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The place where I page to when my brain is full up of stuff about the Microsoft platform

The Office Ribbon

The Office Ribbon

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Why are people in this country so glued to the imperial system of measurement?  are they easier to use compared to metric (SI) units? e.g. 

  • How many cubic inches/ pints quarts does the engine in your car have?
  • How heavy is a gallon of water?
  • How many cubic yards of gravel do I need for my drive if its 90ft long 10ft wide and I want the gravel to be 4 inches deep?

SI units are designed to work together from the ground up and use a common set of prefixes to denote scale e.g. kilo, micro, centi etc., so calculations involving multiple units (like force and acceleration) are much easier as are day to day areas and volumes.

The same sort of odd inertia seems to exist in isolated pockets as I found out at the conference I was at last week, only this time it is the reluctance to adopt the new office ribbon, and it’s almost like the people I was talking to were fixed in the idea that they didn’t like it and were then looking for reasons not to.

When Office 2007 was developed something had to give. The menu structures were getting so long that navigating them become more and more difficult to the point where 8-% of the feature requests for excel 2007 were actually in the product already but you couldn’t easily find them.  So what they decided to do was to attack the problem in several ways:

  • Put everything related to a particular task, e.g. insert into one place in its own
  • Show the common things up all the time and the less common would appear in context. A good example is if I have focus on a picture I can then see an extra set of tools specifically for pictures.
  • Let you preview what you are going to do as you do it.

Office  2010 builds on this, but also harks back to earlier versions of office in that you get the file button back, which now brings up backstage where you can:

  • Do stuff with the whole document like save, share etc.
  • Configure whichever office tool you are in
  • Change the office ribbon if you need to

One other thing I couldn’t field at the event was how you could get toolbars to float in Office 2003.  You can’t do that anymore but you do have right click so if I select something in Office 2010 e.g a textbox in PowerPoint and right click 


I can not only set its properties , I can also use the mini-toolbar (next to the orange arrow) to directly set what I am working on.

Microsoft isn’t giving up on the ribbon and is actually expanding its use to OneNote, Outlook, Project and Visio and SharePoint 2010, but it has made changes to it make it even easier to use. You could take my word for it or you could download the current beta and try it yourself.

My parting shot is that at the BETT 2010 event I had about twenty questions about the release date of Office 2010 (some time before June 2010) so clearly some people out there like it. Anyway that’s done so now I am off for a quick 0.568261484567444 litre!

  • I did my physics A level in '74 and I had been working with SI units for about 4-6 years at that point. I work equally well in imperial and metric. But then I have always been awkward!

    On the topic of the ribbon, feelings are mixed - some have become used to it and now like it. I never really used the original toolbars preferring the menus, so I am not a great fan of the ribbon. But I suppose that I am starting to use it a bit.

    One thing that did occur to me - as I have said many times, most users actually use very few of the functions within office, primarily certain key tasks. It might make sense therefore to have as a default, a single ribbon with those basic items. Then as people get used to the product, they can replace it with the other ribbons. Perhaps that might help more people to get to know and like it?

  • your drive is 900 sq feet in area = 100 SQ yards and you want it 1/9th yard deep in gravel So you need 11.1 CU Yards.

    If you say your drive is 30M x 3M and you want it 100mm deep in gravel I wonder how many people will order you 9000, 90, 9 or 0.9 CU mm.

    An imperial gallon of water weighs 10 pounds, as we have 20 Oz to a pint and 8 pints to the gallon. A US pint is 16Oz and still 8 to the gallon so that weighs 8 pounds.

    Since the SI unit of pressure is the Pascal (not the bar) what is tyre pressure in Pascals ?


    Of course for diving I'm strictly metric (although bar not pascals) - what is the pressure at 30M (100ft) in bar (PSi). (Add 10 meters depth add 1 bar pressure).

    For temperature I have to work in Celius for cold and Fahrenheit for hot.  

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