Tagged With ribbon

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The ribbon is probably one of the most highly polarising UI decisions Microsoft has ever made (well, that and the start screen), and whether you love it or hate it, one great thing about the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is that people are already working on tools to tweak the upcoming OS so it works better for them. Ribbon Disabler, a free utility that permanently removes the ribbon from all Explorer windows, is one of those tools.

Predicting the future is near impossible -- but that doesn‘t stop us all from having a red hot go. Human beings have been predicting the future since the beginning of history and the results range from the hilarious to the downright uncanny.

One thing all future predictions have in common: they‘re rooted in our current understanding of how the world works. It‘s difficult to escape that mindset. We have no idea how technology will evolve, so our ideas are connected to the technology of today.

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We've told you before about tactics to adjust to the Ribbon interface in Microsoft Office, including customising the Ribbon to make finding the features you want more straightforward. A new downloadable tab called 'Favorites' groups together the most commonly-accessed features according to Microsoft's analysis of user click patterns, which might represent a good starting point for your own customisations.

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First, a good taste warning: this post mentions Clippy, the irritating helper paperclip that Microsoft thankfully dumped from Office back in Office XP. If the mere mention of that digital excrescence doesn't send you running to the hills screaming for gin, then you might want to check out Ribbon Hero 2, a game designed to teach migrating Office users how to use the Ribbon found in Office 2007 and Office 2010.

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When Microsoft introduced the Ribbon interface in Office 2007, a key argument for the radical switch was that it would be easier to use. That always seemed like a suspicious claim relative to the millions of existing Office users, and now Microsoft has been forced to concede that throwing out everything might not have been the best move.

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Sun Microsystems' OpenOffice.org developers have posted prototype screenshots and demonstrations, and while the toolbar content and look could likely change, the commenters are not apparently happy with the very Microsoft-Office-like "ribbon." Some argue the look doesn't play well on non-Windows systems, and others say it's just another learning curve for the noble-intentioned, but often disadvantaged, open source office suite. Let's hear what you think of the prototype, or where else Sun should look for design ideas, in the comments.

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Windows only (with PowerPoint 2007): SlideShare, the YouTube-style sharing and embedding service for presentations, has released an Office 2007 plug-in that lets creators directly upload and control web presentations from inside PowerPoint. The plug-in, which requires the very latest .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, adds basic "Open/Publish/Manage" buttons to a new SlideShare tab, as well as buttons for finding related material on the sharing site (for design inspiration, perhaps?) and letting you see how many co-workers, or general surfers, have checked out your shared stuff. Check out SlideShare's own embedded presentation on installing and using the toolbar, and a video demonstration of its features, below.

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Windows only: Lots of folks rave about Microsoft Office 2007's ribbon interface, but now you can have it for free in Microsoft Word's younger sibling, WordPad. A developer over at deviantART—not Microsoft, mind you—has released "Wordpad 2009," which offers multiple documents in tabs, Windows 7 icons, and yes, the ribbon interface. While this is yet another way you can get Windows 7 features for free right now, Wordpad 2009 doesn't look exactly like Windows 7's WordPad. Check out the difference.

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The Office Outlook Team Blog runs down how you can use keyboard shortcuts to access the various features of the Ribbon which appear when you're composing a message in Outlook 2007. The approach (which is shared with other Office 2007 apps) is far from obvious: you need to type Alt-letter to access a particular ribbon tab, then a one or two letter code for a particular section. The abbreviations are often not intuitive (alt-H for Message, anyone?), and this afterthought approach to keyboard shortcuts is perhaps my biggest single objection to the entire Ribbon approach. Note that while the post recommends typing Alt separately to the rest of the shortcut -- e.g. Alt then H then A then F to attach a file -- you can still use the classic Alt-H together to begin. Doing this probably makes sense given that in other parts of Outlook (like your inbox) that's the only way to access menus, and who wants to waste time remembering where Alt is used on its own? For more Outlook navigation tips, check our previous post on navigating Outlook panes.

Ribbon Key Tips