At WinHEC, I was informed that the Ribbon bar in Office 2007 won’t be easy to customize. I couldn’t believe my ears! If this rumor is true, we’ll need to remember this tutorial. Microsoft may be telling us that we need to learn how to program in order to do something that Office used to be able to do for us automatically (or wait for a developer to help us). As of Office 2007 Beta 2, this seems to be the case. Setting aside the astounding mistake of using the word “many” instead of “all” in this first quoted sentence, we’re staring down the barrel of a application usability paradigm:
Many of the applications in the 2007 Microsoft Office system have a new look. The Ribbon user interface (UI) feature replaces the current system of layered menus, toolbars, and task panes with a simpler system of interfaces optimized for efficiency and discoverability. The new UI has improved context menus, ScreenTips, a Mini toolbar, and keyboard shortcuts that improve user efficiency and productivity. […] You can customize the Ribbon UI through a combination of XML markup and any Microsoft .NETâ€“based language supported in Microsoft Visual Studio. You can also customize the Ribbon UI using Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), Microsoft Visual C++, and Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0.
They’ve already uploaded a few Office 2007 screencasts, too. I’m sure developers are in hog heaven – but the potential decision of eliminating simple Ribbon customizability leaves we mortal users left to fend for ourselves once again. At least the rest of Microsoft at least allows us to turn on “legacy” menus. Is the Office division really this arrogant? This is borderline unacceptable – but I’m reserving final judgement for Office 2007 RTM.