Office ribbon UI lovers: It's now safe to come out of the closet

New data suggests users secretly crave the new Office 2007 UI paradigm -- and OpenOffice, too

Scenic Ribbon: It’s the Microsoft Office 2007 feature people just love to hate. Whether they use the suite regularly or have just seen the screen shots, everyone has an opinion about what is one of the most substantial updates to the Windows UI paradigm in over a decade.

Many of the ribbon’s more vocal detractors like to point out how the new UI consumes more precious screen real estate than the iconic combination of menus and toolbars that defined previous Office versions. Others complain that the years they spent memorizing menu commands and dialog box options are now wasted (though most keyboard shortcuts are preserved).

[ Read InfoWorld's preview of Office 2010. | See how well Office alternatives stack up in InfoWorld's hands-on comparison. ]

Figure 1: Office 2007 Dominates

Meanwhile, the great unwashed seem at best ambivalent toward Microsoft’s radical new take on operator/program interaction -- all of which makes the company’s claims of brisk Office 2007 sales that much more difficult to swallow. If so many people hate the product, then how can it be flying off the shelves at such a breakneck pace?

Surprise! Office 2007 adoption is strong
Well, it turns out that Microsoft may be telling the truth. Data from the exo.performance.network seems to corroborate Microsoft’s numbers (see the chart above). After analyzing process metrics data collected from a network of more than 18,000 Windows IT sites, the xpnet.com research staff determined that nearly 35 percent of them are running the newer version of the Office suite. This compares to slightly more than 21 percent who run its immediate predecessor, Office 2003, and fewer than 5 percent of stragglers who still have some variant of Office 2000 or Office XP deployed.

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