Free Hogg


Don’t Look for MS’ “ribbon” in

Filed under: Microsoft, Open Source, Software — Hogg @ 10:09 pm

Microsoft wants everybody to use it’s new “ribbon” UI. Well, almost everybody.

Microsoft is licensing its new UI to companies in hopes that it will become more common and users will find it more comfortable and easy to navigate.

The company plans to let outside developers license the on-screen interface from the upcoming versions of Word, Excel and other core Office programs, royalty free . . . Microsoft wants to see the elements of its revamped interface become more familiar to PC users . . . The company named 15 initial companies that plan to license the interface for their applications . . .

Click on the thumbnail to view a screenshot of the ribbon in Microsoft Word 2007
Photo from Microsoft

However, Microsoft is being careful not to let any competitors use “their” idea. They aren’t letting any software makers use the ribbon who compete directly with the Office programs. This would include, the free, open-source office suite. But it appears that the team wouldn’t be interested anyways. Like any self-respecting open source geek would want anything to do with Microsoft.

It’s not apparent that rivals would want to directly license the interface even if Microsoft offered. A leader of the project, which makes a competing set of free programs, wasn’t overly impressed when Microsoft unveiled the ribbon last year.

“Microsoft’s innovation here, if you want to call it that, is fine, but it’s not anything that we haven’t discussed or looked at,” said Louis Suarez-Potts, community manager for, when asked about it at the time.

So, look for a lot of people to be very confused when they can’t figure out how to copy and paste in their new $300 copy of Microsoft Word and many happy people quickly and freely getting their work done in

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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  1. and other free software must explore other, more modern and more visually pleasing design. Evolve the UI like Microsoft’s Office suite.

    Comment by Aleksandersen — 11.27.06 @ 3:01 pm

  2. I totally agree. I have said before that I think that open-source software needs more eye candy to be more successful. Some people think it justs bloats the software, and they are probably right, but a normal user is mostly concerned about ease of use in a GUI and how the software looks. If it doesn’t look professional, people aren’t going to think it is professional.

    Comment by Hogg — 11.27.06 @ 10:23 pm

  3. I think have done a fantastic job in providing a robust, feature filled office package that doesn’t cost a cent.
    From those of us that can’t afford to keep buying new versions of software every year especially when you get “damaged goods” that have the promise of service packs and patches that will eventually, several months to years later give you what you paid for. is always evolving and will continue to deliver as an excellent software package should.

    Comment by Fernando — 11.28.06 @ 12:56 am

  4. I don’t think it matters. All OOo needs is a robust themes system (if it doesn’t already) and sit back and wait for someone to make their own “ribbon” plugin. No big deal.

    The only big thing is most noobs who see the ribbon will probably go back to thinking open-source software is inferior. Even though MS office has hardly seen any innovations since its first versions. And ignoring the fact that the ribbon would never have happened if it weren’t for innovations from open-source projects and Apple…

    …As they go out to upgrade their computers of course.

    Comment by Dagibit — 01.6.07 @ 6:28 pm

  5. ” Like any self-respecting open source geek would want anything to do with Microsoft. ”

    Are you freaking kidding me? The whole “Desktop Linux” uses concepts ripped from other OSes.

    Comment by SF — 04.19.07 @ 1:53 am

  6. “Some people think it justs bloats the software, and they are probably right, but a normal user is mostly concerned about ease of use in a GUI and how the software looks. If it doesn’t look professional, people aren’t going to think it is professional.”

    I personally use the “Classic Skin” on my XP and have no plans to upgrade to Vista.

    Eye candy is OK as long as it doesn’t make the software look like a circus. MS Office 2003/2007 look = ok.
    The usual problem with OO apps is that they DO look like a circus on Linux because most Linux distros feature ugly skins.

    Comment by SF — 04.19.07 @ 1:58 am

  7. “Are you freaking kidding me? The whole “Desktop Linux” uses concepts ripped from other OSes.”

    I don’t know what you mean, Linux doesn’t even have a standard desktop enviromment, you can use whatever you want, and Linux got a graphical interface before Windows appeared

    another noob trying to look intelligent

    Your statement is simply pointless

    Comment by I hate noobs! — 04.21.07 @ 8:59 am

  8. Personally, I hate the Office 2007 Ribbon. If contributing developers of OOo decide to implement their own version of that useless thing, PLEASE don’t remove the choice of using real menus and toolbars.

    Comment by Mike — 06.22.07 @ 11:52 am

  9. I think the ribbon was just the start of a major change in GUI’s. The iPhone has actually brought into perspective a different way of handling things. As far as the ribbon being so “innovative”, I remember ribbon-style interfaces since music trackers were becoming common in ’85 or thereabouts.

    I think interfaces for programs are going to change radically over the next three years. The ribbon is just the beginning.

    3d flipping/rotating menu extensions that are part of a ribbon-like system that you can flip through using the middle mouse button and dragging up or down, similar to how the desktops in Beryl flip like a cube but this would be vertically. Dragging and dropping one option onto another option. Possible use of more than one pointing device at a time. Pressure sensitive mouse buttons. There are a lot of things coming.

    There is enough experience in game interfaces to now know what is more intuitive and what forces people to think very structured and rigid, and fruits of that knowledge is starting to finally make its way into the GUI’s of operating systems. I think it’s exciting.

    Comment by Kizzume — 08.6.07 @ 2:35 am

  10. use pie menus!

    Comment by thor — 09.8.07 @ 2:00 am

  11. To much eye candy for me! I am a Command line guy that feels KIS is the best motto. Give me what I need to get the job done quick and easy and then and get out of my face. Watching things flip around spin to the point of being dizzying and confusing is fine if you are watching The Wall with a hit of acid but this should not be the case when trying to figure out a word possessor. If Open Office things of going this rout I may be forced back to something easy to figure out like LaTeX.

    Comment by Jason — 03.4.08 @ 3:46 pm

  12. The ribbon interface is disgusting. It makes me want to puke.

    Comment by Jim — 03.6.08 @ 8:09 pm

  13. They can’t actually patent the “ribbon” interface (in the UK, at least), since they made the invention public before getting a patent.

    Comment by beojan — 04.3.08 @ 11:15 am

  14. 1) for people who say that the ribbon is eyecandy — look a bit deeper. note that icons and their placment and is important for people with accessibility issues, Breaking backward compatibility is going to have to happen occasionally or we’re going to be doomed to work with legacy bagage.

    I tried ms word 2007 in wine. Everything is easy to find, it encourages people to do things right, with footnotes and versioning, headers and footings. It makes it so we’re less likely to screw up margins and other things that just go wrong in other office suites, while still allowing us easy access.

    1.1 copy paste is as easy in office 2k7…

    2)We already have the tools to do this kind of stuff.
    many of our photo editing / development environment toolbar programs can already be grouped logically.

    3) I’ve had ideas like this for a long time. I’m sure others have too. The interesting thing is that microsoft put it in their flagship product. That shouldn’t keep others from doing similar things because it’s not that special, it’s just really really really useful.

    4) VIM, The next thing should be to implement VIM like commands 😉

    5) Us freedom loving people are going to have to address MS, powershell, my slight experience with coreutils has left me in shock that I have to deal with things like the potential for a newline in a filename. — Long term I need freedom from entrapment, short term I need to be able to do my job quickly and effectively!, — also long term I need freedom from vulnerability. — and if my scripts introduce vulnerability / crashes / malfunctions

    basically to remain free we are going to have to make tools that work as effectively.

    Comment by Aaron Peterson — 12.6.08 @ 8:16 pm

  15. Note to Microsoft: Get a REAL UI! Not one that takes up a third of the screen and is almost impractical to customize!

    I am never going past Windows NT Workstation 4.0 or Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional if this goes on!

    I’m switching over to Linux!

    Besides, the last thing I want is a bunch of insecure “innovations” integrated into the OS, thus making it larger than a real operating system.

    Comment by AgentCROCODILE — 12.17.08 @ 9:45 am

  16. I thought that Ribbon was supposed to be an “innovative user interface” and not a “screen hogging Microsoft We-Have-Something-That-You-Don’t-Have byproduct”

    Comment by AgentCROCODILE — 12.17.08 @ 9:47 am

  17. Sorry that’s “I’m switching to Linux, and using it until my OS is complete”

    Comment by AgentCROCODILE — 12.17.08 @ 9:48 am

  18. Hey guys, I came here looking for “ribbon-like interface for openoffice” on google… Ribbon is way easier to use, really. I wish I had it at work. I’ve nothing against free software, but I think it’s time for the FLOSS world to embrace usability. It’s just another area of excellence in software quality and another practice to embrace, just like testing, documenting, following standards etc. Nothing scary really.

    Here is a model case for two similar programs that have drastically different approaches to usability. You have Gimp, which is essentially a Photoshop clone, and Inkscape, a vector graphics editor akin to Illustrator. Both are FLOSS, and neither lacks much in ways of functionality. However, if you talk to any Gimp user, they will probably agree that the interface is really clumsy and difficult to work with. Inkscape, on the other hand, gets nothing but praise from its users; I was so positively shocked with the ease of curve editing that I completely gave up Illustrator except for format conversions! That’s right, I have Illustrator CS3 available, but I’d rather use Inkscape, which has less fancy features for sure, but has the important ones better organized and more available. Almost all programs have identical Bezier curve editing capabilities – but in Illustrator I have to dig deep to get them, while in Inkscape they are all conveniently available.

    On the contrary, while Gimp has the same functions as Photoshop, I choose Photoshop – because the UI is really friendly and helps me stay organized, while Gimp’s induces chaos (and despair). As a matter of fact, on my home computer, where I don’t have Photoshop, I use Paint.NET intsead of Gimp – even though it’s capabilities are smaller, it has a much more friendly interface.

    In other words, not only is good UI (and UX!) the deciding factor once programs achieve feature completeness, it can actually outweigh functionality.


    Comment by Pawel — 01.6.09 @ 5:57 am

  19. I love open office. I am disgusted that Microsoft releases works with the software but everyone needs MS Office. I think that open office should put in the ribbon. They will need to mimic MS because they are the industry standard. Until open office takes over they must keep up.

    Comment by Mark — 01.12.09 @ 9:43 pm

  20. You want ribbon? Get Windows 7 when it comes out. Some weird Microsoft® Bastard™ came up with the idea of stuffing their stupid ribbon “innovation” into simple applications such as Write and Paint.

    (sigh) They are not entirely an industry standard, they are more on standardizing popular industrial gimmicks like this one.

    I would hope that, if OpenOffice EVER decides to put that stupid ribbon in, they at least offer a MENU interface version as well!

    Comment by AgentCROCODILE — 01.15.09 @ 6:56 am

  21. Ribbon takes about a day to get used to for anyone that’s used to old word processors. After that, you realise the new UI is much more efficient. No more going through stupid file, format, tools table headers. Going back to office 2000 and OO is hard.

    To those that are stuck on Win XP or legacy toolbar interfaces… You’ve finally reached the age of being too old to accept change. Congradulations. (Vista has a huge collections of problems. but so does XP. LINUX FOREVER! Interface wise, however, Vista is a huge improvement.)

    Comment by avro — 02.15.09 @ 1:18 pm

  22. Who honestly uses the menus to copy and paste? For nearly everything, the new ribbon interface is way better than a murky wasteland of endless menus and boxes. I hope openoffice uses something like it, or changes to something much better.

    Comment by Peregrinus — 04.9.09 @ 9:45 am

  23. Well it made me laugh to read about a “third party extension” that you have to PAY for to get the old toolbars and menus back in Office 2007! At least if OOo emulates it, you’re guaranteed to have a clear, simple option to go back to the old UI. If the official Sun version doesn’t let you do it, then you know one of the spin-off editions like OxygenOffice will as long as someone is keen enough. Which is obviously true from the look of these standard responses 😉

    Comment by Marc — 04.30.09 @ 3:21 pm

  24. Oh, and such a fallback option will almost certainly be freely available.

    Comment by Marc — 04.30.09 @ 3:22 pm

  25. Oops, I meant “would be”.

    Comment by Marc — 04.30.09 @ 3:22 pm

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