Ribbon tab based litter

The ribbon tabs are not automagically context sensitive, nor could they be.

But what they actually end up doing is just screen litter.

You have the home tab showing, perhaps doing some of this formatting that Microsoft is so convinced we spend so much time doing.

Next of all you actually do some work – perhaps import a text file, from the data tab. All good so far.


But then you go off and flick through the sheets to check something out – now the UI is just showing a bunch of irrelevant data commands even though you are doing some sort of informal review. And it will keep showing 100% irrelevant commands until you click another tab to try and find a command you need. 100% screen litter, easily cleared by using crtl F1, unless you are using Reuters, in which case you have to double click a tab to sweep that litter under the carpet.

In a proper UI, accepting that the software can’t know what you will do next, the UI should make few common activities from a range of scenarios instantly available – like for example, oh, I don’t know – Excel 2003?

Lets say you are unable to remember that find is crtl H and you use it regularly. You will probably eventually remember that it is right over on the right of the home tab. (you will never learn the keyboard shortcut from 2007) Over time time perhaps your mouse will move in that direction as you think about looking for something. But if the Home tab is not visible the route to find is not up and right, it is up and left, because you have to select the tab first.

Menus in Excel Classique are a bit like this – they only unveil themselves one step at a time. Lucky then that the toobars are stable so we can learn where on the screen a commnd will always be.

So in summary 2 problems with the tab nonsense

  1. It leaves irrelevant stuff on your screen most of the time
  2. It makes the navigational direction of commands unstable
  3. its HUUUUGGE!

Are you a tab fan?



6 Responses to “Ribbon tab based litter”

  1. Harlan Grove Says:

    The reason given for the ribbon is that it makes commands easier to find. Maybe the commands in the currently selected ribbon tab are easier to find than searching through the classic menu, but commands in inactive tabs are no easier to find than commands in the classic menu when Excel is in ready mode. And commands one may want always available, e.g., in my case those in the Formula Auditing toolbar, are just that with classic toolbars but available in the Formula tab or the QAT in the New & Improved! UI.

    Another criticism I have about the effluent UI is the number of controls with no text caption. At least in the classic menu every menu command has at least one word associated with it. Words are easier for most humans to remember than symbols, especially symbols in a 24 by 24 pixel or smaller block.

    The ribbon does an exceptional job of combining the worst features of classic menus and toolbars.

  2. Simon Says:

    “The ribbon does an exceptional job of combining the worst features of classic menus and toolbars.”
    That is exactly what I think, and having done this series I see it even more strongly now.
    In its favour though – it shafts menu users and button users equally.

  3. AdamV Says:

    I agree it is unfortunate that the UI does not migrate back to the home ribbon, but can’t see a useful way to do this – if you take a break or a phone call, should it time out and go back to where you came from? Probably not. QAT is the next best bet for these kind of commands.

    A couple of tips:
    If you hover over a command, you do get tooltips (or screentips as they now seem to be called). So if you go to the home ribbon, edit group, find and select button, then hover over the “replace” choice, you are told the keyboard shortcut is “CTRL-H”. Seems reasonable to me.

    I really push people towards learning keyboard shortcuts on my training courses, as they can be a huge time saver, and discovering new ones is part of this process. The triplet of holy trinities (BIU, XCV and FGH) are high on the list of easy those which are easy to remember and useful every day. H on it’s own makes no sense, but find, goto, replace being together in the alphabet and the (QWERTY or AZERTY) keyboard helps.

    As for the muscle memory of going to the top right only to find you are on the wrong ribbon tab, yes it’s annoying. Best thing to learn is to point to the tab labels bar (you don’t have to point at a tab, the blank space to the right is just as good) and use the scroll wheel to move through the tabs. I know, this is not necessarily intuitive, and is another change to learn, and for wheel-less trackpads etc is no better, but better than going all the way left and right again.

    Overall, a sensible proposal might be to have a QARibbon rather than a QAT. This could hold whole groups of commands (as can the QAT, but this would be without the need to click to drop down the set first) and could be set through options to be the default instead of home. A neat shortcut to go to this default tab could be a click in the blank space in the labels area (or on it’s tab, just as at the moment).
    Groups on that tab could use the same behaviour to shuffle or resize within themselves to fit narrow screens as they do when on their ‘normal’ tab. Maybe you could set the priority relative to one another, so as with the home ribbon the paste and font groups are last to collapse, you could choose formula auditing as the most important to you on your QAR.
    Too late for 2010, how about sp1? Or make it a downloadable feature?

  4. Simon Says:

    Adam don’t bet on that SP1 – I did and I lost a tenner!

  5. Bob Phillips Says:

    But you never paid!

  6. Blue Ribbon Interface | PTS Blog Says:

    […] Ribbon tab based litter […]

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