Proof of the ribbons success

Anyone seen any?

Office 2007 has been out for 2 years now.

I have been wondering what research MS (the Effluent UI team) have done to demonstrate that the ribbon had succeeded in (one of) its claimed aims to reduce the number of people asking for features that already exist.

It’s basic process improvement right? measure, change, measure the improvement (or not ;-))

My honest guess is the Fail UI has not improved that one single bit. Not just because its crap, but also because technology won’t fix social issues. And asking for something before bothering to do any proper research is a social issue (technical term: lazy (or busy)).

So I’m looking for links to proper studies that show Excel/Office 2007 to be an improvement in any shape or form.

Productivity? eg reduced clicks (ha ha ha…)

Discoverability? eg. increase in the number of features in an average spreadsheet? I’m talking appropriately used features, not the all too common feature/function/format overload.

Improved quality/reduced risk/errors?

I’m guessing the lack of significant deployments, and the fact that many of the migrations are probably to compatibility mode only, will mean a lack of hard data. But please post a link if you have one, not too many per comment or Akismet will ‘ave ya.



13 Responses to “Proof of the ribbons success”

  1. Bob Phillips Says:

    Not in the least scientific I know, but the most questions that I answer on the NGs that are 2007 relate to where to find that function that the OP knew intimately in 2003. That does seem to suggest to me that the primary aim of making all the functionality more OBVIOUSLY accessible has failed.

    The other day, a guy posted this question

    [i]In excel 2003 and earlier I could select the items, group them and then right click on settings to switch off “Summary below data”.

    This would then put the – sign in the row above the date. A row which I had manually added with a relevant title and subtotal.[/i]

    I didn’t know the answer off-hand, but I found it. It was

    [i]On the Outline Group, which Subtotal is part of, you will see a faint arrow in the bottom right-hand corner. Click that and it gives you the option to switch off ‘Summary below data’.[/i]

    Now is it just me, or is that another change just for the sake of it? How does it make it more obvious? That arrow is on the Outline group not even on the SubTotal button.

    And how about this? Home tab>Clipboard group>Paste function>As Picture sub-function. Top item in that list? Copy Picture. But of course, where else would you find a copy function but buried deep in the Paste functionality?

  2. Harlan Grove Says:

    MSFT will measure the ribbon’s success the same way a suffocatingly overprotective mother would her lazy, unmotivated offspring, i.e., with a militant antipathy toward objective assessment.

    The measure of success MSFT is really interested in is OpenOffice uptake, and the ribbon has got to be a disappointment so far in that regard. Not to worry – the nice OpenOffice developers are thinking about, er, enhancing OpenOffice with a new UI. When and if they do, I think MSFT could sleep easier about OOo uptake.

    Then again, what clearer sign of success could there be than MSFT foisting it on futute Windows versions of WordPad and Paint. Heck, just think how much better RegEdit or CMD.EXE would be with a ribbon! For that matter, why not replace the Windows taskbar UI, which hides so many programs in its Start menu, with a Windows ribbon UI. Make those Mac OS users drool with envy!

  3. Simon Says:

    I use alt ohu to check if a workbook has got any hidden sheets. If yes I get the dialog, if not the menus just flicker.

    in 2007 the shortcut works but there is no movement if there are no hidden sheets. So I thought I better just check manually. Could I find format-sheets-unhide? no. And no wonder:

    home (eh who’s home??)
    cells (er no sheets)
    format (no no no visibility not formatting cells)
    hide and unhide
    unhide sheet

    illogical long and tortuous, good job the Excel guys encouraged the Ribboneers to incorporate classic menu shortcuts.

  4. dougaj4 Says:

    I have to admit that putting a copy command two levels down on the paste button is not exactly intuitively obvious.

    Maybe no-one at Microsoft knows about it either, other than the guy who put it there.

    I coudn’t find any mention of it in the help system.

    Anyway, thanks for pointing that out Bob

  5. jonpeltier Says:

    “… to reduce the number of people asking for features that already exist.”

    I suppose by encouraging folks to beg for features which once existed but are gone (customizable toolbars, tear away palettes, F4 repeat last action shortcut) and to wonder where those undeprecated features have hidden themselves go a log way towards stopping the requests for features that do in fact exist.

  6. sam Says:

    With every new release of office (from 97 to 2003) MS would publish a whitepaper titled “Improved Office Productivity”….or something similar….which compared how everything took less time in the current version than the previous version….

    The word productivity has suddenly disappeared from MS vocabulary after 2007….



    Thanx for finding the Unhide on the Ribbon – I’d given up on finding it.

    I eventually found that if you Right-Mouse a Worksheet Tab the Hide and Unhide show up there. That works (and kinda makes sense) but only once you stumble on it. This should be easier to find on the Ribbon methinks though.


  8. chris Says:

    And if MSFT do such a study, I wonder if they’ll break it down to who gets the most annoyed by the ribbon?
    (i) you power-users who crawl over spreadsheets all day long but have lost all your shortucts and are now being encouraged to mouse click all the time?
    (ii) people like me who have a reasonable knowledge and were reasonably fluent with the old file menu and shortcuts and don’t have the time to find out the new shortcuts (and give up anyway cos they’re too long)?
    (iv) very moderate users who worked out the basics of the file menu but have now seen that change?
    (iii) newbies who have no clue whatsoever?

  9. Simon Says:

    The E2007 shortcut story isn’t a total disaster but you need to learn them before you use 2007 because it won’t help you like every other version.

    you’re right it is only the complete noobs that haven’t lost.

  10. dougaj4 Says:

    “The E2007 shortcut story isn’t a total disaster but you need to learn them before you use 2007 because it won’t help you like every other version.”

    I just realised that I didn’t know where to find the “Name Manager” Icon, because I always type alt-I-N-D.

    It’s on the formula tab.

    I’ll have forgotten that by tomorrow.

  11. Bob Phillips Says:

    “I just realised that I didn’t know where to find the “Name Manager” Icon, because I always type alt-I-N-D.”

    Ctrl-F3 still works as well, but why would would anyone use that wishy-washy dialog when you can get Jan Karel Pieterse’s far superior free addin.

  12. Harlan Grove Says:

    [Ctrl]+[F3] displays a dialog in Enter/Point/Edit modes. Can an add-in do that?

    Don’t get me wrong. I think the standard means of entering worksheet formulas suck. Hopelessly mired in the early 1980s. All spreadsheets, not just Excel, desperately need better formula editing UIs, so what does Excel 2007 provide? An autoresizing formula bar. Gee, swell.

  13. Other Chris Says:

    I realise you could say I have a vested interest here (I work for MS), but I actually quite like the ribbon. I was doing a presentation a couple of years ago at a conference where I demo’d the ribbon and got some grumbles from the audience (Scottish-sounding, I could have sworn). I began explaining the reasoning behind messing around with the UI and then I started getting other audience members pitching in saying that they quite liked it after they’d used it for a while. I notice now when I get onto a machine using 2003 that it annoys me when people have moved toolbars around, hidden them et cetera. I personally don’t like the extensibility story very much right now, but I do like the look and feel of the UI.

    I started working at MS subsequent to the ribbon being added, so I don’t have all THAT much of a vested interest…

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