Windows 8 Explorer gets a ribbon, everybody gets a ribbon

I’m still reserving judgement on the ribbon UI in Windows 8’s Explorer application until I can spend some time using it. Nevertheless I can still appreciate a ribbon when I see one, a real one.

Thanks to a heads up from Richard Burte, Ilana Smith, an Aussie (oi oi oi) Microsoft designer who works on the design team responsible for the Explorer ribbon, posted a photo teasing some of the 600 ribbons she had made for an internal event with the words “Windows Explorer” printed on.

According to Ilana, if the real thing is any indication, it was in popular demand.

25 insightful thoughts

    1. It is a cluttered mess. This is the platform team fighting with the .Net team. They are the only hold out that actually likes Aero.

      We have a lot of ego here. Sinofsky is now in charge, he used to run Office. Now he is in Windows, so naturally, we need ribbons! It sold so well! That is all that matters!

      We need a solid UI on windows, we need consistency across the board. They have Metro, but one group doesn’t get it, guess who?

      What is even more funny is their logic on this one. As they pointed out, most people use context menus, and ignore the toolbar, by a wide margin. Their solution – make the toolbar BIGGER! Steven even replied in the comments saying they have packed in 200+ commands (190 of which people dont use), forgetting that commands make up only a small portion of what everyone uses explorer for – browsing.

      People in the comments are coming up with better ideas :

      1. Yes, that better idea is ALOT better. Just not sure if everything will fit in that small height, but still, a lot better. However, I guess it will be slightly diffecult for non-expert users to work with it because it looks way to much to tabs like in IE, not tabs of a menubar. But hopefully this can be an ‘expert’ mode that makes us happy 🙂

  1. It will be interesting how they plan to advertise the Ribbon as something new because it isn’t. It’s from the old Vista days and as much as I try to believe their arguments, this may be the biggest design mistake since Clippy.

    1. I didn’t think it would make much difference but your “after” shot looks a lot nicer.
      I’m hoping they’ll go with something similar to what you did. We won’t see the real UI/theme for a while (hopefully at build) but they better get rid of those vista style forward/back buttons!

    2. Agreed, and your mock-up looks pretty good (though I’m not sold on the IE9-style back/forward buttons). The Windows Ribbon is uglier than both the Office 2007 and 2010 implementations, which is remarkable given the shared lineage of the code (as uncovered by Long).

      Most importantly, they absolutely must make the ribbon more consistent with the rest of the Windows UI (or perhaps vice versa). The state of the ribbon in Windows 7 is embarrassing enough, but Windows Explorer is much more central to the core Windows experience than Paint or Wordpad are. Office-style menus that fade out, not in (the Windows convention), not to mention having completely non-standard colours, are not acceptable (unless the rest of Windows is changed to match).

      As an aside, is anyone else amused by the ever-increasing size of the Minimise/Maximise/Close buttons? They grew from Vista to 7 (in height and width), and it looks like they’ve grown taller again in 8 (maybe to accommodate the larger title bar text).

      For those who have played around with the leaked builds (and unlocked the ribbon), what happens in the Control Panel? Is the ribbon hidden entirely, like the command bar is in Windows 7?

    3. I totally agree… the 2010-style Ribbon does look a lot cleaner, and I hope they’ll adopt your idea, but I think you’re going to need a forum to voice it louder than that blog… too easy for one comment to become buried.

  2. OK, let those who have used Ribbon on a touch device raise their hands! One hand raised here! And yes I can tell you the ribbon is a life-saver on my Asus Slate EP121 in Office 2010. I know, compared to Office14 that will be designed from ground up for touch, it will be ugly, but for now, the ribbon is a welcomed tool in an OS that wasn’t originally designed for touch. Don’t forget people, Windows is in a transistion stage, it will be too much of a change for a lot of people if all familiar features are removed. MS has to think of power and classical users, and of course the enterprise that needs stability. So, for now, I’ll put up gladly with the ribbon on Windows Explorer than the traditional UI if you don’t mind, thank you.

    1. I agree… I’m an Office 2010 user on an HP 2740p tablet, and I can’t imagine going back to the old ways. I have to pull out my stylus if I want to use Windows Explorer currently.

  3. Ah, ribbons, ribbons, ribbons you can never have too many of them! 😛

    I understand that some apps due to the way they are designed it wouldn’t be practical to make them use the Ribbon UI, but for apps like Internet Explorer, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Internet Explorer 11 included the Ribbon UI. I wonder how long it will be until even apps like Windows Media Player start using the Ribbon UI? It might seem like an absurd idea now, but if it happens, people may think of it in a different way to what they would now.

      1. I’ve seen those ribbon design prototypes, and even though the prototypes look rather dated now (mainly due to the fact that they use the Office 2007 ribbon rather than Office 2010, though understandable since Office 2010 didn’t yet exist when those prototypes were produced) I reckon that the current incarnation of the Ribbon UI would be something I could happily adapt to with minimal fuss.

  4. If the font choice is any indication of the design capabilities of this group, it is likely why I hate the cluttered ribbon that was recently shown for Explorer.
    Microsoft should seriously consider leveraging the Metro designers who did a brilliant job with Zune/Windows Phone. Metro is the new Microsoft signature appearance and it should be deployed in a more aggressive manner.

    The Explorer ribbon is a perfect example of visual pollution with excessive chrome, insipid and obsolete icons sprinkled here and there. If the exercise was to regroup the most used features, why in the world did they chose to fill the remaining space with less used features? The hard drive rule likely applied there: the more space you have, the more you fill. Unfortunate I say.

    Let’s hope we’re in for UX surprises during the BUILD conference. Because it’s not with ribbons that Microsoft will survive in the tablets arena.

    1. The font on the (non-digital) ribbons is painful, isn’t it? It makes me hurt.

      It turns out that when you need ribbons printed in a rush, choices are limited, and usually optimized for weddings. If only I’d been able to specify “Segoe”… 🙂

      1. @Iliana
        Painful? Yes it is. And I honnestly appreciate the fact that you also dislike it.
        Please don’t consider my comment offensive in any way. I really want changes for Windows 8 in the UX department. I understand that the more traditional UX is there to stay, as it required to assure adequate support for complex applications.
        Meanwhile, I do wish there are some change applied to this older UX. It could be restyled slightly to be freshened up – and a thourough (everywhere!) icons restyling job wouldn’t hurt.

  5. This is not good. Lets hope they have some sort of UI update up its sleeve to help make this look a little nicer. I am not sure metro can even rescue this design.

  6. I definitely prefer the Ribbon over the Windows 7 Explorer UI. It’s probably the only aspect of Windows 7 that I’m not crazy about. Well, that and the inconsistent nature of Control Panel.

  7. I don’t think the Ribbon is going to be very useful for advanced PC users. However, when you consider tablets and other touch-centric devices it will be incredibly useful.

  8. You can minimize it if you don’t like it.

    Personally, I like what I’ve seen and know that I’ll use it esp with touch.

  9. Why not a toolbar? Why a ribbon? The toolbar in XP was totally customizable. Custom buttons, custom size of buttons, custom text, custom order. The Quick Access Toolbar has tiny 16 x 16 icons and the ribbon is too busy and heavy.

  10. I think the line of thinking they have is “we already have a simple looking interface, in Immersive UI, so it doesn’t matter if the desktop UI is simple anymore”.

    Unfortunately I think there are a lot more productive ways they could move explorer in.

  11. God damn it they’re just using the Windows Live suite ribbon, the colouring is hideous, the icons are from XP-era. Make it more like Office 2010 and it might be acceptable, but for the love of god, why not make it metro-esque.

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