The Ribbon in Windows 8

Windows 8 will include the Ribbon in a lot of places that you’ve never seen it before and it appears that Microsoft eventually plans to use the Ribbon everywhere it can. For developers, this means a major reworking of applications that have been stable for a long time. For users, it means learning a new way of doing things when the user hasn’t worked with a version of Office that includes the Ribbon. A blog entry by Preston Gralla put things into perspective for me. Even if you hate the Ribbon, you’ll have to use it in Windows 8.

In my book, C# Design and Development, I discuss the need to create a reliable user interface that works for every user who uses an application. A number of changes are occurring in Windows 8 that are going to prove interesting when viewed in the perspective of the user interface—who it serves best. Earlier versions of Windows are better suited for the power user because they provide a quick method of finding precisely what you need using toolbars and menus. However, novice users are often lost and sometimes can’t accomplish the required tasks at all.

RibbonX for Dummies describes how the Ribbon can simplify the user experience and even create a workflow environment for novice users. In fact, many of the examples in that book are based on workflows. I get into some examples of the Ribbon in the latest edition of VBA for Dummies, but not at the depth found in RibbonX for Dummies. The emphasis of these examples is to help you create a usable Ribbon interface in Office. The point is that the Ribbon is a useful interface for a particular group of usersmost likely the majority of Windows users who aren’t technically savvy. Many power users that I’ve talked with still view it as cumbersome and state emphatically that it slows them down. Managers I talk with are obviously most concerned about training costs associated with moving to the Ribbon.

Because the Ribbon has taken center place in Office, I’ve written a number of blog entries about it for VBA developers. I plan to continue covering the Ribbon for Office in the VBA for Dummies category. From what I’ve been reading in Steven Sinofky’s blog posts, it appears that at least some of the information I’m providing for VBA for Dummies readers will also apply to Windows 8 developers, but it isn’t clear yet at what level. However, I’ll keep tracking Windows 8 carefully and let you know how things start working out.

In the meantime, as a developer, you should start looking at applications outside of Office that use the Ribbon successfully. For example, you’ll find a good Ribbon experience in WinZip. Working with this user interface will likely provide ideas for a Ribbon for your own applications.

Of course, as an author, I’m constantly looking for reader input. How do you feel about the Ribbon? Do you think it’ll prove cumbersome or will it be a great benefit? What questions would you like answered in a user-level book about Windows 8 when it comes to the Ribbon? What would a developer need to know about it? Let me know your viewpoint at