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?

Office 2010 first thoughts

Well, there’s some information finally coming out about Office 2010 and some of the features we will hopefully be seeing in the final release version next year. As the Technical Preview gets released to an invited audience only at this stage, there aren’t loads of sources of details, but a few places are showing off some interesting ideas and if you watch the videos carefully and look closely at the screenshots there are nuggets to be found.

If you want to be considered for the technical preview yourself, you can still sign up via the “Get a pass” link on the main “launch” site at Office 2010 – the movie. This site started out just hosting a teaser movie but now has a look and feel similar to the new “Backstage” interface which has been added to the Fluent UI to replace the current Office button menu to help you work with different aspects of your document in one place. There are a few videos posted on there right now, no doubt more to come soon.

Where can I find out more?

There are some useful overview documents on the Microsoft PressPass site, including an Office 2010 FAQ which covers a number of things, notably an outline of which products will be included in which versions of the suites available through retail or volume licensing. The oddest thing is that the various press releases available here are all Word .doc documents. Not a universal format like PDF. Not even Microsoft’s own portable format XPS. Not Word 2007 DOCX (probably a good idea not to assume people would already be on board with that, even with the compatibility pack for older versions). Other documents linked from that page give more detail for each of the products individually, but only at a brief marketing level, nothing too technical.

What are the biggest changes?

The most obvious change across the Office system as whole is that all the applications will now have the fluent UI and ribbon, which has also had slight facelift – they have removed many of the borders round buttons, reducing the visual clutter and “flattening” the overall effect (almost exactly what they did in the evolution of the toolbar from Office 97 to 2000). Selected or active options still appear to have borders to make them clearer. When you have additional context-sensitive tabs appearing in the Ribbon, the coloured highlight above them seems to be bolder because it extends from a solid colour at the top of the title bar fading out as it goes down into the Ribbon tabs area, rather than at the moment where this is only visible in the title bar area and fades quickly upwards. This may make the additional tools more obvious to new users when they need them, and help distinguish between similar items by getting used to the colours used.

The other big news items are the introduction of browser-based document viewing and editing (discussed below), and the availability of a 64-bit version of all the products (as well as 32 bit for legacy compatibility). This may provide some speed and productivity benefits to those who have appropriate hardware and OS to take advantage of this, use more memory and so on. Larger Access models might make more sense, but Excel spreadsheets of over 2GB? Hopefully not too often. I do know some people who could probably build PowerPoint shows that big though…

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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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