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I am writing a new program. I have the choice of using either the old style of menu and toolbars, or make my software look modern and use a ribbon control.

As far as I can tell, the only advantage the ribbon control offers is that it makes my software look modern.

In theory, ribbon controls make software easier to use. It offers the scope of a menu along with pretty pictures of a toolbar.

But this is why I hate them:

In the good old days (am I just getting old?),

But now there is the option of a hotkey, or two clicks. To make it worse, the two clicks aren’t even close to each other (like with menus). It is just so annoying.

I won’t get personal and start naming specific apps, but are we really heading in the right direction here? Have we put all the focus on new users (the argument being the ribbon control is easier to learn than before) and forgotten that users eventually (and fairly quickly) become experienced users.

So I suspect that, as much as I would like to join the modern era, I have to put my users first and go with a toolbar and menu. But please feel free to defend the Ribbon control.

And my next blog on the topic will be “Why I hate Windows 8” 🙂

2 Responses

  1. Replacing a toolbar which has been used for years and years with a completely new toolbar is always a huge inconvenience because then one was so used to the old toolbar and then they have to get used to a completely new toolbar all over again, and it’s a huge pain.

    However, I don’t see the ribbon as a bad thing. For me, it doesn’t take up space and as you said, it makes the program easier to use (if you can get used to it, that is, which is difficult). When I first saw the toolbar for Microsoft Word 2007, I was like, “What is this mess?” but I’ve got used to it while using it at school and I quite like it now.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    It’s all about two steps forwards, one step backwards. Or is this one click forwards and another click and then another click backwards?

    I guess my core issue is that:
    1. It helps new users because it is easier to search for big pictures in menus instead of text and submenus
    2. It hinders experienced users because you have to click on the ribbon and then the tool.
    3. Expert users don’t care because they know the hot keys and other shortcuts.

    And most users quickly go from 1 to 2 and so it is overall a nuisance.

    A prettier nuisance.

    But a nuisance.