While browsing my referrer logs I noticed a lot of hits from a comment on Jensen Harris's blog post about the Office 2007 UI being licenced. Below is the comment which has driven several hundred page views on my blog

Mike Dimmick said:

As an example of how a developer could horribly misuse the Ribbon interface, see Dare Obasanjo's proposal for RSS Bandit: http://www.25hoursaday.com/weblog/CommentView.aspx?guid=29141fb4-efb0-4ae2-aba6-59ae2096feee

My reason for moving to a ribbon-like interface for the Phoenix release of RSS Bandit was because I was under the impression that the Ribbon was the wave of the future with regards to application user interfaces in Windows. However I just read a blog post by Mike Torres entitled More on the Office 2007 UI where he points out that practically every Windows application released by Microsoft this year has abandoned the traditional File menu and toolbar structure in a different way. Below are links to the screenshots from Mike's post [and one extra which was suggested by Omar]

  1. Office 2007
  2. Windows Media Player 11
  3. Windows Live Messenger 8
  4. Windows Photo Gallery
  5. Windows Live Mail Desktop
  6. Internet Explorer 7

As you can se all of the above applications which where shipped by Microsoft this year embraced the idea of getting rid of the traditional File menu and toolbars yet didn't agree on what to replace them with. As a developer of a Windows application, it is clear to me that the traditional yet consistent File menu and toolbar look is now played out on Windows. The main question is which app I should emulate. If history tells me anything, I can't go wrong betting on Office driving user expectations around what Windows applications should act and feel like. I'm glad to see Infragistics on the list of vendors who will be adopting the Office 2007 UI guidelines. This means we'll likely inherit some best practices around using the Office 2007 Ribbon for free since we now use the Infragistics NetAdvantage GUI components in RSS Bandit.

If this means, I'm going to get people like Mike Dimmick flaming me for not living up to the vision of the 'Ribbon' then so be it. I'd rather that than an application that looked old and busted instead of being the new hotness. ;)


Wednesday, December 20, 2006 12:18:31 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
It's the new standard UI for Windows apps... which you can't use unless you promise not to compete with Microsoft. Nice to know that Office-alternative apps will never be legally allowed to be "the new hotness."
Wednesday, December 20, 2006 2:05:05 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Microsoft: "Look we out-innovated our competitors - We put a 5th wheel on the car. Think about it, if you have flat tire you don't have to change the tire anymore. And hey wait some of our products have just one wheel now, this saves so much space."

Users: "You've done something that the majority of users never wanted in the first place. Now you are forcing it onto everybody."

ISVs: "Microsoft is God, we have to follow Microsoft or we are lost. Microsoft is always right and hey look we can innovate too." (... they say and inflict more pain onto users.)

Why do menus have to change at all? Can I get the old menus back?
Wednesday, December 20, 2006 2:54:12 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I for one am glad your using the ribbon interface. but I have a question how can you "Infragistics NetAdvantage GUI components" in an opensource version ??
Wednesday, December 20, 2006 4:10:55 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
An Open Source project can reference proprietary or Open source libraries, after all RSS Bandit is built on the .NET Framework which isn't Open Source. If you are asking about the exact mechanics of how contributors can compile the source code, the answer is that you should grab the trial version of the Infragistics controls.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006 9:38:04 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think Mike Dimmick has some pretty valid arguments here: http://mikedimmick.blogspot.com/2006/12/how-to-misuse-office-2007-ribbon.html
Wednesday, December 20, 2006 8:08:22 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Just a friendly warning - a "lawsuit" and a "flame" are in fact different, and when you deliebrately steal Microsoft's valuable intellectual property by pirating their user interface design, you will get the lawsuit, and not just flames.

Stealing intellectual property, in this case, is done by duplicating any patented technology present in the "ribbon" and failing to obtain a legal license, and implementing the entire interface according to the terms of the license.

(It's the patents that will cause serious legal problems for anyone who dares to compete with Microsoft Office.)

Copy bits of the "ribbon" at your own risk.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006 8:16:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think the most under-utilized yet most useful things are the context menu and hover balloon. This seems particularly true for things like RSS Bandit:

A couple of years ago I designed an app for entering astronomical observing requests into a scheduling database. It is a structured task, essentially filling out forms with some live assistance. No menus, no ribbons, no toolbar. Just a tree on the left reflecting the hierarchy of request data in the DB (projects, plans, targets, images) and depending on the tree node you click, an appropriate form appears on the right. Users range from high school students to science-oriented amateurs to post-docs doing hard core science. Not computer-types.

Everything you can do (add/delete/rename requests, look up coordinates, etc.) is via context menus. If you hold the mouse over active things for a "while" (can be adjusted) a balloon appears with hints.

I own a T-shirt with "Homie Don't Right-Click" on the back... So I put a note at the bottom "Hover for hints, right-click to do things".

People know what object they want to twig or add, and they are fine with putting the mouse over it. A right-click later, only those things they can do with that object appear.

Lean, non-intimidating, no gratuituous eye candy, just designed to make the work easy to learn. The fastest way to get something done is easy to discover/perceive.

It is a smashing hit. I still get rosy compliments on the ease of learning and use from new customers, even though they are seeing all the new UI designs that y'all are talking about.

It seems to me that RSS Bandit's mission lends itself to this sort of minimalist approach.

Bob Denny
Thursday, December 21, 2006 1:43:27 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I'm excited by the fact that we have high enough resolutions and enough familiarity with GUI widgets (in the general population) that we can move beyond the bland and often unintuitively kludged-into menu bar system.

Each of those applications is using the space in a way that makes sense for that application rather than striving for strict consistency, and that's a *good* thing. Having an Edit menu in Windows media player, where you aren't able to edit the media you're consuming really doesn't make any sense. In an app like the photo gallery, there's absolutely no need for the huge ribbon seen in Word.

The best approach for your menu bar is the one that allows your users the most efficiency and ease-of-use (traded off, perhaps, with learnability and not making the experience totally foreign).

As for the consistency, it's still where it should be. Buttons that work similarly between apps look the same between apps, higher level motifs like gradients are very consistently presented, and the all-too-crucial window bar with the title on the left and the control buttons on the right is still hanging around. And the places where there are striking differences UI-wise, there are also striking differences function-wise. Why hang out in the dark ages of UI work just for the sake of being able to claim that all of the applications look the same?
Thursday, December 21, 2006 3:06:42 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Dare you don't need to use the Ribbon UI to be "the new hotness". Make a simple, lightweight browsing interface. A news reader is not a full-blown editor, just take a look at the NYT Reader for an example of how it might be done with minimal chrome.

The Office team drew upon a large amount of data gathered by the Customer Experience Program in order to construct the ribbon so that it reflects what people what tend to do. You don't have this data, only a rough idea about *you* think people may want.
Thursday, December 21, 2006 3:25:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Personally, I don't care about the "new hotness", I just want something that has a good user experience (menus where I expect them, etc).

Just make a product that works efficiently, and worry about making it pretty later. There are plenty of applications I use on a daily basis that look like they came straight out of Windows 98, but they still are intuitive and easy to use. While I wouldn't mind more eye candy, I would rather have the older interface if it meant they'd drastically change the interface.

All of Microsoft's products have been more evolutionary than revolutionary. They are taking a larger risk than usual with the ribbon, but even then they maintain the same toolbar-like look and feel, with the same icons. There has to be something there to root the user.

Please focus on making the product intuitive and easy to use, and less on ribbons, polish, and wiz bang features. Remember, google (etc) don't look like MS Live because they don't need to WOW everyone with the fancy bells and whistles, they just do it better in the first place. You an always "make it pretty" in an upgrade release.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006 4:05:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Just want to know how is this Post Reply work.
simmonliu@gmail.com (Simmon Liu)
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