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

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Clearly, Microsoft has a hit on its hands. Despite the grumblings of a vocal minority, Office 2007 is now the dominant productivity suite for the Windows platform. And this means that many of those who publicly slammed the new UI may in fact be closet ribbon-lovers who are simply too ashamed to admit their fondness for -- or at least acceptance of -- big, bold iconography.

Surprise! OpenOffice has gained significant adoption
Another interesting tidbit from the xpnet.com research: OpenOffice.org is gaining a foothold on Windows. Nearly 13 percent of the systems analyzed run some variant of the open source productivity suite -- that's more people than run the legacy Office 2K/XP version. In fact, thanks to an influx of new users, OpenOffice.org is not very far behind the fading (in terms of popularity) Office 2003 -- proof that, in a failing economy, IT shops are willing to consider free alternatives.

[ Keep up with real-world Windows usage trends at InfoWorld's Windows Pulse page, and monitor your own PCs with InfoWorld's free Windows Sentinel tool. ]

Surprise! I've grown to like Scenic Ribbon -- and can finally admit it
Of course, none of the above guarantees that Microsoft can keep the momentum going with Office 2010. As I demonstrated in my technical preview article from earlier this year, the next version isn’t all that different from the current one. Scenic Ribbon is still there, though it’s undergone a few minor cosmetic procedures. In fact, the big draws will likely be Outlook (now fully "ribbonized" in Office 2010) and a native 64-bit version of the entire suite (long overdue).

As for me, personally, I like the Scenic Ribbon UI. After initially panning it as cumbersome and cluttered, I’ve found that it has grown on me to the point where I loathe working with products based on the older paradigm. And, of course, I’m thrilled to see it permeating other aspects of the Windows UI. The new Windows 7 Paint accessory, in particular, is far easier to navigate thanks to its Scenic Ribbon makeover.

In the end, I guess I was in the closet about Scenic Ribbon all along. It's time to step out into the light and join the growing throng of Windows users embracing this alternative UI paradigm.

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