MS Office, Ribbons, and you

Chipp Walters chipp at chipp.com
Fri Feb 2 16:20:11 EST 2007


The Ribbon is an interesting concept, basically replacing menus with
visually rich tabs, each complete with their own dropdown visually rich
menus. These are all certainly easily accomplished within Rev. The idea is
most interesting, but there are a few noticeable caveats.

The biggest drawback I see is the loss of screen space. The Ribbon takes up
considerably more screen space than it's predecessors. While this may be
great for some users (primarily new users), others may wish they had the
screen real estate to display their document. I can especially see this an
issue with spreadsheet users.

The second concern I have is the extreme focus on new users. It's obvious
Microsoft wants to empower first time and newbie types by creating a
visually rich interface with lots of icons and associated mouseclicks. While
this may be the preferred method of workflow for beginners, I wonder how
well it scales for those who actually live in these applications, day in and
day out. I really didn't see any keyboard shortcuts for the Ribbon features,
though I would assume they exist.

Their WYSIWYG "Live Preview" feature for settings, while certainly 'sexy,'
sure does seem like a processor intensive type of feature. For instance just
changing font settings using "Live Preview', applies in real time to
selected text as you hover over the font you want to 'preview.' Again,
something which can be done within Rev, but I wouldn't burden the user with
the overhead, especially since one never knows the cpu which your app is
being run on.

It has been known for some time that a kiosk modal interface is the easiest
to learn for first time and infrequent users. Just look at ATM machines.
But, imagine asking a bank teller to use an ATM machine to handle all
his/her transaction work during the day? Nope, it doesn't work. Not to say
Ribbon is a modal interfae, but it is clearly targeted at first
time/infrequent users. One just wonders how 'power' users will react.

I suppose all of this Live Preview stuff is an effort to get users to
upgrade to more powerful systems.

So, I'm pretty mixed about the overall functionality of all of this. I
certainly am not as excited, Richard, as you are and really don't see this
as any major breakthrough.

Just my 2 cents. -Chipp



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