more UI comedy

Ribbon cancer gets terminal

using the exact same discredited data and method.

And with the same desparation. Although there is no mention of Effluent UI, I guess they realised what an easy target that was.

There is a saying in marketing – If you can’t think of anything useful, make it in a different colour. It seems the equivalent in software is if you can’t think of anything useful make the buttons bigger.

El reg has some useful insight.

Its funny looking at the evolution as the explorer UI really has become bigger, more clumsy and more user conflicted.

What do you think – will it make your use of the file system easier or harder?

Are you wondering why there still isn’t something better than a hierarchical file system? (hint: big buttons are easier ;-))






25 Responses to “more UI comedy”

  1. Bob Phillips Says:

    I have to admit that when I heard this news I was really disappointed. If ever there is a function that really did not need a ribbon, it is Explorer. I rarely use the commandbar, and most functions I use within Explorer are accessed in the right-click context menu (.

    When will MS learn to learn from the best, they don’t have to invent everything. IN 2007 they built a rubbish NameManager when there was a model staring them in the face, and they are still at it.

    As one guy said in the comments, will we get this dopey ribbon in all apps that hook into explorer, that will be disastrous.

    When are MS going to realise that the people who don’t know that 80% of the commands are there are unlikely to need 95% of the commands. Make life easier for those that need it, not those that never will user it.

  2. Harlan Grove Says:

    When I need to do any serious filing tasks I use cygwin’s zsh and POSIX utilities. For lightweight stuff I use 3rd party software (Beyond Compare and 7zip) which does a lot more than Explorer in their own specialized niches. I much prefer 2-panel file managers, so I’ve never used Explorer much.

    As for hierarchical file systems, what can you expect from a company which still by default puts system and user files on the same drive? I’ve become very used to Linux systems where I can have the OS on one partition, /var and /tmp on another fast and simple ext2 partition, swap space on a dedicated special-purpose partition, and /home on another encrypted and journaled partition. The OS partition could even be on read-only media. And because unix-like symbolic links are both more basic and a lot more capable than Windows shortcuts/.lnk files, seeing everything as a single directory tree is no big deal.

    Anyway, does this mean Control Panel will get a ribbon when accessed from Explorer? How about Task Manager or Device Manager and all the other WMI consoles? Maybe MSFT will even inflict it on all the small applets like Character Map, Calculator and Volume Control.

  3. dougaj4 Says:

    Not too worried about this one, I almost never use Windows Explorer anyway, and when I do I leave with a great sense of relief as soon as possible, so it looks like nothing much will change.

    My WE alternative of choice is Total Commander by the way.

  4. Keith A. Lewis Says:

    Haters gonna hate, I guess. It’s funny, the clients I have in the hedge fund world have a similar contempt for VBA. What kind of second rate programmer would use that? Are they too stupid to learn a real language? Doesn’t the B in BASIC stand for Beginner?

    I’m not religious about UI’s or languages. Give the people paying for it what they want.Or as my lawyer likes to put it, give the monkey the banana.

  5. Ed Ferrero Says:

    Microsoft called this the FU Interface for a reason. Our opinions are not really wanted.

  6. inigo Says:

    Seriously — they used telemetry to figure out what users do and then designed the UI to help them do even more of that! That’s the dumbest approach I’ve ever heard of. What about some real innovation, fix bugs, focus on cool things that the current version can’t do. This is getting ridiculous.

  7. Marcus from London Says:

    Bring back Xtree Gold

  8. Sebastien Labonne Says:

    I think one should not confuse the author’s goal here which was to present how the design of the interface might improve the experience and not about bringing new functionnalities.

    As an example, I’d love to see the size of the folders but that’s irrelevant of the validity or not of the ribbon interface.

    I’m sorry but I don’t see how this interface design does not fit the needs of regular users and power users. I you don’t like the ribbon, you can always collapse it and put the needed buttons on the QAT. I think that the ribbon does help on the discoverability and I especially liked the search tab on the ribbon which seems easier to use than what we have in Windows 7. I addition, it look like it will be easier to learn shortcuts.

    I too do most of my commands through either shorcuts or context menus and I don’t see how the ribbon is taking anything from me.

    A new interface does have an impact in the short term on productivity but if that’s your only motivations, you would never change anything. After using the ribbon in Office for a while, I would not go back to the old interface if i had the choice. Maybe I’d love some corrections, for example smaller icons, but overall I think it’s an improvement over the old menus and toolbars.

  9. Harlan Grove Says:

    @Sebastian, if MSFT’s primary goal is making it easier for users to accomplish the tasks they perform most often with Explorer, then MSFT’s usage data shows users predominantly use Explorer for file system management. A 2-pane layout with [] and [] buttons between the panes (similar to the add and remove buttons in XP Explorer’s toolbar customization dialog, and with depending on whether the right or left pane were ‘active’, respectively) would do more for most users’ efficiency than adding a ribbon. Also adding New File and New Folder buttons to Explorer’s toolbar.

    Instead, MSFT has chosen to continue to view Explorer’s main purpose as being a file previewer and launcher with a few file management features. IOW, Explorer is and has been conceptually flawed since Windows 95 if one admists its primary use is as a file manager. But let’s not fix the fundamental problem. No, let’s make the awkward system problematically easier to use.

    I’d love to see a usage study where one group had Explorer w/ribbon and another had a 2-pane file manager with buttons between the panes and see which was more efficient.

    Finally as for discoverability, same comment as for Excel’s ribbon: if the Home tab were open but the command sought were on the View tab, the ribbon is no better (psycologically probably worse) than XP-like menus and toolbars.

  10. Harlan Grove Says:

    My comment didn’t work due to angle brackets. Those should have been

    [<- copy]/[copy ->]


    [<- move]/[move ->]

    with <- / -> depending on whether the right or left pane were active.

  11. Sebastien Labonne Says:


    I see your point about the 2-pane layout. I’d love that functionality. But I think that’s independent from the layout at the top, be it menus and toolbars or ribbon.

    I’ve been accustomed not to have it since I stopped using Norton Commander in DOS and instead run 2 explorer windows.

    I certainly see the flaws in their approach with focusing on what is done and not what could be done. That approach would never show the need for a 2-pane layout for sure.

    Again on the discoverability, the old menus and ribbon weren’t helpful either, if you didn’t have the functionality on a button or on the first level of the menus chances are most users would not find it anyway. Going through menus or tabs for what you’re looking for

    I interpret the complaints more as against the change itself because we were accustomed to the old interface then with a flaw in the ribbon. If Microsoft had instead only reordered the functions in a more meaningful way in the old interface to help new/standard users, I think there would have been as many complaints.

    I don’t have more problems finding what I want in a program I’m not used to with the ribbon interface (e.g. PowerPoint vs Acrobat)

  12. Simon Says:

    Its an unwinnable argument on either side. some people are happy to lose 25% of their screen height to see a load of commands they don’t need. Some people like a ui that is so un-intrusive you don’t need to hide it to actually do work.
    Some people havent invested time and effort learning their tools so when all the commands move around it does not cripple their productivity, some made the effort and resent the devaluation.
    Some people are taken in with this ’emperors’ new clothes’ and love the shiny, fading huuuge buttons, some of us wished they invested their effort in fixing bugs or adding useful features.
    Some people probably mistake their approach for ‘science’, most of us know virtually every enterprise turns off the usage stats reporting so MS are only seeing home users usage.
    But hey, whatever…
    thanks for the total commander tip Doug, I’ll take a look at that, I generally have 3 explorer windows open

  13. Marcus from London Says:

    I think you’ve nailed it there Simon with the ‘fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time’ perspective. It’s the old 80/20 adage. I just don’t know which 80% MS have taken a liking to (I only know that I’m not in it).
    The aggravation for me is the lack of choice. I’m a keyboard guy (hence the Xtree Goold quip) – why isn’t there the choice for those who prefer using their mouse against those who prefer keyboard short-cuts.
    Must there really be a one-size-fits-all approach and we’re taking every-one along for the ride approach?
    As you mentioned it’s an ‘unwinnable argument’ but surely not a damned if you do damned if you don’t one. Hadn’t MSFT heard – software really isn’t set in stone.

  14. Simon Says:

    When you consider the UI skinning possibilites in open office and firefox, Microsofts attempts are quite pitiful.

  15. spursfan Says:

    I’m with Marcus as an old Xtree user

    What is pathetic is the quasi-scientific process that is used in Redmond – collect data from a self-selected group; treat those sample numbers as if they’re the truth; then write the code; then get the top boss to justify it and admit that it’s too late to change anything

    Completely forgetting that the original data is horribly biased (under-representing experienced users and so on); and, almost certainly, not running any serious side-by-side user ease-of-use tests as very sensibly suggested by Harlan

  16. Simon Says:

    What gets my goat Mike is they have come up with all this fake science and bullshit, and they think we are stupid enough to buy it. If they just said any of
    a. we want to be more like Apple
    b. we had 120 people sitting around with no management for 4 years and they did this
    c. Margeting said we had to differentiate now we have some competition. we did that by copying them
    d. we need to hobble the desktop apps so the web versions don’t look so crap
    e. We needed some lock-in, this was cheaper and easier than adding useful features, or fixing defects.
    f. we only care about getting the kids back that our short sighted anti-piracy measures have driven away.

    any of these would at least feel like they were being honest.

  17. dougaj4 Says:

    Back in the DOS days, I was in the Norton Commander camp (as opposed to the XTree camp), so I was very happy to switch to Windows Commander when it came along (now called Total Commander because MS are the only people allowed to use the word windows these days).

    It seems odd that there isn’t a good XTree Gold for Windows, using the Windows interface without dumping all the things that made the original program so popular. Or is there?

  18. dougaj4 Says:

    “Or is there?”

    Seems there is, XTree lovers have skipped YTree and gone straight to:

  19. Harlan Grove Says:

    What gets me more than anything else is the lack of a Explorer command to filter by filename pattern. Even Windows 3.1’s FILEMAN.EXE had that feature. Explorer’s horrible design goes back to Windows 95, when its Explorer was meant to looks as much like IE3 as possible. That is, Explorer’s fundamental purpose was to surf your local drives. File management was an afterthought. Now they’re adding in faux statistics. Just MSFT being MSFT.

  20. Marcus from London Says:

    I believe (but haven’t verified) that Norton bought out XTree and then let it die a silent death.

    @Harlan – ‘filter by filename pattern’
    LOL – you wouldn’t believe it but to do this now I run a DOS batch file to write all the files matching the pattern into a text file and then load it into an Access database.

  21. Mike Staunton Says:

    All I can remember is that Xtree for Windows was just so awful – impossible to recover from there

  22. Freddy Says:

    Windows 7’s explorer annoyed me so much that I went looking for a file manager. I found XYPlorer and haven’t looked back – strongly recommended.
    (P.S. – no relation other than satisfied user.)

  23. Harlan Grove Says:

    REAL COMEDY perhaps in the offing.

    The new & improved Metro UI for Office?

  24. dougaj4 Says:

    If it ran on Android and had VBA support that would be quite interesting.

    But since it probably won’t do either I suppose I’ll have to wait for Google to come up with a version of Docs that works off-line.

  25. sam Says:

    I am keenly awaiting the Ribbon in any / all of the following

    a) The NotePad
    b) VBE IDE
    c) Around the neck of a person named J.Harris(the inventor of the ribbon). If any one is willing to hold one end, I am willing to pull the other

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