Home Office 12 Ribbon UI

Office 12 Ribbon UI

Office 12 is introducing a new hybrid control called a ribbon. This control is a combination of both a toolbar and menu.

The good:

  • Simplicity - Much more simple and organized in terms of screen real estate. No more toolbars, floating widget and miscellaneous controls all over the screen. (I hope)
  • Organized - Functionality is grouped by 'task' instead of being hidden in deep menu structures or option dialogs.Predictable.
  • The UI seems less 'intelisense' and more intuitive in terms of what will actually happen when you click something. (No-more auto-expanding menus)
  • Less redundancy - This hopefully means less menu and toolbar surfing searching for the right command. Combining menus and toolbars means that you don't duplicate the same thing, it also means that your 16x16 icons are now mostly labeled and your menu items will typically have icons. (Sometimes redundancy is a good thing, but not in menus)
  • Live Preview - Galleries as they are being called allow users to see a live preview of what will happen before it happens. This is a great concept that I've been calling "Feed-forward." It's kind of like "Feedback" only in reverse.


  • It's unclear how the help system will tie into the current design. Do we get yet another task pane or floating window docked alongside Office? Help still lives in a separate world out of context of the tools that finish the job.
  • It's unclear to me how the UI scales when new commands are added that displace other commands. This goes back to the 1,000,000 command problem. The ribbon will be great for another 5-10 years but it's still not fully scalable to a larger command set. The buttons can only get so small before you run out of space. This is also a problem for highly nested contexts (Image, Inside a Table, Inside a Callout, Inside a document).
  • Context sensitive panels seem strange and bolted on. I'm not sure it properly communicates local vs. global context. I would have used in-place panels within proximity of the object to show the association.
  • The file menu is still a menu. I'm surprised they didn't use a panel with groups of items that help you open files (from the web, from a share, etc). Live preview would be great for opening files.
  • The ribbon is usefull for tool based actions but it's not clear how step-by-step wizard and more complicated UI functions work in this space. Is the ribbon just a method to invoke functions and dialogs or can more complicated interactions happen within the ribbon itself?

Overall I'm excited by this release and think that it will be a positive step forward. Probably the biggest positive change since Office 97. Has it really been almost 10 years? Yikes.

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