Long letter

Some famous person who’s name I can’t remember once wrote:

‘Sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.’

Lots of us have taken that to be an acceptance that succinct communication can take more effort that just blathering on. They could have just been being ironic of course!

It occurs to me that the scandalous squanderor of screen space (round of applause?) that is the ribbon is this principle personified.

They didn’t have the time/money/ability to create a clear intuitive compact succinct interface so they gave us that bloated bag of hammers instead.

I have been working almost exclusively with Office 2007 for a few months now. Long enough to begin to be able to find stuff in the stupid places they have put things. Not long enough to become a believer, indeed I doubt I ever will believe the ribbon offers any material advantage over a proper interface.

The thing I keep coming back to is litter. It just seems like so much litter messing up my workspace. If I click on the formula tab to do something, then carry on with other stuff, 10 minutes later when I want to use the UI again its still showing the (now irrelevant) formula tab – wtf?

Of course if they made it keep switching back to the home tab it would be even less productive. If they made it context sensitive it would be sensitive to what you just did, not the more useful what you are about to do.

No, the whole thing is fundamentally, woefully flawed, driven by ignorance and misinterpretation of grossly skewed data. Oh well.



7 Responses to “Long letter”

  1. jonpeltier Says:

    Ironic that today’s Dilbert was about the ribbon:


  2. Simon Says:

    Great link Jon!

  3. Doug Glancy Says:

    According to my extensive research it was Blaise Pascal who said that. Wasn’t he the founder of Borland?

  4. Rob Bruce Says:

    I do a bit of Joomla/Wordpress/PHP web development on the side, and I’ve been using a product called Artisteer to give me a jumpstart with my template design. It comes with a ribbon UI which (shock, horror) I have found to be very useful in discovering features and learning how to use the application.
    Nevertheless, compared to any of the Office apps, Artisteer is not particularly complex – all of the features are available without too much digging about because none need to be buried too deep in the command hierarchy and because the application only really has limited uses.
    So maybe Microsoft is kind of right. The ribbon works. But only for apps at the level of WordPad. For Excel it’s a disaster.

  5. H.G. Lamy Says:

    The quote referred to is attri buted tothe German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as far as I know.

  6. jonpeltier Says:

    It’s been attributed to Pascal, Mark Twain, Thoreau, St Augustine, Voltaire, and Cicero, and probably to others. Pascal is the most common cite.

  7. PA Says:

    “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain

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