Find Office 2010 features in the Ribbon

Excel Menu to Ribbon reference

One of the issues with any software upgrade is that as well as finding all the new features and getting to grips with them, there is also a certain amount of reorganisation, renaming and generally moving around of menus and toolbars to seemingly more logical places. Never was this more apparent than the complete replacement of the old Office menus and toolbars with the Fluent User Interface and the Ribbon in Office 2007.

The new style Ribbon is still retained in Office 2010, and you can now customise this to suit your own use. To help people who are upgrading from Office 2003 (or those who upgraded to 2007 but still have not got to grips with where everything is) Microsoft have published a bunch of reference documents to help you find Office 2010 features in the Ribbon. These are all presented as Excel templates, so if you don’t already have Excel 2007 or 2010 installed, you will need to use the Excel 2007 viewer discussed here.

Simply download the files you want for the programs you use, save them somewhere on your computer, then double click to open them whenever you find you have lost a function you used to use a lot. Given that most features that were kept in the product from earlier versions through to 2003 did not move around much, you will probably find these references equally useful if you are upgrading from 97 or 2000, say (I suspect if you are just getting round to upgrading from Excel 5 or earlier you might have other things to worry about!).

[Thanks to Daniel Escapa for bringing this to my attention with his post Menu to Ribbon mappings for OneNote 2010]

Have you upgraded to Office 2010 already? Do you have Office 2007? How have you found the transition from menus and toolbars to the Ribbon way of doing things?

Is the Office button a menu or a dialog box?

Another of Simon’s excellent posts about the Ribbon and other parts of the Fluent UI in Excel 2007 has prompted me to respond. Read the ribbon file blunderfest, where Simon says (I snipped a few bits out here for brevity, and the bold is mine):

I already mentioned the lack of file open icon, and previously I have talked about the ridiculous blob. And the initial flashing they had to incorporate to tell us its a button. But when you actually get closer it just gets sillier – I really wouldn’t have thought that was possible!

When you click and look, if you decide to cancel and move to the traditional cancel location (lower right) and click that button, does it close the file open dialog/ribbon? Or does it close Excel?

Everyone I have asked (and me) has accidentally closed Excel numerous times before eventually learning that this particular piece of the interface is not ‘normal’. In fact to cancel that thing you click anywhere else in Excel – and Excel ignores the click but closes the dialog! How ridiculous is that?

They have created a thing that is not as powerful or controllable as a dialog, but is too big and intrusive to be a menu or toolbar so they butchered an existing UI concept – the click away to cancel menu concept to work with this quasi dialog. But dialogs never worked like that before or in other applications. So now Office is the most friction-full application in the widows world (excluding perhaps Ulead products).

So, does the Office button bring up a (poor) dialog, or is it just a menu?

Sorry Simon but I have to disagree with you on this one (I seem to recall being told I was the voice of balance on smurfonspreadsheets by someone…).

Just because you think it’s a dialogue and call it a dialogue does not mean it is a dialog or should behave like one. Shredding a straw man / ribbon does not make a valid argument. To me it looks and behaves pretty much like I would expect a menu to behave:

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Excel cell styles – useful feature or waste of ribbon space?

I agree with Simon in his article about the usefulness of cell styles in Excel, where he says:

Styles in Excel are one of those things that sound good in theory, but are significantly worse than useless in reality. In an isolated world they may work but as soon as you start copying a pasting between workbooks…then you get a right royal style mess.

Cell styles as a concept seem pretty weak to me. The built-in ones are hopeless; I know hardly anyone (actually no-one that I could name right now) that uses them.

I have recently done some extensive work for a client on a set of templates, themes, etc for the whole Office suite. For the Excel templates I included some cell styles to make it quick to format things in “corporate” colours for headings and so on (as well as default table styles for the same reason). This provides user convenience and helps them create more consistent documents with more of a “branded” feel to them.

As to imposing a regime of “pink means bad” and “orange double underline means linked” (linked to what?), no chance.

Why styles don’t address the real need for good formatting

I teach students on my Excel training courses that formatting of spreadsheets should be used for three purposes:

  • to highlight (data outliers; estimates as opposed to actuals)
  • to group or associate data together (months in the same quarter or year having a light shaded background say, next group no background; using matching colour for axes and lines in a two-series chart with two different scales)
  • to separate data by category or type (line above the first month of a new year; making the title row bold)

These principles of using formats to help interpret the data, rather than help it look pretty tend to get people focussed on the task rather than the appearance. The built-in cell styles only seem to address the concept of highlighting, rather than being useful for grouping or separating. The highlighting they provide seems arbitrary at best, and quite likely to cause headaches with some of the colours involved.

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