The ribbon and why others are applying it.

It is my firm belief as a user of many of Microsoft’s applications that one of the best ideas to ever to come out of the Microsoft stable is the absolutely brilliant ribbon interface. The reasons why I feel this way about the ribbon interface are really quite simple. The ribbon interface enables a new user to learn how to use an application quickly and easily and additionally allows the new user to be able to discover and utilise features of that particular application that otherwise they might not have easily discovered or come across because they were hidden or buried under a multitude of menu’s and list’s and therefore would be be harder to discover.

Ribbon in Word

Yet to hear some users talk (and the disgruntled tend to be users who have used that particular program for quite some time prior to the introduction of the ribbon interface)  to make your applications easier to use for everyone  especially the newbie seems to be paramount  to committing some sort of crime. They seem to prefer that all users have to do things the hard way and continue having to use a cluttered up user interface requiring the user to need to drill down into menu’s and lists ad infinitum in order to find all the programs features, or alternatively use  so called  ‘keyboard shortcuts’ (which incidentally I find are never short or time saving at all and usually require the user be able to remember them all and to press either two or three keyboard buttons at the same time in order to enable  a feature that could just as easily be acquired with one click from a well designed user interface.)

Ribbon in Paint

So if its so unpopular with ‘old hands’ then why are other sites and other program makers  intending to use the ribbon interface  for their applications and programs?  Its really very simple.  Instead of having new users put off from ever using your program or application just because your complicated interface gets in the way, then it makes sense to make your program easier to use for everyone by utilising the Ribbon and thereby simplifying your user Interface.  The ribbon interface simplifies the use of any program or application simply by  presenting the user with only those  features  that they need at that particular time, without cluttering up the screen with unnecessary choices and options that are not required at that point in time.

Prototype UI for open office We have already heard that the Open Office bods are considering applying the ribbon interface to their Office suite (where in my opinion it would then make using Open Office far easier to use for everyone and I myself have been put off in the past from even considering using Open Office because of its ‘unfriendly and confusing interface)  and now the latest news we hear is that Mozilla are also considering applying it to the next version of Firefox.

Ribbon type interface for Firefox

I have no doubt that every Firefox fan  will be up in arms about it which makes this ordinary user ask why?  Why are long term users of any browser, application or program so against making that program easier to use for everyone concerned? Are they so set in their ways that they hate any change at all to the user interface? Do they want it to remain  as complicated to learn as possible for any user who is unfortunate enough to be a newbie?  Or is it simply because the original idea came from Microsoft?


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About technogran
A granny and a geek? You bet! Still trying desperately to keep up with it all.

12 Responses to The ribbon and why others are applying it.

  1. Changes don’t bother me. Of course, the first desktop I worked on was an Apple II, that had no hard drive, just two floppies, one for OS, one for data. Whee…computers have come a long way since and I for one am glad!

  2. Mile says:

    The ribbon making it “easier” for users is a matter of opinion. If developers would leave an option in to revert to classic UI I’d bs happy. The ribbon UI does not make using sn app easier for me and plenty of others. And the excuse that it saves real estate is bogus. It’s change fir the sake of change and nothing more

    • technogran says:

      Then you would rather the user interface stay as it is then and never change? I certainly found working my way through Office 2007 easier to learn and find things as a new user. It simplifies using a program because you are only offered the items that you need in that particular area. Naturally if you have used a program for a good number of years then you won’t necessarally see the changes as positive because you have grown used to using it the old way.

  3. Pingback: Geek Squeaks’ of the Week (#31) « What's On My PC

  4. Ramblinrick says:


    I posted a backlink to this article on my “weekly” “Geek Squeaks’ of the Week”… If you do an article a week, a link to the article will get posted there…

    Rick (at What’s On My PC…)

  5. technogran says:

    Thanks Rick, new post up here soon…..

    • Ramblinrick says:


      I noticed that SMallard left you a comment… He is associated with Tennessee Technology Center at Shelbyville (a tech school). This is another great blog to add to your blogroll… I can hook you up to some other great bloggers.

      If you think you are going to really take off with blogging, let me know and I can feature one of your articles on my blog to help get you some exposure.


  6. SMallard says:

    Just posted a link to this article to ttcshelbyville.wordpress I like the way you think in your last paragraph…just said that in my class. Excellent.


  7. Pingback: Office 2007 Ribbon Style May be Applied to New Firefox « TTC Shelbyville – Technical Blog

  8. technogran says:

    Thank you SMallard for you comments. I intend to do another post soon about my ideas. All posts are from a users point of view (and especially with anyone new to computing)

  9. Dave Howes says:

    I think you know my opinion of ribbons by now!
    One thing I would take issue with is the number of developers taking up the ribbon interface, which is actually very few, much to Microsoft’s annoyance. It’s true that Open Office are considering making a ribbon style interface available as an optional extra, (although not using the Microsoft Ribbon Technology), but I don’t know of any other Pro software companies using it.
    The reason is quite simple – the vast majority of computers sold these days have wide screen monitors, and the ribbon interface is useless in this environment as it fills up about a quarter of the available screen. The more common option these days is to use sidebars, or, even more useful, bars you can dock on any edge of your screen at will. Microsoft’s big mistake here was to code the ribbon so that it can only sit at the top of the page, and to dissallow width modifications. The coding also doesn’t allow it to be an option – it’s either there or it isn’t – and no sensible software company is going to risk alienating it’s existing customers by imposing a change rather than making it an option.

    • technogran1 says:

      Then how would you do it Dave? I mean make an Interface that easily allowed a newbie to use your program/programs AND be able to slowly (as they became more competent with that program) find other features. You have to take SOME screen real estate whether its in sidebars or the top. Look at Browsers for example.


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