Ribbons compared

Microsoft Office 2010 has 2 flavours: PC and Mac. The Mac version is, apparently, quite good, with a number of favourable reviews. However, once again we encounter the ever-changing nature of software. Having had some time in the military, and being a bit of an idealist and perfectionist, I had hoped that Microsoft Office for Mac would be pretty much identical to Microsoft Office for PC. Now, that’s probably heresy to some of the reviewers. Unlike previous years where the Mac version has been the poor, half-drowned little brother of the PC version, PCMag suggests that this time the Mac version is better than the PC version!

But here’s the thing: they are both so different. The biggest change in Microsoft’s Office software occurred in 2007 when they introduced the ribbon. It was controversial and upset many. (See Ribbon Computing wiki). It moved everything around and jumbled it up so much that experienced PC users found their productivity decreased by a third. There is no ‘classic mode’ to switch to: they are forcing you to work this way.
Now, I’m still not sure the ‘science’ of their studies justifying this radical change can be verified or not. Apparently Microsoft conducted ‘studies’ that justified this radical change. The ribbon approach basically creates bigger buttons for the mouse-challenged to click on. Sometimes, panning through various menus and sub-menus, I have to admit to missing the mark and having to start again. Ribbon computing fixes all that. But this is not the point.

The point is the arrogance of the change: refusing ‘classic mode’ support was just annoying to many, many users.

Now here’s the next thing that cheeses me off. Having an army background, I’m used to standards. We do things the same way and march to the same drum. We know how things are meant to be done! So, in learning Microsoft Office for Mac, I’d be sure to learn how to do things in PC, right? I mean, it’s called Microsoft Office! But Office for Mac still uses menus: it only uses the ribbon for various functions: not for the whole menu structure.

EG: This is the PC version, with the File tab taking you to back-end support, file management, printing, and all that jazz.

The Mac version is below. None of the ‘tabs’ match, because the Mac drop-down menu still exists.

This is especially annoying for me because I move between PC at work, and Mac at home. I appreciate that, by all accounts, Microsoft Office for Mac is excellent software. But why does it have to be so different to its PC cousin? I love Mac. I’d probably love to just soak up everything about Office for Mac, if that was all I was going to learn. But then I have to change from one to the other at work. And this is just due to the changes between various versions of Microsoft Office, let alone the lost human capital between those who use Linux and Open Office, Mac and iWorks, etc. Doesn’t anyone care about the loss of human capital by having all this software so different?

This is why I like the idea of Open Source software that is creative, community driven and gradually takes over the world. Then, as various approaches are tried and iron sharpens iron, and the best ideas remain free for the human race to use together, we can maximise the human capital. But it’s too much to hope for. Things are changing too fast for us ever to speak about one kind of computer literacy.

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2 Responses to Ribbons compared

  1. wanderjahre says:

    Reblogged this on Wanderjahre's Blog.

  2. specialletters says:

    Because I am now Windows 7 Foxit which I use for PDF reader had all these ribbons – so I was switching around just to do simple tasks. Then I found option to use Classic ribbon and all back in one toolbar again… Hooray

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