RIBBONS!

My friend Simon recently wrote an article about Microsoft quickly responding to user complaints about the new interface of Windows 8. He also brought up when Microsoft introduced Ribbons in Office 2007’s user interface. Little did he know it would reawaken the latent hatred I have for the Ribbons interface. I don’t know if there’s any topic that I get more irrationally fired up about. I swear I railed so hard against Ribbons when they first came out that I was hoarse for days.

Most of my argument is predicated on the fact that Microsoft completely changed the interface and didn’t give users a way to go back to the menu and toolbar interface that EVERY OTHER DESKTOP APPLICATION ON THE WHOLE DAMN PLANET employs. The company turned its back on its user base who’d invested years developing a second-nature understanding of menu and function location. The reason? To introduce a new interface “designed to help you quickly find the commands that you need to complete a task.”[1] I wish someone had measured the drop in productivity (and estimated the subsequent cost) of corporate users who tried using the new interface to accomplish straightforward tasks like setting page margins. I still occasionally forget and fumble around trying to find where that function lives (I know, it’s under the Page Layout tab; go away). You know where it used to be? File > Page Setup > Margins. You know how I know that without having to look it up? Because it’s ingrained in my subconscious like the multiplication tables or that Jenny’s phone number is 867-5309. And just to add insult to injury, Microsoft decided to “reintroduce” a File button in Office 2010 which did little else than replace the ill-conceived Office button. Son of a bitch.

I used to have my toolbars customized so that all the toolbar functions I commonly used were organized together. Now you can’t customize what’s found on the tabs because it would “break” the user interface design. Clearly this is because Ribbons is such a winner and an amazing time-saver. Speaking of which, ever watch someone copy and paste using the buttons on the Home tab? It’s a delight. And even more aggravating when they have a different tab selected and spend several agonizing seconds trying to find where the Copy and Paste buttons have disappeared to. My skin’s starting to itch just thinking about it. Ctrl+C, people! Ctrl+C!

Thankfully, Microsoft wasn’t also able to unilaterally eliminate keyboard shortcuts which have been my saving grace amidst the Ribbons fiasco. Come to think of it, keyboard shortcuts may be the one thing that could regain the productivity lost to Ribbons. Hmm, I need to find someone to fund a time study. There may even be a Six Sigma project in here somewhere.

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