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Firefox To Replace Menus With Office Ribbon 1124

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-in-gnome? dept.
Barence writes "Mozilla has announced that its plans to bring Office 2007's Ribbon interface to Firefox, as it looks to tidy up its 'dated' browser. 'Starting with Vista, and continuing with Windows 7, the menu bar is going away,' notes Mozilla in its plans for revamping the Firefox user interface. '[It will] be replaced with things like the Windows Explorer contextual strip, or the Office Ribbon, [which is] now in Paint and WordPad, too.' The change will also bring Windows' Aero Glass effects to the browser." Update: 09/24 05:01 GMT by T : It's not quite so simple, says Alexander Limi, who works on the Firefox user experience. "We are not putting the Ribbon UI on Firefox. The article PCpro quotes talks about Windows applications in general, not Firefox." So while the currently proposed direction for Firefox 3.7 involves some substantial visual updates for Windows users (including a menu bar hidden by default, and integration of Aero-styled visual elements), it's not actually a ribbon interface. Limi notes, too, that Linux and Mac versions are unaffected by the change.
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Firefox To Replace Menus With Office Ribbon

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  • READ TFA! (Score:2, Informative)

    by supersloshy (1273442) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:32PM (#29520165)

    Am I the only one that's not mad at them for doing this? In the article, it clearly states that this is entirely optional. Just hold down the alt key and it'll change for you.

  • by coolsnowmen (695297) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:36PM (#29520269)

    It is an option.

    "Though it will be turned on by default for Windows 7 and Vista users, they will be able to toggle between the old and new interface by holding the Alt key."

  • by keithius (804090) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:41PM (#29520367) Homepage

    The link you are probably looking for is this one:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/archive/2006/11/10/the-office-2007-ui-bible.aspx [msdn.com]

    It's a link to Jensen Harris's Office 2007 blog, where he collects all the articles he wrote about the Office 2007 UI (the "ribbon"), explains WHY it is the way it is, provides (IMHO) rather insightful comparisons against the old menu & toolbar paradigm, and generally does a good job of explaining why they chose the ribbon over the "status quo" of toolbars and menus.

    That said, a ribbon-based UI is not always the answer - like toolbars and menus, it can be abused by people who don't think UI design through carefully enough, but it is a clever and intuitive answer to "option overload."

  • by Jugalator (259273) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:47PM (#29520477) Journal

    Gone are the menus that go halfway down the screen. Gone are the submenus nested three layers deep.

    True, but the issue here is that Firefox do not even suffer from these problems.

  • by keithius (804090) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:48PM (#29520493) Homepage

    There is no "algorithm" in the ribbon, unlike in earlier (menu driven!) versions of Office.

    Unlike the menus in, say, Office XP or Office 2003, where some items were "hidden" until you used them, in the ribbon EVERYTHING is there. It doesn't try to "adapt" to you. Sure, you have to re-learn where a lot of stuff is, but that was often the case before the ribbon came out as well (because more features kept getting squeezed into a menu-driven UI that just wasn't made for a program with that many options).

    The only thing that changes in the ribbon are some contextual tabs that show up at the end, e.g., when you have selected a picture or a table. These tabs are meaningless normally, so they are hidden. But they don't re-arrange themselves based on your usage patterns - they are static and don't change.

  • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:49PM (#29520495)

    slow down the entire UI

    Hahaha what? Firefox's UI is by far the slowest of all major browsers. Layout is specified in XML and loaded dynamically every time it's needed. XUL is one of the most embarrassing aspects of Firefox. I don't think even a ribbon could make things any worse than they already are.

  • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NETBSDgmail.com minus bsd> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:50PM (#29520525)

    When the system is trying to contextually offer the "best" options to user, in seemingly random places it thinks are most relevant, they just get confused.

    Confused is not the right word. Usability can be measured in the time and brainpower it takes to get to where you want to be. If you constantly rearrange the buttons, the user has to interpret all buttons to figure out which one he needs. Also see The Rule of Least Surprise.

  • Re:why??? (Score:3, Informative)

    by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:51PM (#29520535)

    Actually, if you take a look at the screenshot in the article, the interface shown is nearly the same as the Chrome interface. It has the tabs on top, the lack of a standard title bar, and two dropdowns for "Page" and "Tools". Chrome uses icons instead of text for the Page and Tools menus.

    I like the small footprint of the Chrome interface, but the Page and Tools menus don't have any intuitive meaning to me. I just think of them as "Menu 1" and "Menu 2". On one hand, I don't need to access these menus often, so it's nice to have them out of the way. However, it doesn't make it easy for users to find the menu options for things like Print, Options, and Bookmarks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:54PM (#29520601)

    Dunno where "Ribbon" came from, but whoever wrote it will probably see this Slashdot article and facepalm.

    I've been following some of the dev blogs and watching ideas for the interface go around. Mozilla is clearly leaning in the direction of Google Chrome, NOT Office, in terms of how the interface will look in the future. They have a couple good ideas on their own to improve the interface (a "home tab" that replaces the home button and loads your home page. IMO that is better on the tab bar than the address bar), but generally as Apple seems to think as well (see: Safari 4) Google hit a lot of good ideas with their tabs on top and minimalistic approaches to the browser UI.

  • by mR.bRiGhTsId3 (1196765) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:55PM (#29520611)
    p.s. they are not actually using the ribbon, they are removing things seldom used from taking up so much space. I can't remember the last time I used the file, view, edit, or history menus in firefox, but they are always there, taking up space. This is about re-organizing the browser menu to be more minimalistic. If you look at the mockups what they have is nothing like the ribbon.
  • by BenFenner (981342) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:00PM (#29520717)
    No?
    It look me about 3 seconds to find an example.

    http://www.supercars.net/gallery/132464/1542/886505.jpg [supercars.net]

    Not that I'm in favor of ribbonizing Firefox. I'm not. I just like to prove people wrong, and you were such a juicy target.
  • by jeffstar (134407) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:02PM (#29520747) Journal

    I've been using chrome on linux for months. it is way faster than firefox in every way and flash works just as good as it does in opera or firefox.

    The developer tools don't seem totally finished, but for the most part are a replacement for firebug for my purposes.

    there is an annoying regression right now where select drop downs don't hide after you've made the selection but that is fixed in webkit and chromium trees so I'm just waiting for the next dev release to trickle down...

  • by wicka (985217) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:03PM (#29520785)
    The quote verbatim from Mozilla's wiki (found here: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox/Sprints/Windows_Theme_Revamp/Direction_and_Feedback [mozilla.org])

    "Starting with Vista, and continuing with Windows 7, the menubar is going away. To be replaced with things like the Windows Explorer contextual strip, or the Office Ribbon(now in Paint and Wordpad too). Many apps still retain the menubar as an option to be pinned or to be shown briefly by holding the Alt key...Firefox isn't the type of application that necessarily has contextual actions in the same way Windows Explorer does. So how to handle the functionality of the menubar if it is hidden?"

    They are just using the ribbon as an example of an interface that has eliminated the menu bar. If you read further they have mockups of the 3.7 and 4.0 interface, it looks absolutely nothing like the ribbon.
  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:04PM (#29520799)

    I can't agree more. I had the pleasure(?) of helping a friend take his basic "Office 2007" computer class for college. Fortunately our company didn't go to Office 2007 so it was my first experience with it. It has to be one of the most unintuitive interfaces that MS has pushed out in years.

    The tabs try to present too much information in a limited space. I felt like I was playing those old Monkey Island pixel hunt games. I found it totally unnecessary to have a picture for every function I was trying to perform when simple functions like FILE, EDIT, and VIEW would serve so much easier. We ended spending more time just trying to FIND the sub tab info than we did learning about new functionality. It's almost like they did it just to make Office look 'different' but failed to realize they weren't really innovating anything. They were just putting pictures in place of easy to read text, and adding more 'clutter' in places where it wasn't needed.

  • by stjobe (78285) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:06PM (#29520827) Homepage

    There already exists one: http://vimperator.org/trac/wiki/Vimperator [vimperator.org]

  • Chrome (Score:3, Informative)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [werdnaredne]> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:06PM (#29520837) Homepage Journal

    I saw mockups on Planet Mozilla a while back that they had carefully thought about each part of UI and decided to greatly simply the UI. The mockups reminded me a great deal of Chrome.

    I can't imagine the "ribbon" will look anything like Office 2007. I'm guessing they will take advantage of the ribbon API present in Vista and 7. That doesn't mean it will actually look like Office 2007. MS Paint in 7 uses the new ribbon API, and it looks really good.

  • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:08PM (#29520875)
    Ummm...they have had context-aware menus for years. It's called 'right clicking'....
  • by Bovarchist (782773) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:33PM (#29521327)
    The screenshot in TFA would seem to indicate that what they are calling a "ribbon" is simply the same interface that Chrome and Safari are already using.
  • by neokushan (932374) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:37PM (#29521407)

    Hurray for people not reading TFA:

    Though it will be turned on by default for Windows 7 and Vista users, they will be able to toggle between the old and new interface by holding the Alt key.

  • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:45PM (#29521553)

    MS's ribbon will probably meets more than most because of vocal minorities and because the coupled it with a switch that temporarily eliminated some features.

    It's not a vocal minority -- you haven't shown any data to support that assertion. See my other comment here [slashdot.org]. According to this [exceluser.com] survey, which is the only one I have seen about the new interface, the majority of advanced excel users hate the ribbon, and about 80% of them dislike it. The people who actually like this interface are the minority, not the other way around! Even for advanced users, the majority don't like the ribbon. You can argue that the ribbon was designed for people who aren't experts in excel, and those people are a majority of people who buy excel licenses, but you can't say that people who use excel the most often like the ribbon.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:56PM (#29521743) Journal

    The problem I have with the ribbon, and the reason I'll download an add-on to replace the menus in Firefox or just switch to Safari

    If you look at the screenshots, it's not really Ribbon - they're just removing the menu bar and putting tabs on top of address bar. In other words, exactly like Chrome.

  • by Reason58 (775044) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @05:00PM (#29521831)

    I know the argument, but with people going with wide-screen laptops and the like, screen real-estate is at a premium, especially at the top of the screen. The menu-bar is small and compact, The ribbon is not. Even if the ribbon goes on the left or the right, it still eats up pixels. I much prefer right clicking for context, but that's just me.

    You can minimize the ribbons, to only show the heads if real estate is at a premium. While minimized they take up no more space than the traditional menu.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @05:06PM (#29521957) Journal

    But simple applications like Firefox do not actually suffer from this problem

    Which is why Firefox isn't adding Ribbon. They're just remaking their interface to work more like IE8 (in that menu bar is hidden by default, but shows if you use Alt to activate it). Please have a look at the actual screenshot [mozilla.org], and I dare you find any resemblance of Ribbon there. Also read the actual primary source [mozilla.org]. The only place where it even mentions Ribbon is this bit:

    Starting with Vista, and continuing with Windows 7, the menubar is going away. To be replaced with things like the Windows Explorer contextual strip, or the Office Ribbon (now in Paint and Wordpad too). Many apps still retain the menubar as an option to be pinned or to be shown briefly by holding the Alt key.

    which is not a statement of intent regarding Firefox, but rather an assessment of the present state of affairs in Windows UI design guidelines. Where TFA has gotten the idea that Firefox will have "Office 2007's Ribbon", I don't know, but it's simply bullshit.

  • by msclrhd (1211086) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @05:18PM (#29522161)

    Yes. And TFA is taken initially from https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox/Sprints/Windows_Theme_Revamp/Direction_and_Feedback [mozilla.org], which is discussing the direction of *applications* written for Vista and Windows 7 that don't use the menubar, but use a contextual strip (Windows Explorer) or Office Ribbon (Paint and Wordpad). That paragraph is about the rationale for not showing the menubar on Vista and later in Firefox, not on adding a ribbon to Firefox (it is under a Hiding of the Menubar section).

    It seems as though a blogger misread this paragraph, and everyone on the interweb has been taking this as fact, without actually RTFOA (Reading The Friendly Original Article).

    From the pcpro article referenced in the /. summary:

    "Starting with Vista, and continuing with Windows 7, the menu bar is going away," notes Mozilla in its plans for revamping the Firefox user interface. "[It will] be replaced with things like the Windows Explorer contextual strip, or the Office Ribbon, [which is] now in Paint and WordPad, too."

    From the Mozilla page:

    "Starting with Vista, and continuing with Windows 7, the menubar is going away. To be replaced with things like the Windows Explorer contextual strip, or the Office Ribbon(now in Paint and Wordpad too). Many apps still retain the menubar as an option to be pinned or to be shown briefly by holding the Alt key."

    Note that here they are talking about Vista and Windows 7, not Firefox (and also note the "Many apps ..." bit in the last sentence).

  • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @05:42PM (#29522519) Homepage

    No. People like what they are used to, but there is no automatic connection between time and usability. My father was brought up with a currency here in the UK that until 1971 was a total headfuck. You should have seen the howls of pain from those who tried to make out that base 10 was utterly confusing.

    How on earth you can equate longevity with usability is utterly beyond me.

    For an even more recent example, look at the United States and its reasons for not switching to the (clearly superior) metric system.

    (Note: I'm a US citizen)

  • by mattcoz (856085) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @07:28PM (#29523693)
    They are NOT using the ribbon, they're using two buttons like in Chrome. The direction they're going is actually very interesting, and I suggest you read up on it yourself. These two buttons just set the stage for some cooler stuff in 4.0.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:20PM (#29524371)

    You would hate to give up 2007 and the ribbon?

    You enjoy having less functionality for interoperability with objects, especially drawings?

    Why should we have to learn a new method when the existing one already works, and is faster? (How is having to scroll to a tab, click it, find the button and click it NOT slower than just finding a button and clicking it - assuming properly setup toolbars in 2003?)

    There are not enough keys available to shortcut to everything I need, especially since I typically have 5 or 6 shortcuts assigned to macros. Therefore, I like to have custom toolbars which show all the buttons I use, and take up less space than a single ribbon. The ribbon a) removes the ability to customize toolbars and b) removes the ability to have ALL my buttons visible at once.

    Instead of using incendiary comments, how about providing actual points to your argument? Trying to use "IM MORE ADVANCED THAN YOU SO I'M RIGHT" as an argument is immature.

    I'm kind of glad 2007 was such a flop; yet another reason I'm happy I moved to Linux. Gnumeric is actually useful for statistical analysis too, unlike Excel which is filled with simple errors that Microsoft refuse to fix.

  • by R.Mo_Robert (737913) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:37PM (#29524483)

    Good thing that the ribbon takes up the exact same amount of space as the old toolbars and menu did, then: http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/archive/2006/04/17/577485.aspx [msdn.com]

    The document viewing area by default in Word 97 and Word 2007 is literally the exact same, except 2007 actually gives you slightly more space horizontally. PowerPoint is the exact same. The only significat difference is that you do lose a row with Excel, but as someone who works with Excel on a daily basis, I'd gladly take the ribbon over the menu any day. Additionally, you can collapse the ribbon (double-click a tab or hit Ctrl+F1) to save space. I'd guess this would save at least as much space as collapsing the old two-row Word toolbar into one, if not more.

    Space, my friend, is not an issue. (Not to mention that Mozilla isn't really going to the "ribbon," anyway, but that's another story.)

  • by ukyoCE (106879) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:39PM (#29524507) Journal

    "Hiding" the menu until you press alt is one of the worst user interface conventions in history. There at LEAST needs to be a button to show it. No amount of staring at the screen, hovering, and clicking will ever lead to you deciphering that hidden command. And even when you know it, it still forces you to mix keyboard and mouse for mouse commands.

  • by rcw-home (122017) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:53PM (#29524579)

    Get over it. Not all change not initiated by YOU is bad.

    True. However, if you want to walk someone through the new interface over the phone, it SUCKS.

  • by complete loony (663508) <Jeremy.Lakeman@gm a i l . c om> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:10PM (#29524673)

    Ew, that's one of the worst things I found about the UI of IE7. If you accidentally touch the alt key, or you start to press an alt-something keyboard shortcut and change your mind, *everything* jumps around as the menubar jumps into existence.

    If you want a menu bar to become visible, put it in front of something else that you aren't going to use at the same time. Making the whole UI of the application jump around and re-render is really annoying.

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:38PM (#29524829) Homepage Journal

    OOo can't do as much as Excel can.

    Perhaps not, but Gnumeric has a better reputation for accuracy than either of them. That's gotta count for something in an application designed to manipulate numbers.

  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @11:07PM (#29524979)

    Here's the problem: while KDE and Gnome are strongly influenced by the interface introduced with Windows 95, were there any real decent alternatives that could be easily picked up by "newbie" end users? The windowing interfaces you saw on SGI and Sun workstations in the late 1980's and early 1990's weren't paragons of ease of use.

    We forget that Microsoft has spent a HUGE amount of money in their Usability Lab doing nothing but studying how user interfaces work for computer programs. That's why Windows has a generally pretty consistent interface on the surface, and someone used to Windows 95 could fairly easily pick up learning and mastering even Windows 7.

  • by jc42 (318812) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @11:35PM (#29525131) Homepage Journal

    ... look at the United States and its reasons for not switching to the (clearly superior) metric system.

    Actually, as many historians have pointed out, the US has been "metric" for more than a century now. All the American "Imperial" units of measurement are legally defined in terms of ISO units. Thus, the inch is 2.54 cm because that's the legal definition of the inch. And if you look at the labels on most American goods, you'll find that they include the metric size (weight, volume) of the contents, along with the Imperial size.

    I've seen it described as an "extended metric" system, in the same sense that much American industry and marketing uses the term "extended". We have not just meters, centimeters, millimeters, kilometers, etc.; we also have inches, feet, yards, miles, which are also defined as some multiple of a meter. We have all the power-of-ten prefixes, and we also have other really weird multiples for the people who prefer those. So our system is obviously better, right? After all, people who know only metric terms can't easily tell you the length of a(n American) football field, but those who know the additional "yards" unit can.

    The problem isn't that the US hasn't "gone metric"; it's that people refuse to stop using the old terms and switch to the metric terms. But hey, we have Free Speech here; the government can't force us to stop talking about inches and feet and force us to talk about meters. That's good, right?

    Well, at least it's good for the marketers, who can present us with a confused mess of bizarre units, and make it very difficult for us to compare prices of goods. Take a good look at the price/unit labels in most grocery stores, if you don't know what I mean.

  • Re:Ribbon sucks (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 24, 2009 @01:20AM (#29525611)

    I don't know how so many people are missing this: the ribbon is not contextual!

    Microsoft built it to get away from all the contextual menus, magically appearing floating toolbars, and task panes that were pervasive in Office 2003. The Office 2007 ribbon has *one* tab in the ribbon which may appear contextually, and all I've ever seen are the table tab and the picture tab (both of which have a lot of commands which only make sense in context).

    What the Mozilla guys do is up to them, but it currently looks like they're going to take the most commonly used menu items, assign them to a couple of toolbar buttons (like Internet Explorer 7/8), add some pretty graphics and call it a day. Unlike the ribbon, this is more of an excersise in aesthetics than usability.

  • by Panoptes (1041206) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @10:22AM (#29528485)
    My experience is quite the opposite. The school where I work switched to Office 2007 a few months ago. Most of the teachers and admin staff have asked for a re-install of Office 2003 because they don't like the ribbon, and don't find it intuitive. My fellow users range from power-freaks to beginners, so it's not simply a case of familiarity with menus breeding contempt for the ribbon. The obvious solution is to provide both menus and ribbons and let users decide which they prefer.

    The reason I originally moved to Firefox was its no-nonsense, no frills, lean and mean functionality. Each 'upgrade' I install impresses me less and less, and it seems to me to be in danger of losing the plot.

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