Ribbon Style Princess

No one ever accused me of being TOO stylish, in any walk of my life. Perhaps thats why I gravitated to Microsoft rather than Apple or Macromedia/Adobe?

Microsofts main stated aim with 2007 was to pull style and presentation front and centre. (some of us might argue that was at the expense of content – but that is a separate rant).

Now Styles in Excel are one of those things that sound good in theory, but are significantly worse than useless in reality. In an isolated world they may work but as soon as you start copying a pasting between workbooks, and who doesn’t (apart from the styles feature team)? then you get a right royal style mess. I was looking at one workbook the other day that had aver 50,000 styles defined in it. It was very unstable.

It was in working with that file though that I noted just how crap the Styles interface is in the ribbon.


Sure, it has the live preview and the styles gallery (well whoop de-chuffing-doo). I spent 20 minutes scouring t’intarwebs trying to find how on earth you might delete a style. Pretty standard procedure right? part of the normal CRUD lifecyle, well the end of it in fairness.

Anyway to delete an existing style you right click on it and choose delete from the right click menu. Hmm, pretty ‘discoverable’ right?

Since when did right clicking a menu item give you commands related to the underlying object rather than options about the menu itself? I’m guessing since the effluent UI?

And what’s with right clicking?

Right click was always a collection of the most contextually useful commands repeated from their usual location. If you wanted to do something unusual then normally the subset on right click would not cover it and you went to the home of those context sensitive commnds to trigger the unusual one.

I still haven’t found the base location of the style-delete functionality. I don’t think there is one. I think the right click concept has changed in the Effluent UI


Collection of most useful commands in the current context


Dumping ground for anything that doesn’t fit our magnificent design

So in summary:

  1. Styles are still rubbish
  2. Styles are even harder to delete
  3. Right clicking the UI is now totally unpredictable, you may get no effect, options about the UI or options about the object to which the UI relates.
  4. Right click is now the bin for things that don’t fit the woeful UI design

Note on tense:

My use of the past tense for some parts of this should in no way be taken to indicate I have moved on from Excel classic, I havent.

Style misery can be reduced by avoiding copying whole sheets and just copying cell values and formulas, or by just using minimal formatting and let your analysis speak for itself (if it can!).



10 Responses to “Ribbon Style Princess”

  1. Bob Phillips Says:

    I agree, that Style gallery is an abomination (as are most galleries – definitely look over usage here). I made that point earlier, and I was also glad to hear Harlan deride those crappy CF icons. I fear we are losing it though, I hear perfectly sane people saying that they love the new CF icons – I HATE them, I hate the whole way that have f#**#d up CF, a crap dialog, useless icons, bon-intuitive (Copy a cell with CF to a cell with other CF and the conditions get appended). A great function that could so easily have been made terrific just by adding more conditions, but no, the dabblers couldn’t keep their mits out.

  2. Simon Says:

    Bob -they are turning into the government

  3. Excel cell styles – useful feature or waste of ribbon space? « Getting IT Right Says:

    […] feature or waste of ribbon space? July 3, 2009 — Adam Vero I agree with Simon in his article about the usefulness of cell styles in Excel, where he says: Styles in Excel are one of those things that sound good in theory, but are […]

  4. AdamV Says:

    I agree with Simon.
    Cell styles as a concept seem pretty weak to me. The built-in ones are hopeless; I know hardly anyone (actually no-one that I could name right now) that uses them.
    read the rest:

  5. jonpeltier Says:

    Style over Substance, Form over Function

    The style-picker gallery on my ribbon is 234 pixels wide, and the whole ribbon is 1440 wide. The rest of the style group, which has the useful commands Conditional Formatting and Format as Table, is 124 pixels, barely half as wide. 16% of the Home tab is devoted to the style gallery. This is wasted space, which could have held more useful controls. File Open, for example, or Document Print.

    Time and again, these examples show that the UI designers couldn’t possibly be UI users.

  6. Need Ribbon help? You’re not alone. - Code For Excel And Outlook Blog Says:

    […] Murphy has a series of posts about the Excel Ribbon, the latest of which is Ribbon Style Princess which highlights more UI woes. I'd love to hear from anyone out there, agree or disagree. Share […]

  7. Harlan Grove Says:

    My own experience with formatting of any kind in Excel is that it makes file sizes grow and grow and grow.

    Get used to it folks – Excel is just another element in the document creation system called Office. Neither Excel nor Access is viewed as a stand-alone product any more.

    MSFT is selling sizzle. They have been since Office 2000. Aside from Lists, name one other significant feature introduced in Excel 2002 or 2003. MSFT has just followed the pre-existing trajectory. They’ve just done it more vigorously with 2007.

  8. sumwise Says:

    I am staying away from 2007 for as long as possible – but looks like MSFT has taken a shaky implementaiton of styles in 2003 and made it much worse in 2007. There’s a trend here. Anyway, I model professionally (if you know what I mean) and use styles religiously. I just have to keep a tight watch on copying/moving workbooks, etc. If you stay on top of them though they’re hugely beneficial. Here’s my post on using styles … http://blog.sumwise.com/2009/05/11/styles/

  9. Jayson Says:

    Styles are abismal. First lesson anyone learns (or should learn) is not to use default anything when formatting…

    The styles are housed in an xml (or xsd) file somewhere… I wish I could remember exactly where. I know I found them while working on a project, and though I may be able to programmatically deal with them, but soon gave up. All the default styles are in one file. you can add other Styles (why you would do this, ?) and they each get their own file. AFAIK

  10. Blue Ribbon Interface | PTS Blog Says:

    […] Ribbon Style Princess […]

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