Lots of people commenting on Microsoft's decision to provide an auto-hide function for the new ribbon UI in 2007 Microsoft Office system (small "s"). Here's a techmeme permalink if you simply can't get enough of this kind of stuff. I don't have much to add except to say that I agree with Nathan Weinberg at Inside Microsoft that this is an unfortunate decision. Despite an excellent effort to provide more information about the user interface design process than has ever been revealed before by Jensen Harris, too many people are complaining that the ribbon is too big. The fact is, it's smaller than the menu and toolbar setup in Office 2003 by 5-8 pixels.
As I said, I agree with Nathan that this is an unfortunate decision but I think I understand what's driving it. It's a cheap compromise to allay some of the concerns raised by such a massive overhaul to the suite's core applications. Every survey data set I've seen suggests there will a lot of foot-dragging by businesses with regards to this upgrade. Giving in a little on the UI doesn't cost a lot and may win over a few skeptics. I personally plan to never use this option as I have become a huge fan of the ribbon.
I've been living in the new Office for many months now as I continue to work on my book about Outlook 2007. The experience of trying to write about such a moving target has been... well, let;s just say it's been interesting. Other authors have shared with me their frustrations at trying to keep abreast of the changes being introduced very late in the game and most agree they have never seen a release like this from Microsoft before.
The forthcoming Beta 2 Technical Refresh will include this new auto-hide function as well as a third theme (Silver) and a host of other changes. No official word yet when it will be released except the previously announced "this summer" timeframe.
Update: Office Rocker Darren Strange says this is not a concession at all:
There has been a little flurry of rumours on the blogsphere including the ever excitable slashdot that we have radically changed the ribbon, making it much smaller. Some are saying that we are even backing away from the ribbon or that we received "complaints" that it was too big.
I've checked with the source that is Jensen and his team and this is not the case. All we can think of is that somebody got confused about the minimised ribbon feature which has been in there from the beginning. There have been some recent improvements to the way the minimised ribbon works I suppose - e.g. a sort of "autohide" so that now it will return to a minimised state after using a feature.