Mac users damn, defend 'ribbonizing' of Office 2011

Planned UI changes mimic Office on Windows

Some Mac users blasted Microsoft's plan to "ribbonize" the next version of Office for the Mac, while others -- many of whom said they also use the productivity suite on Windows -- defended the move.

Office for Mac 2011 will feature a ribbon similar to what Microsoft debuted with Office 2007 for Windows, and will continue to use in Office 2010, also on Windows.

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The ribbon will appear below the standard Mac menu bar and above the content display area in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and is to be the "core of our next-generation Office for Mac user experience," Microsoft said in a statement last week when it showed off the suite at Macworld Conference and Expo. Familiar interface features, including the classic Mac menu and the standard toolbar, will remain, and the ribbon and toolbar will be collapsible to save screen space, said Microsoft.

"Built using the latest Mac OS X technologies, the ribbon delivers a modern and fluid experience and also gives you a more consistent experience across platforms, which is key to productivity, as 75 percent of Mac users also use a PC," said Microsoft.

Some users weren't enthusiastic:

  • "The ribbon has no place on Mac OS X," claimed a reader identified as .Neo in a comment added to a story posted on Neowin.net.
  • "If this is the ribbon interface, and it is coming to Mac, God help us," said IHateRegistering in a comment on AppleInsider. "I can never find what I'm looking for. Change for the sake of change sucks. Really, how much can you add/update a word processor?"

Users typically dinged the ribbon for its deviation from the menu structure they'd grown to love, or because it ate up screen real estate, a precious commodity on widescreen notebook displays. "As someone who writes for a living, the whole ribbon thing is a waste of precious screen space. Definitely not a step forward," said NorrinRaddir on AppleInsider.

The negative reaction to the ribbon shouldn't be a surprise to Microsoft. When the company rolled out the ribbon motif in 2006 with Office 2007, users generally gave it a thumbs-down.

Attempts to "ribbonize" other applications, including the open source OpenOffice.org suite and Mozilla's Firefox, have also met resistance. After critics slammed Mozilla for considering a ribbon interface for its popular browser, the company denied it would mimic Office and blamed a blog post that had been "worded kind of poorly" for creating confusion.

But scores of users on Neowin, AppleInsider, and other sites stuck up for the ribbon in Office 2011. Many of them were self-proclaimed users of both Macs and Windows PCs, and welcomed more consistency between the two platforms' versions of Office:

  • "I'm extremely glad they're going to include the same [user interface as] in the version on Windows," said Psykx on Neowin. "I was tired of always looking for stuff, and then coming back in Office 2007 and still looking [for] stuff."
  • "I'm a Mac user at home, but use Office 2007 for work on a daily basis and have to say I love the damn ribbon," added Tomjol, also on Neowin.
  • "I used Word 2007 quite a bit last year. ... It really grows on you quite quickly," said Niuniu on MacRumors. "I'm looking forward to it coming to Word for Mac."

Microsoft has not set a ship date for Office 2011 for Mac, saying only that it will release the suite in time for this year's holiday sales season. Other than the ribbon interface, other prominent changes will include the return of Outlook as the suite's email client, and the restoration of VBA-based macros, which were dropped for the 2008 edition.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld . Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

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This story, "Mac users damn, defend 'ribbonizing' of Office 2011" was originally published by Computerworld.

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