The command ribbon on Windows Explorer in Windows 8. Credit: Microsoft (Click to enlarge)

Microsoft today gave another sneak peek of Windows 8 — showing a new approach to Windows Explorer, the place where users search for and interact with files in the operating system. The change will be familiar to many Microsoft customers, because it’s styled as a “ribbon” of commands very similar to the interface used in recent versions of Microsoft Office programs.

“We evaluated several different UI command affordances including expanded versions of the Vista/Windows 7 command bar, Windows 95/Windows XP style toolbars and menus, several entirely new UI approaches, and the Office style ribbon,” writes Alex Simons of Microsoft’s Windows team in a post explaining the changes. “Of these, the ribbon approach offered benefits in line with our goals.”

Those goals included making the most important commands more prominent, increasing predictability, boosting consistency across Microsoft’s product lines, and bringing commands out from their current hiding places in various Windows menus.

Also see this Microsoft video outlining the changes.

The new approach is drawing a mixed reaction from Windows users in the comments on Simons’ post.

On the surface, the ribbon looks inconsistent with the tile-based, Windows Phone-style design and fonts that Microsoft has adopted for the default Start screen in Windows 8. Microsoft will be giving more details on Windows 8 next month, and it will be interesting to see how the company bridges the new and old elements of the overall Windows interface.

Microsoft last week also showed a new approach to file copying in Windows 8.

The new operating system is expected out next year.

Comments

  • http://alexblackie.ca Alex Blackie

    They call that an improvement? That design is horrid, messy, and looks like someone puked commands all over the titlebar.

    Maybe a design like that works for Word, but a file manager is supposed to be simple. I don’t need a plethora of actions spewed over the screen, taking up space.

    • Gary Voth

      The ribbon can be left collapsed; then it behaves much like a traditional menu bar.

      Power users can continue to drive Windows Explorer using keyboard commands and context menus. The idea behind the ribbon UI (when it is open) is to help to surface commands for more casual users.

      You might try playing around with already ribbonized Wordpad or Notepad accessories in Windows 7. The ribbon seems odd at first, but after you use it a bit it grows on you. 

      It also has the beneift of being more finger-friendly when you have to drive the classic desktop UI on a tablet.  (No matter how comprehensive the Windows 8 “immersive” UI is, there will still be times when you’ll want to access the traditional desktop without a mouse and keyboard at hand.)

      • http://alexblackie.ca Alex Blackie

        I’m more of a Mac person, I don’t use Windows primarily, though I have used with Windows XP, Vista and 7.

        The ribbon just isn’t how I work.

        • Gary Voth

          Fair enough.  (Clarification: Wordpad and Paint are ribbonized in Windows 7, but not Notepad.)

        • Gary Voth

          Fair enough.  (Clarification: Wordpad and Paint are ribbonized in Windows 7, but not Notepad.)

        • Guest

          Alex, have you tried? I used to “isn’t how I work” Apple products, but I was issued an iPod and I learned. Don’t be afraid of the ribbon. Try it. It’s kind of like the Mac OS X toolbar mashed up with a menu bar.

          • http://alexblackie.ca Alex Blackie

            I have tried it, both in Word for Mac, and in some Windows Applications. I love minimalism, especially in interfaces. I’d much rather use something like [Textmate](http://macromates.com/), which barely has an interface at all, than use something that has a thousand buttons.
            I can see how someone could take advantage of the ribbon, if they liked to work that way. I just can’t stand busy interfaces.

          • Guest

            Double click on “Home” in the ribbon. It’s gone. Word now works like Textmate.

            Boom.

          • Me

            CTRL+F1 to show / hide the ribbon.  From minimal to where is my command in microseconds…

          • Guest

            Boom! Love it, Me.

          • http://alexblackie.ca Alex Blackie

            I have tried it, both in Word for Mac, and in some Windows Applications. I love minimalism, especially in interfaces. I’d much rather use something like [Textmate](http://macromates.com/), which barely has an interface at all, than use something that has a thousand buttons.
            I can see how someone could take advantage of the ribbon, if they liked to work that way. I just can’t stand busy interfaces.

          • http://alexblackie.ca Alex Blackie

            I have tried it, both in Word for Mac, and in some Windows Applications. I love minimalism, especially in interfaces. I’d much rather use something like [Textmate](http://macromates.com/), which barely has an interface at all, than use something that has a thousand buttons.
            I can see how someone could take advantage of the ribbon, if they liked to work that way. I just can’t stand busy interfaces.

          • http://alexblackie.ca Alex Blackie

            I have tried it, both in Word for Mac, and in some Windows Applications. I love minimalism, especially in interfaces. I’d much rather use something like [Textmate](http://macromates.com/), which barely has an interface at all, than use something that has a thousand buttons.
            I can see how someone could take advantage of the ribbon, if they liked to work that way. I just can’t stand busy interfaces.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with you to some extent. I like the ribbon interface for the office suite of products, but I don’t like it as the Windows Explorer interface. If they implement this feature, I hope they have a setting that lets you use the normal interface.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_J7QKTCW2PZUBCIR6TZROAOXTL4 Jeff

      I like the ribbon.  It took some getting used to, I’ve been a Windows tech for years.  After about a week it seemed natural and I wish other Microsoft apps used the same concept, not just Office.

  • Guest

    Kudos to Microsoft for continuing to innovate! My favorite thing about the ribbon is how it collapses to a height no larger than that of a standard menu bar. This means you get all the flexibility of a pull-down menu with the power of two dimensions, color, and spatiality that a toolbar normally gives you. This is truly the best of both worlds.

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt that ribbons are more “touchable” than are pull-down menus, and Windows 8 is the “Touch-screen Mac* Killer” OS.

    * http://axiotron.com/index.php?id=modbook

  • Guest

    Kudos to Microsoft for continuing to innovate! My favorite thing about the ribbon is how it collapses to a height no larger than that of a standard menu bar. This means you get all the flexibility of a pull-down menu with the power of two dimensions, color, and spatiality that a toolbar normally gives you. This is truly the best of both worlds.

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt that ribbons are more “touchable” than are pull-down menus, and Windows 8 is the “Touch-screen Mac* Killer” OS.

    * http://axiotron.com/index.php?id=modbook

    • Reality

      wake up… wake up… breakfast is ready. 
      i daydream too. it’s good for your mental health.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_J7QKTCW2PZUBCIR6TZROAOXTL4 Jeff

        Does Steve Jobs let you customize?  Or is that a “feature” that Apple refuses to let you have?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_J7QKTCW2PZUBCIR6TZROAOXTL4 Jeff

        Does Steve Jobs let you customize?  Or is that a “feature” that Apple refuses to let you have?

    • Dan

      No, the best of both worlds is being able to choose between the new innovation and “classic view”.

      I conceptually have no problem with the ribbon bar in Office 2007:  my problem is with Microsoft’s decision to not allow a classic view (i.e., ability to disable the ribbon).  A few years of use of the ribbon, and I still dislike it.

      Microsoft must tread lightly here: most users will never know or care what is “under the hood”.  All they really know is their familiarity with the OS environment.  This is what has caused most users NOT to have switched to Apple all these years.  But if users wake up one day at a Best Buy, and are disoriented when demoing their new PC (i.e., with what should have otherwise been a sure thing), they are more likely to try disorientation with a new platform (i.e., Apple).

      Microsoft must remember that the most commercially successful innovations are those wrapped up in the bow of familiarity.  Violate at your own risk.

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