As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve finally installed Excel 2007 (Office Ultimate, actually) on my home computer. I had it on a virtual machine back when it was in beta, but now it lives as a first-class citizen on my hard drive right next to Office 2000, Office XP, and Office 2003.
I’m still using Office 2003 at work, so I’ll be relearning the UI every morning. When I was working with 2007 pretty intensively, it took about two weeks for me to be proficient with the ribbon. From my standpoint as a user, I actually preferred the ribbon because it offered keyboard shortcuts for all its commands. As I commented in one of Simon’s latest
rants discussions, applying a style or border via the keyboard was not easy in previous versions.
I don’t mean to imply that style and border access is some sort of panacea of Excel UI evolution. It’s just something in the plus column. In the minus column, there’s the two weeks it took me to figure out where everything is. Two weeks isn’t a lot of time, but the question remains whether the ribbon provides enough benefit to overcome that cost. Also, I was a motivated user. I wasn’t being dragged begrudgingly into 2007, I was a willing participant.
Another minus, I’ve heard, is programmability. I have not attempted to program the ribbon, but at a minimum there will be a learning curve. Whether it proves worth it remains to be seen. I’ve recently purchased RibbonX: Customizing the Office 2007 Ribbon, so I should be on my way.
Screen real estate seems to be a hot ribbon topic. During the beta, I kept my ribbon minimized and it would magically appear when I began using the keyboard shortcuts. Mouse-centric people would probably prefer to have the button in plain view. I can’t speak for them, but for me the ribbon took up less space. I do agree that the button size is ridiculous. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts I haven’t clicked a paste button in at least five years. Even my grandma knows Control+V. But someone must have been clicking those paste buttons and sending that data to Microsoft.
I don’t use tear-off menus very often, being the keyboard guy that I am. But I do see the value in them for others. It was a big miss not having them in 2007. I predict that if nothing else changes on the ribbon, it will have tear-offs at some point.
Finally, a word from the field. A fellow accountant and friend emailed me today about Excel 2007. I repeat his email in its entirety:
This new Excel is driving me crazy. Trying to find where everything is a pain in the A$$
I asked if I could quote him on that, and he responded, in part:
Back in November, I took a laptop home that had new Excel and I was trying to finalize a worksheet for Budget meetings the next day. I was trying to do a save as so I could save the file under a new name, and I swear it took 10 minutes before I accidentally hit that windows button and saw the save as command. I was about ready to chuck the laptop out my bedroom window.
The difference between this guy and me? I was trying to learn Excel 2007 and he was trying to actually do something with it. Fortunately, I have the luxury to ease into it. Others won’t be so lucky and they have my sincere sympathy.