learn it for your job, it grows on you after a while (or at least it did for me). I’ve gotten used to it in Word (it took longer since I use it less), but I can’t stand using it in Access. I suspect the power users will get comfortable with the Ribbon since they don’t have a choice. The average user may struggle, but then again, that not much different than when they used the toolbars. It’s hard to get too efficient with any interface if you don’t use it every day.

  10. Harlan Grove Says:

    Simon, your aptest question was, ‘why does every Office App need the same UI?’ The cynical answer would be because Microsoft gave up viewing Word/Excel/Access/etc as separate applications years ago. There’s now just Office, and it should have the same UI for all its parts & pieces.

  11. Bob Phillips Says:

    Like Jon Peltier, when I first got the 2007 beta, I was very enthusiastic about the ribbon. It looked clean, elegant, and dare I asy, it looked modern.

    Goddness knows how many years os using it have changed my mind negatively. But on reflection, I think my negativisim is not so much with the ribbon per se, as John says it is just a UI at the end of it, and in many ways it is right to tear up what we have and start again. No. my objection is in the way that it has been implemented, and the many other things that are broken in 2007. Jon has highlighted the charting deficiencies, but F4 is broken all over the place. A ton of added functionality is either just plain naff or a rubbish implementation (I hate the CF dialog, NameManager is a missed opportunity, colour schemes are a nightmare), and so on.

    If they make access and control of the ribbon more flexible, correct the serious bugs, and improve the functionality of the product, we can all move forward positively with the ribbon. But my fear, as I have raised befoe, is that we will get more wizz-bang gizmos, the problems can go hang.

    IMO, the ribbon is just an iconic symbol for Excel 2007, the problems with the product get mixed up with the image.

    BTW, I was in a bike shop on Saturday, and they were using Excel 2007. It is just a solo enterprise, not a chain, so I asked how they liked it, did they find it a good product. The answer was that really they had no idea, they just downloaded data from websites into Excel 2007 and use the product in no meaningful way. When your customer uses Excel like that, it doesn’t really matter whether the use Excel 2007 or 97, they don’t care about the ribbon.

  12. Simon Says:

    Bob – did you buy anything??

    I can’t think of a single (non MS) example of someone saying ‘buy 2007 it has this great UI’.

    At best its bearable after some pain – that to me is a complete FAIL. Ignoring all the people who despise the thing, all that ‘work’ for something that no one sees as an asset is a squandered opportunity.

    The reason? they focused on Office and branding and ignored Excel. Fine if they think Excel should have a noddy UI for occasional users, but it needs a power UI for the more experienced.

    Why can’t it have multiple UIs?

  13. Bob Phillips Says:

    I think that is again missing the point Simon.

    Excel 2007 is really about, or should be about, improved functionality. Excel 2007 has 1M+ rows, 16K columns, unlimited colours, unlimited CF, a re-written charting engine, improved table handling, improved pivots, extra functions.

    As I say, should be, but I think they have blown it big time, but all the talk focusses on the ribbon not the functionality. Personally I abhor the idea of 1M+ rows, but I think I am the only one, but 16 K rows is good (I only wanted 2K, but never mind). The charting engine … I will leave others to tell you what is wrong with that. CF is a joke IMO, colour schemes are badly implemented. Tables look good in my dabbling, and I have hardly used pivots in anger in 2007, so I cannot comment. ATP functions are just as useless as in 2003, and the new functions are so limited as to be not worth using (especially when you consider backwards compatibility). So all in all, they have done a poor job on the functionality, but that can get better. Whether it will or not is debatable. If they do improve it, the ribbon becomes the side issue it should be instead of the totemic symbol of the ‘hate 2007’ argument.

    They (MS) also seemed to be determined that Office becomes a suite. In reality they are not, never have been. They are related, and sometimes we want to post data to Powerpoint or Word, or use an Access db to store the data, but how many people use Word, Outlook, Access, Powerpoint, Excel daily to anything more than basic functionality (and then there is Publisher, Visio, InfoPath, Groove, OnenOte)? I have used 6 of those products regulalrly for over 10 years now, and I never craved for a similar look and feel, and single interface experience. No, I craved them to fix bullets in Word, make Powerpoint as good as the old Lotus product (Freelance?), suitably enhanced of course), ditch Publisher, improve the HTML output, etc. etc.

    Why can’t it have multiple UIs? Why should it, what is the benefit of that.

    As for buying anything, no. I bought a new P7 last year, so I don’t think Lynne is up for me buying another (yet!). I was just looking to buy for one for her, we will be buying under the Cycle To Work scheme, so we can save a big chunk, or buy a better bike. I was looking at a Trek FX 7.7 WSD, but even at its price it has clipless pedals which disappointed me somewhat.

  14. Al Gill Says:

    Nervous whisper – am I the only person who used 07 to produce pretty graphics that impress clients and 2000 / 2003 for ‘real work’ / modelling?

    On speed of model development, I’d guesstimate that ’07 slows development by at least 10% even now I know the ribbon. Any body else care to hazard a guess / put a number to this?

  15. Simon Says:

    You are right the ribbon mess has sidelined the real story which is the spreadsheeting feature set. Of course you can’t get to that because of the ribbon barrier.

    You are not alone, one of the planners asked me what my number 1 feature for Excel would be – I said 10k row limit. His face dropped a mile – they were about to announce the 1M news ;-)

    Multi ui -a numpty one – well done they have that in the ribbon, and a pro one – we all have our own of those in 2003, not possible in 2007. Excel should have the ability to let experienced users customise (properly a la 2003).

    P7 great choice.

    Al I think thats the best use for it – thats just what it was designed for – all shirt no trousers. I can’t comment on the loss, I find it unusable, so that would be 100% less productive.

  16. Harlan Grove Says:

    Bob – I may have complained about too many rows before you did. If it’s still available in the Excel blog, you can look for my adverse comments back in 2006.

    I agree about the feature set being slighted. Just 5 new non-pivot/OLAP worksheet functions! And SUMIFS/COUNTIFS/AVERAGEIFS only being able to handle AND criteria, so SUMPRODUCT still needed for OR criteria. And the ever popular newsgroup requests for summing/counting/etc based on formatting.

    I can’t believe it’d be all that difficult to make the XLM GET.* functions worksheet functions unless its code base is such ancient C that no one on the Excel development team could figure it out. Actually that leads me to wonder whether XLM functions can handle the larger grid.

    Then there’s tables, which, if there could be table sheets (i.e., sheets that contain nothing but a table to which nothing else could be added) and a bit of filtering syntax in structured referencing, tables could be one of Excel’s best features. However, that its actual current feature set could have been thought up by Word users of Word tables doesn’t fill me with much hope that it’ll improve.

  17. Bob Phillips Says:

    Sorry Harlan, I don’t recall you saying that about too many rows, but I can well believe that you did knowing your views on spreadsheet design. I too have been saying for years that more rows are not needed, why encourage bad spreadsheet design, so I am pleased to hear that there are some others that agree with me that adding more rows wasn’t the killer requirement for Excel. I have been ruminating on this since Simon chipped in, and in many ways MS are trying to trad all paths. They pander to the masses, 1M+ rows being the biggest case here, but the whole SQUIM (forgive the probable mis-applied acronym) data thing falls into that camp, but at the same time are trying to pish us all into a more structured, more rigorous development paradigm. The two seem at odds, at least to me.

    The SUMIFS thing was a big missed opportunity wasn’t it, one I fear will never be rectified. If they had included OR, and a few more of the popular requests, they would be useable, but without these and with no backwrad compatibility I cannot see any reason to use them (until 2003 is no more).

    I’ll bet that most on the Excel team don’t even know what XLM is, and let’s hope in some ways that it stays that way, it would be a shame to lose them.

    Table sheets, now there is an interesting concept. Makes you wonder if you would need pivots, just add on an external data facility … :-)

  18. sam Says:

    “I have used 6 of those products regulalrly for over 10 years now, and I never craved for a similar look and feel, and single interface experience”

    I finally saw the PPT on “The Story Behind the Ribbon”…..
    There is a slide which says “Every one told us that everything is fine with Office, but when they talked to “real” users they told us that there must be a better way”

    If the majority of the “real” users were not happy with the UI then that sentiment should have got reflected in Blogs / News groups etc…

    I am sure every one who posts here has been actively participating in Newgs groups etc…. Does any one recollect a post prior to 2006 where users complained about the classic UI…. I dont…

    So I wonder where MS got hold of these “real” users….. Oh I get it…It must be my earlier manager whoud could only use the Forward or Reply to all button on Outlook….

  19. Harlan Grove Says:

    I’ll accept that Microsoft received requests for features already in the various Office programs, but I’d guess there were more such request for Word than for Excel. Also look at that PPT and see how many times Excel appears rather than Word.

    Microsoft has decided that the ribbon is their UI of the future (until their next great UI revolution).

  20. Simon Says:

    I’m sure they get requests for existing features, I wonder how much that has declined with the effluent?

    Not much I reckon – the problem was not the UI its a class of person who would rather ask in a NG, than check live search (ha ha I mean google of course) or help, or even just hunt around a little.

    I think a bunch of mid level Word-clicking margeting drones got together to thought-shower how to make 2007 a ‘super-exciting’ edition. Because they verged on computer incompetence the effluent is the best they could come up with. They then used all the other bullshit to try and justify it, and to force it on the product teams, who I’m sure are more switched on to the needs of real customers.

  21. Al Gill Says:

    Re ‘Real Users’ – does anybody have any customers who either have moved or are considering moving to 2007? The only reason I bought a copy of ’07 in the first place was paranoia that users would buy it and we’d have to be ready. That was when ’07 first came out but users still aren’t asking for ’07.

  22. Simon Says:

    Al the reality of work requests coming in seems somewhat at odds with the MS press bollocks. I.E. MS are telling us everyone has moved yet no one is seeing any 07 work. Perhaps they have moved but are so busy retraining to use the poxy UI they don’t have time to solve any business issues?

  23. Bob Phillips Says:

    I have a 2007 customer, in fact it was one of my most lucrative recent gigs. They moved to 2007, and their most fundamental working spreadsheets took hurs to open, one wouldn’t open at all. Once I had fixed that for them, they moved their SAS server, so they all broke again :-).

    And my biggest client is moving in a couple of months. I am hoping for plenty of work there.

    MS would say they have all moved, but 2007 is so easy and such an improvement, they don’t need us any longer.

  24. jonpeltier Says:

    Al –

    I have a handful of users using 2007. Most actually just have 2007 in preparation for the onslaught of their customers that they anticipate will be using 2007. My main activity has been building a ribbon interface to replace the command bars and menus.

    This percentage is really only about 1/3 of my clients, but it is steadily growing.

  25. Charlie Hall Says:

    I am certainly seeing more clients that have moved – but not necessarily intentionally – they just happen to have 07 with their new computers.

    I am also finding they are ok with working in compatibility mode, so I do not have to develop their apps in 07 – which works for me.

  26. Mike Staunton Says:

    Some one at Google must have a sense of humour – do a search for smurf spreadsheet and the sponsored link is MS Excel 2007

  27. Simon Says:


  28. Al Gill Says:

    Sounds like it will eventually happen when it’s no longer possible to buy machines from Dell / HP / whoever with earlier versions of office / downgrades pre-installed. Perhaps I should hope that the credit crunch won’t reduce IT budgets….

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