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Ribbon (computing)

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Title: Ribbon (computing)  
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Ribbon (computing)

Example of a ribbon, an element of graphical user interfaces

In computer interface design, a ribbon is a graphical control element in the form of a set of toolbars placed on several tabs. In 2007 Microsoft products introduced a form of modular ribbon as their main interface where large tabbed toolbars, filled with graphical buttons and other graphical control elements, are grouped by functionality. Such ribbons use tabs to expose different sets of controls, eliminating the need for many parallel toolbars. Contextual tabs are tabs that appear only when the user needs them. For instance, in a word processor, an image-related tab may appear when the user selects an image in a document, allowing the user to interact with that image.

The usage of the term ribbon dates from the 1980s and was originally used as a synonym for what is now more commonly known as a (non-tabbed) toolbar. However, in 2007, Microsoft Office 2007 used the term to refer to its own implementation of tabbed toolbars bearing heterogeneous controls, which Microsoft calls "The Fluent UI". Thus, Microsoft popularized the term with a new meaning, although similar tabbed layouts of controls had existed in previous software from other vendors. The new design was intended to alleviate the problem of users not finding or knowing of the existence of available features in the Office suite.[1][2]


  • Early use 1
  • Microsoft software 2
  • Other software developers 3
  • Reaction 4
  • Patent controversy 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8

Early use

Use of a ribbon interface dates from the early 1990s in productivity software such as Microsoft Word and Wordstar[3] as an alternative term for toolbar: It was defined as a portion of a graphical user interface consisting of a horizontal row of graphical control elements (e.g. including heterogeneously-sized buttons and drop-down lists bearing icons), typically user-configurable.[4][5][6]

A toolbar interface, called the "ribbon", has been a feature of Microsoft Word from the early DOS-based Word 5.5 (ca. 1990)[7] and the first Windows-based versions (activated by the "View | Ribbon" menu option[8]), for which early advertising referred to the use of "the Ribbon to replace an endless string of commands to let you format characters by eye instead of memory".[5]

Microsoft software

The tabbed ribbon as introduced in Microsoft Office 2007

With the release of Microsoft Office 2007 came the "Fluent User Interface" or "Fluent UI", which replaced menus and customizable toolbars with a single "Office menu", a miniature toolbar known as "quick-access toolbar" and what came to be known as the ribbon: Multiple tabs, each holding a toolbar bearing buttons and occasionally other controls. Toolbar controls have heterogeneous sizes and are classified in visually distinguishable groups.[9][10] The name ribbon was later purported to have originated from an early design idea by which commands were placed on a long pane, that could be rolled like a medieval scroll; the name was retained after the scrolling mechanism was replaced by tabs.[11]

Microsoft applications implementing ribbons each have a different set of tabs which house user controls for that application. Within each tab, various related controls may be grouped together. Double-clicking the active tab or clicking the "Minimize" button hides the command panel, leaving only the tabs visible. Repeating this action reveals the pane.[12] The ribbon consolidates the functionality previously found in menus, toolbars and occasionally task panes into one area.[13]

In Microsoft Office 2007, only Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint implemented ribbons. With the release of Microsoft Office 2010, however, ribbons were implemented in the rest of the Microsoft Office applications.[14] Microsoft Office 2010 added additional end-user customization support to its user interface.

Microsoft gradually implemented ribbons in other software. The fourth wave of Windows Live Essentials applications, including as Mail, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker and Writer, featured a ribbon.[15] On Windows 7, Paint and WordPad feature ribbons.[16] On Windows 8, File Explorer followed suit. Ribbons also appeared in SQL Server Report Builder, Dynamics CRM 2011,[17] Microsoft WebMatrix, Microsoft Mathematics v4.0, Microsoft EMET 4.0 and Microsoft Message Analyzer. Internet Explorer, Notepad and Visual Studio, however, do not have a ribbon.

Other software developers

Since the introduction of ribbons in Microsoft Office 2007, there has been an increase in the use of this type of interface in applications created by other developers, especially those creating tools for Microsoft-related products. Microsoft facilitated the adoption with the releases of Windows 8, Windows 7 and the Windows Vista platform update, which included built-in ribbon framework APIs, introduced to allow developers to integrate a ribbon toolbar into their applications.[18] The Nielsen Norman Group published some examples in a 2008 GUI showcase report.[19]

In June 2008,

  • Jensen Harris (13 March 2008). "An Office User Interface Blog". – Extensive discussion of the UI design by Microsoft's Group Program Manager of the Office 2007 User Experience team.  
  • "MIX08 Microsoft Office 2007: The Story of the Ribbon". – Prototype sketches and design process.  

Further reading

  1. ^ Harris, Jensen (3 Apr 2006). "New Rectangles to the Rescue? (Why the UI, Part 4)". An Office User Interface Blog.   "Every version we were putting our heart and soul into developing these new features, undergoing a rigorous process to determine which of the many areas we would invest in during a release, and then working hard to design, test, and ship those features. The only problem was that people weren't finding the very features they asked us to add."
  2. ^ Harris, Jensen (12 March 2008). "The Story of the Ribbon".  
  3. ^ "Computerworld". IDG Enterprise. 9 December 1991. p. 41.  
  4. ^ Illingworth, Valerie (11 December 1997). Dictionary of Computing. Oxford Paperback Reference (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.  
  5. ^ a b "InfoWorld" 12 (6). InfoWorld Media Group. 5 February 1990. p. 15.  
  6. ^ ESPRIT '88: putting the technology to use : proceedings of the 5th Annual ESPRIT Conference, Brussels, November 14-17, 1988, Part 2. North-Holland. 1988.  
  7. ^ InfoWorld 13 (3). InfoWorld Media Group. 10 December 1990. p. 15.  
  8. ^ Bryans L. Pfaffenberger (22 January 1990). Microsoft Word Quick Reference. Que.  
  9. ^ "Office Fluent user interface, Ribbon, and Backstage view".  
  10. ^ a b Ericson, Richard (11 October 2006). "Final Review: The Lowdown on Office 2007".  
  11. ^ Jensen Harris (7 October 2005). "Why is it called the Ribbon?". Jensen Harris: An Office User Interface Blog.  
  12. ^ "Use the Ribbon instead of toolbars and menus".  
  13. ^ "The Microsoft Office Fluent user interface overview".  
  14. ^  
  15. ^ Protalinski, Emil (22 December 2009). "Windows Live Wave 4: Mail, Photo Gallery, Writer go ribbon".  
  16. ^  
  17. ^ Barley, Ray (18 February 2009). "Introduction to SQL Server 2008 Report Builder 2.0". MSSQL Tips. Edgewood Solutions. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  18. ^ Montalbano, Elizabeth (20 August 2009). "Microsoft to Backport Windows 7 'ribbon' Interface to Vista".  
  19. ^ "Application Design Showcase: 10 Best App UIs". Nielsen Norman Group. Archived from the original on 5 December 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  20. ^ "RedOffice 4.0 Beta Updates OpenOffice UI".  
  21. ^ Eva, Johannes (June 2008). "RedOffice 4.0 Beta – A great new UI?". Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  22. ^ "Renaissance/FAQ (revision 154410)".  
  23. ^ Lai, Eric (11 August 2009). "Open-source users revolt over OpenOffice ribbon UI".  
  24. ^ Jeff Atwood (23 Sep 2005). "On the Death of the Main Menu". Coding Horror. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  25. ^ "Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2005 VPR: Image Gallery". Office "12". Microsoft. 13 September 2005. Archived from the original on 2005-11-25. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  26. ^ a b Cummings, Joanne (1 October 2007). "Word 2007: Not Exactly a Must-Have". Redmond Magazine. 1105 Media. Retrieved 28 May 2013. For one thing, Word 2007 uses the entirely new ribbon interface. Power users say it takes too much time and patience to learn. [...] 'People will get used to the new interface, but at major efforts in time, training and cost,' says Mike McCullough, director of systems at Cooling Systems Technologies (CST) Inc. [...] When it came time to move her from 2003 to 2007, he quickly ran into problems. 'I might as well of hit her over the head with a bat,' he says. 'I could see anger and frustration.' [...] Other readers feel it's worth taking the time to learn the new interface. 
  27. ^ Lasky, Michael (August 2006). "Office Beta: Good Looks, Tricky Formats".  
  28. ^ "Can I customize the Ribbon?".  
  29. ^ Mendelson, Edward (July 2006). "MS Office Edges Closer".  
  30. ^ Kyd, Charley (May 2009). "Ribbon survey results". ExcelUser. 
  31. ^ Dostál, M (9 December 2010). User Acceptance of the Microsoft Ribbon User Interface (PDF).  
  32. ^ "Office Labs: Search Commands". Download Center.  
  33. ^ "Guides to the Ribbon: Use Office 2003 menus to learn the Office 2007 user interface - Training -".  
  34. ^ "The Microsoft Office Fluent user interface video".  
  35. ^ "Word 2007 Add-in: Get Started Tab for Word 2007". Download Center.  
  36. ^ Harkins, Susan (28 June 2011). "Five tips for customizing the Office 2010 Ribbon".  
  37. ^ Franks, Dale (26 March 2007). "Office 2007: First Look". The QandO Blog. . Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  38. ^ Schuler, Dave (27 March 2007). "Is Office the New Coke?". Outside the Beltway. . Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  39. ^ "Word for Mac 2011 top features tour".  
  40. ^ a b c Staniek, Jarosław (13 November 2005). "KDE to sue MS over Ribbon GUI?".  
  41. ^ "Is Microsoft's new ribbon UI copied from eSuite's UI?". BlogNew. Genii Software. 29 November 2006. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 


See also

The Microsoft Ribbon Licencing Page has been retired, therefore it is no longer possible to licence the ribbon control from Microsoft.

Proponents of free software, such as KDE developer Jarosław Staniek[40] have expressed beliefs that patents regarding ribbons cannot be acquired due to the ambiguity of prior art.[40] Staniek notes that the ribbon concept has historically appeared extensively as "tabbed toolbars" in applications such as Sausage Software's HotDog, Macromedia HomeSite, Dreamweaver and Borland Delphi.[40] Lotus developed early ribbon UIs for its product eSuite. Screen shots are still available in an IBM redbook about eSuite (page 109ff).[41]

Tabbed toolbars, as found in Macromedia HomeSite and Lotus eSuite, have been proposed as prior art for ribbons

Patent controversy

A reason behind the negative reaction is Microsoft's decision to abandon backward-compatibility and remove the traditional menu system, rather than leave it as an option that could be activated if needed. Users of previous versions had to relearn the user interface in order to accomplish what they already knew how to do, and some configuration options were eliminated.[37] The decision to abolish menus has been likened to the Coca-Cola company's infamous New Coke campaign in its abandonment of the existing user base.[38] Microsoft Office 2011 for the Macintosh, while employing the ribbon, also retains the menu system in the Mac menu bar.[39]

[36] to help users learn the new interface more quickly, and the Office 2010 version allows users to partially—but not fully—configure the Ribbon tabs and commands.[35] and add-ins[34] videos[33] help sheets,[32] Microsoft has released a series of small programs,[31] One study reported fairly good acceptance by users except highly experienced users and users of word processing applications with a classical [26] Other users claim that once the new interface is learned, the average user can create "professional-looking documents faster".

Because of this, users became accustomed to this style of interface, which was common in many productivity products at the time. When Microsoft implemented ribbons, it was met with mixed reactions. Jeff Atwood thought the new system made menus obsolete as a cornerstone of the WIMP interface when it was first revealed in 2005.[24][25] reported that power users feel the ribbons take "too much time and patience to learn."[26] Richard Ericson from Computerworld noted that experienced users might find difficulties adapting to the new interface, and that some tasks take more key-presses or clicks to activate.[10] Though the ribbon can be hidden by double-clicking on the open tab, PC World wrote that the ribbons crowds the Office work area, especially for notebook users;[27] the customization options available in the original version didn't allow users to rearrange or remove the predefined commands, although it can be minimized.[28] Others have called its large icons distracting.[29] An online survey conducted by ExcelUser reports that a majority of respondents had a negative opinion of the change, with advanced users being "somewhat more negative" than intermediate users; the self-estimated reduction in productivity was an average of about 20%, and "about 35%" for people with a negative opinion.[30]

Prior to the introduction of ribbons in Office 2007, the user interface for its Office suites had barely changed since the introduction of Office 97 on 19 November 1996. (Office 2000 and Office 2003 released relatively minor upgrades compared to Office 97, which itself was considered to be something of a milestone compared to Office 95.)


[23] So far the prototypes of the project are frequently seen as similar to ribbons, but this has resulted in some criticism from users.[22]

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