| By Woody Leonhard |
The Microsoft Ribbon evokes a wide range of responses, from abject apathy to raging conflagration. I’ve never been a fan of the Ribbon, but then I didn’t get to make the rules.
Love or hate the Ribbon, you can make it more to your liking — add buttons, move controls around, create new tabs, and more.
From half-baked idea to a functional tool
Microsoft’s Ribbon made its debut in Office 2007 and was immediately condemned by legions of long-time Office users, many of whom had difficulty adapting to its radically different format. (I’ve heard rumors that there were huge battles within Microsoft over whether the Ribbon should see the light of day.) It didn’t help that Microsoft’s implementation of the Ribbon was inconsistent. For example, on Outlook 2007, Microsoft added the Ribbon on some windows and not on others. (The main Outlook 2007 window doesn’t have a Ribbon, relying instead on old-fashioned menus.)
The Ribbon came into its own with Office 2010. Not only did all Office 2010 apps have a fully implemented version of the Ribbon, it showed up on a few non-Office apps as well. For example, Windows 7’s Paint and WordPad have it, though in a relatively rudimentary form. There are Ribbons of various pedigrees in current versions of Microsoft’s Windows Live Mail, Photo Gallery, and Movie Maker.
According to a Jan. 30 “Building Windows 8” blog, the next iteration of Windows Explorer will also get the Ribbon. (The Windows 8 Customer Preview beta should emerge from Microsoft around the end of this month.) Microsoft currently plans to minimize the Ribbon, by default. But in this case, minimized means you’ll initially see just the Win8 Explorer menu headings (File, Home, Share, View, and Manage), but when you click them, you’ll get the Ribbon.
Like it or not, the Ribbon is here to stay. I guess it’s a step in the right direction — especially if you can tailor it to your work habits.